Image © Universal Republic 2009
More Tori Amos:
The Beekeeper (2005)
Welcome To Sunny Florida (2004)
(with interview and review)
click for MySpace
Image © Universal Republic 2009
(31 May 2009) Tori Amos has been a very busy woman. During the time since The Beekeeper was released, Tori released the full length album American Doll Posse (2007) and yet another label released an extensive 5xCD box set retrospective with rare b-sides entitled A Piano: The Collection (2006). In addition to these major releases, the artist is also credited for both live and studio DVDs (2008), a comic book (2008) and biography (2006) during the period.
With the yet another label switch, in the run up to this year's extensive 17-track release of Abnormally Attracted To Sin (Unversal Republic (USA) 6 2327 03435 5, 2009), neither the label nor management was able to secure Musical Discoveries an interview to update our audience since the MSNBC interview published here almost five years ago. Our editors were provided streaming access to the album a month before the release and a pre-release CD (only) two days bevore the product was generally available. The increased level of protection in the run up to this release and lack of access to the artist and related publicity materials perhaps illustrates the market's economic threat to continue distributing the artist's work on in physical packages.
The groundbreaking singer/songwriter chose to release Abnormally Attracted To Sin to her public with a DVD of corresponding visualettes for each track in the deluxe version. These interlocking episodic films bring to live the narrative of the album. The footage was captured over the past year and shot with a noir twist in HD and Super 8.
For nearly two decades, Tori Amos; stark lyrical fourishes and inspired musicianship have shaped the musical landscape. She is also considered one of the most emotionally powerful live artists in music today. Her most recent world tour, launched in the summer of 2007, with media platforms such as the BBC who lauded both her live show and album as returning Tori Amos back to the forefront of a genre she defined -- still pushing our boundaries. Musical Discoveries hopes to bring readers our own live performance review later this summer.
The artist's tenth studio album, Abnormally Attracted To Sin, is another innovative chapter in the artist's trend setting story. Tori's most recent album, 2007's American Doll Posse was heralded by Rolling Stone magazine as "her best album in years," and also enjoyed a chorus of rave reviews. The captivating album, like many of her previous efforts, adhered to a strong conceptual theme, with Tori inhabiting multiple archetypal female personae, a testament to her willingness to continue to push the boundaries of the female singer/songwriter.
Regarded as one of the most emotionally fearless live artists in music today, her most recent world tour, launched in the summer of 2007, saw her soar with her first full-fledged rock band in nearly a decade. With more than 12 million albums sold, and commanding a significant and uniquely loyal audience from the rock, pop, alternative, and under-the-radar regions of the music world, Amos has influenced a new generation of artists in a myriad of platforms. Most recently, she was the catalyst for a one-of-a-kind anthology chronicling her career, the 500-page Graphic Novel, Comic Book Tattoo, featuring stunning visual interpretations of her songs by more than 80 artists, including an introduction by friend and creative influence artist Neil Gaiman, creator of the Sandman series.
Her genre-shattering breakthrough in the early 1990s, including Me And A Gun (1991), and her masterwork, Little Earthquakes (1992), single-handedly revived the piano-and singer motif in rock music. Little Earthquakes went on to sell more than 3 million albums worldwide, with subsequent Grammy® nominated albums such as Under The Pink (1994), Boys For Pele (1996), Strange Little Girls (2001) and Scarlet's Walk (2002) continuing to explore broader themes. Nominated for multiple awards, including ten Grammys®, Tori Amos has been working on a musical for London's British National Theatre called The Light Princess tentatively scheduled to debut in 2010.
Listeners will need to be patient with Abnormally Attracted To Sin, perhaps moreso than her prior releases. After repeat listens we believe that many of the album's initial reviews were premature. Trade publications complainined that Tori didn't have an edit function to her production. These publications claimed that, of the seventeen songs, she could have had a much more solid record with a fraction of those songs. Perhaps, but the seventeen tracks are indeed a great listen for people that will take the 1h:15m listening time to enjoy them.
Tori hasn't sacrificed anything in regards to her songwriting or performances. If anything, she keeps evolving with her instrumentation and orchestration and constantly constantly constantly plays with her syncopations and timings which is certain to keep those without AAD listening. The new album is instrumented similarly to To Venus And Back, which alongside Scarlet's Walk, is a favorite. The production is daring, taking a giant step beyond American Doll Posse. She incorporates so much on this release. Little intricacies are revealed with each listen.
"Give" opens nicely with plenty of mystery from its steely production. "Welcome To England" recalls several first off singles of late from Tori but is solid on its own. Again, syncopation is key here. She can take a two syllable word and nearly create a sentence out of it. Maybe some would think that's trite or a bit annoying. others see it as fresh. "Police Me" is a favorites, definitely recalling the artist's earlier work. At once, completely creepy leading to a hopeful melodic altogether different chorus. Again, song craft has not been sacrificed at all here.
"Fire To Your Plan, "Not Dying Today" and "500 Miles" are strong pop entries to Tori's already elaborate catalog while "Strong Black Vine" recalls "Witness" plays with timing while slamming some religion that only she can. "Fast Horse" is reminscent of "Virginia" and "Marys of the Sea" being one of the final songs on the album that is quite strong and appealing. No one should underestimate Jon Evans and Matt Chamberlain. They really fill out Tori's sound with each album. I look forward to countless more collaborations with these guys. They've really developed her sound just as much as she has herself.
The packaging is lovely but quite grim with its cold European hotel scenes. Those skeptical that she'd have all these new characters to cloud the music will be grateful that everything has worked out positively. No one else is quite as prolific as Tori. Each release is so far different from the previous, and while themes are recognizable, one never feels as if we are treading over the same ground with her. Bring on
the wigs. Bring on the characters. As long as Tori stays true
to her creative vision, and she certainly has one of the most colorful creative visions, we are ready for her next installment.--Russ Elliot in New York with additional crtitical contributions by Cliff Holt in Hartford, CT