(06 September 2010 updated 11 December 2011) Tori Amos marks her debut album for Deutsche Grammophon, the world’s most celebrated classical music record label, with Night of Hunters. The record is being handled by Universal Music in North American markets. An extensive tour to promote the album with Tori playing to live audiences was also conducted. An artist that has redefined industry genres since her first album, Amos' twelfth studio release clearly redefines the classical crossover genre. The album combines Tori's piano-driven singer songwriter background with classical-style strings and woodwinds to deliver a simply outstanding result. Production quality is amazing as classical On Night of Hunters the artist's vocal styling also claims a marked diversity from earlier releases with other singers adding more than just a touch of Bjork to the recording. Also read our concert review below.
About Night of Hunters, Amos says, "It's a 21st century song cycle inspired by classical music themes spanning over 400 years. I have used the structure of a song cycle to tell an ongoing, modern story. The protagonist is a woman who finds herself in the dying embers of a relationship. In the course of one night she goes through an initiation of sorts that leads her to reinvent herself allowing the listener to follow her on a journey to explore complex musical and emotional subject matter. One of the main themes explored on this album is the hunter and the hunted and how both exist within us." We think the vocal work blends perfectly with the classical crossover arrangements on the new record.
The Album. The orchestral arrangements deliver additional dimensions and provide a new texture to Tori Amos' music. Listeners need to be patient with this music and listen to the album a few times to really appreciate the project. People will find that this album is not as accessible as Tori's earlier projects. And while the whole 14-track album should be heard start to finish. The angular opening track "Shattering Sea" introduces the musical and lyrical themes that develop as the rest of the album unfolds. Tori's piano is an ever-present percussive element while the strings contribute a foundation that best supports the lyrical part.
The project's two distinct vocal characters emerge in "Snowblind," one of the characters more typical of Tori Amos, the other sung by her daughter Natashya Hawley with her strong vocal allusions to Bjork. The characters' harmonies in "Snowblind" are especially interesting, although singing opposite in duetsis even more dramatic. While the first character played by Tori clearly has the album's lead part, the second played by Natashya continues to appear and has her own distinct contribution to the lyrical delivery in Night of Hunters.
In "Battle of Trees," Tori's lyrics are delivered over a moody and percussive piano part with orchestra providing additional textures to the primary melody. "Fearlessness" is a smoother number, primarily fronted by strings and woodwinds with the piano part joining more as a member rather than as a standout element. Two distinct Tori-style vocal lines intermingle as in a duet, one delivering the verse, the other joining in the rich chorus and singing opposite. The two characters introduced earlier in the recording perform a delightful duet in "Cactus Practice."
Effectively combining orchestra and piano, Tori delivers the three part "Star Whisperer" suite. In the second movement, tempo change brings the piano melody up front and gives members of the orchestra opportunities to show their individual virtues. The delightful third passage delivers further verses and a memorable vocal reprise. Upbeat and sung using both characters'voices, one of two most memorable and typically Tori Amos-style track of the album is "Job's Coffin." The second is album standout "Nautical Twilight," where Tori's vocal layers and soaring harmonies will produce spinal shivers even in the most insensitive listeners.
"Your Ghost" is an extremely gentle Tori Amos-styled piano ballad, only lightly accompanied by the orchestra. "Edge of the Moon" is the album's second two-part suite. Following naturally from "Your Ghost," the song's piano-based style introduction is later augmented by thick woodwinds that draw to a tempo change in the brief percussive typically-Tori Amos vocal passage. The album's second character returns in "The Chase." This powerful standout finds the two characters singing opposite in another duet.
The album's richly arranged title track is sung in a different--and far more operatic--style than any of the other lyrical portions of the album. Rich orchestral arrangements accompany Amos' piano melody. Tempo and style changes within the number give the song a progressive style. A standout in its own right, the title track further demonstrates Tori Amos' diverse musical talents. Layers of harmony vocals perfectly underscore Tori's crystalline lead. A lovely interplay between solo clarinet and Tori's percussive piano form the foundation of the album's only instrumental entitled "Seven Sisters." The album concludes with "Carry," a lovely and typically Tori piano ballad. The orchestra provides warm textures beneath the vocal and piano melody.
The deluxe edition of Night of Hunters is accompanied by a bonus DVD. Musical Discoveries will include credits for the project and further information on the DVD when the package is received. The artist has planned an extensive tour to promote the album. It will be fantastic to see the project performed on stage.
Tori Amos' significant artistic growth since her last recording is evident in Night of Hunters. The tour will be fantastic. What will the artist do next?
The Tour. Our editorial staff saw Tori Amos' Night of Hunters tour performance at the Orpheum Theater in Boston, MA on 06 December 2011. Accompanied by the Polish quartet Apollon Musagète, Tori played for almost two hours split between tracks from Night of Hunters and many favorites from her vast back catalog. She also covered Fleetwood Mac's "Changes" and Elton John's "Someone Saved My Life Tonight." The Orpheum is an old theater with great acoustics. Our seats were in the middle of the orchestra section with a great view and oustanding sound.
It was evident that Tori's diehard fans comprised most of the audience. They knew all the songs, freaking out in acclaim at the intro to each of the numbers, including the new tracks from Night of Hunters. Sadly they confused the theater venue with a bar and thought nothing of getting up for drinks at any time during the show and changing their seats almost at will.
Tori's string quartet played on all the tracks from Night of Hunters and they also accompanied the singer songwriter on much of of the back catalog. We were disappointed that neither Tori's daughter Natashya Hawley nor niece Kelsey Dobyns joined the show as guest vocalists.
The live Night of Hunters versions sounded fine but it was far more exciting to watch Tori play them and hear her voice. The balance of back catalog was especially well performed and sounded great, even without her former band mates. While we enjoyed their live performance, we didn't find that the Night of Hunters tracks work that well in a concert hall without an orchestra. Much of the album's sound was lost without the woodwinds in piano- and string-only arrangements on this tour.
We were blown away by Tori's stage performance and most fascinated with her approach to the audience, piano and keyboard. At times she sandwiches the seat between her legs and puts it up on two of the feet, almost making love to the music via the seat. Tori is very athletic on stage. And what a voice! See Tori Amos live.