Last year, Tori Amos, the consummate "piano woman," broke the mold of her previous work and tried on a host of different characters in releasing Strange Little Girls, an album of cover songs by artists as divergent as Eminem, Depeche Mode and The Beatles. That disc also closed more than a decade-long relationship with Atlantic Records. This fall, Tori has re-emerged on Epic with a new album that once again finds her trying on a new face and costume, only, this time around, the songs are all Toriís, and the "character" of Scarlet is largely based on herself.
Cloaked as a song cycle that follows "Scarlet" around the country in a love affair and exploration of America and a series of relationships, the 18-song disc is a strong return for Amos. (Owners of the CD can log on to Amosí web site Ė www.toriamos.com — and follow Scarletís trail around the country on a map that holds "easter egg" bonuses ranging from Amos photos to short video clips to a non-album song).
Scarletís Walk offers tracks that range from the lilting Kate Bush-esque "I Canít See New York" (written in response to the 9/11 tragedy — Amos was in the city during the attack) to a meld of country rhythms and funky wah-wah guitar ("Wednesday"), to a smooth electric piano ballad with soaring orchestration ("Strange") to slick pop favors ("A Sorta Fairytale," "Taxi Ride").
The album opens with "Amber Waves," which shines a light on the shallowness of America as "Amber" is used and thrown away by the adult industry, her dreams bought, sold and thrown away: "from ballet class to a lap dance straight to video".
From there Amos shuffles into the discís first single, "A Sorta Fairytale," which melds a bittersweet piano and guitar melody to tell a story of a couple who take a driving trip up the California coast only to discover in the journey that theyíve grown apart and lost each other. "Carbon" is a swirling storm of harmonies and piano while "Your Cloud" sounds like the quiet lightly drummed ballad that youíd find in the lounge of a fancy hotel. Along the way she also explores her Cherokee Indian heritage (the short a capella "Wampum Prayer" precedes "Donít Make Me Come to Vegas") and the backporch history of "Virginia."
Scarletís Walk moves from Amosí stock and trade Ė plaintive, personal piano songs Ė to full band pop rock tracks to its capping moment, a melancholy opus with cinematic strings called "Gold Dust" which celebrates and mourns the fleeting nature of our lives and time:
"how did it go so fast
youíll say as we are looking back
and then weíll understand
we held gold dust in our hands."
Through a range of character studies and styles, Amosí voice rings both plaintive and powerful, and reaffirms her place as one of Americaís premier singer-songwriters, building a catalogue of personal and celebratory music that is always adventurous and uniquely her own.
Catch Tori Amos live at the Chicago on November 27 and 29th at the Chicago Theater.
New On The Shelves:
This week sees new "Best of" collections from Bjork, U2 and Kenny Loggins, as well as a box set from Jeff Buckley. The Bjork disc, Greatest Hits on Elektra, includes her danceclub favorites "Human Behavior" and "Big Time Sensuality," as well as a new track, the ambient, synth-warbling "Itís In Our Hands." U2: The Best of 1990-2000 includes their current single, the quiet, strumming "Electrical Storm" as well as their equally laidback new theme song for Gangs of New York, "The Hands That Built America." Of far more interest to fans will be the proven hit tracks here Ė "Even Better Than The Real Thing," "Beautiful Day," "One," "Until The End of the World," "Mysterious Ways," "Stuck in a Moment You Canít Get Out of," a new mix of "Numb" and more.
The two-disc Essential Kenny Loggins, on Columbia/Legacy lives up to its name. Opening with his classic Loggins/Messina hit "Your Mama Donít Dance," the set includes "Celebrate Me Home," "This Is It," "Whenever I Call You Friend," "Heartlight," "Meet Me Half Way," and a handful of his hit film themes, including "Iím Alright" (Caddyshack)," "Footloose," (Footloose), "Danger Zone," (Top Gun) and more.
The Jeff Buckley box, The Grace EPs, includes five previously released commercial and promotional discs from the late singer-songwriter, each with three to five tracks. Included are Peyote Radio Theatre, So Real, Live From the Bataclan, The Grace EP and Last Goodbye.