Tori Amos was famous for several things, typically associated with women’s rights and feminism. She’s also remembered for her stunning good looks and bottle red hair. The one thing that’s often forgotten was the actual music she performed. Her early albums, covered in this post, were simply amazing. These were my favorites because it seemed like it was more about her, the piano, and her song writing. All the extra crap that got added into her later albums (synth, extra effects, etc.) just muddied down the mix and diluted the strong voice and piano playing that were so good in these ones.
When I first heard this in college it blew my mind. Thank you to Marcus Moore for introducing me. Never before had I heard such strong piano playing outside of classical music. It was almost like heavy metal piano at times it was so intense and then she would back off and play something so beautiful and soft moments later. This album does such a wonderful job of exploring the dynamic range of her instrument and voice. The songs build and release, lilting through a pretty passage and then crashing down in an intense crescendo, only to resolve again. Wonderful songwriting and musical production.
Crucify is probably the most popular song from this album, but I believe that Silent All These Years may have had the most social impact. A song about the hurts and pain of growing up in an abusive home. It’s sung from the child’s perspective and then the adult, which really is still the same child living inside. Very touching and impactful, great music video.
One of the very unique songs from this album is Happy Phantom. Looking forward to the afterlife? Well, if it’s as great as religion says it is, then we should all be looking forward to it, right? It should be a blast. Right?
Crucify (CD single)
I collected several of her singles. Some people love singles, some hate them. Before the internet really took off, this was the best way to distribute unreleased B-sides that wouldn’t make a full length album. So what do you think, are you a fan of CD singles or is it just annoying to collect them all?
Crucify was a fairly famous single in that Tori did versions of some very popular songs, such as Angie by the Rolling Stones and Smells Like Teen Spirit by Nirvana. Everyone went wild for the Teen Spirit remake, which I’m posting here. Have to admit, it has a very unique take on that song. If you’re going to do a cover, at least do it in your own style. If you don’t, you might as well sing in a tribute band.
Under the Pink
Her “mega popular” album, this is much like the previous one with a very expressive piano and vocals artfully mixed with complimentary instrumentation. The songs build and resolve at all the right places. One observation I made back in the day was that the guitar on these albums was only used to compliment the piano, mostly with bends and other distorted notes that were not possible to produce on a standard piano. That way, the driving rhythm of the chords was accented by the bends and swoops of the guitarist. You can tell there was a plan going in to this recording session as to what type of sound they wanted. Major props to her for doing this with a real guitar instead of a pitch bender wheel on a keyboard. No matter how good someone is with one of those, you can’t reproduce the vibrato and expressiveness of an electric guitar and the way an amplifier distorts and feeds back the notes.
I really enjoyed the first track, Pretty Good Year. Nice video, but I’m still not sure exactly what this song is about, even after all this time. This is a great example of the dynamic range a song can have. Without quiet, there is no loud and vice versa.
Cornflake Girl (CD single)
She writes a song about being a “Cornflake Girl” then gets mad that everyone calls her the Cornflake Girl? Yeah, that’s about a dumb as this video. An expressive dance routine centered around an old pickup truck… SMH. Great song though.
Talula (CD single)
This is probably my least favorite single out of the bunch. She was starting to venture into electronica and rave style remixes at this point and it really wasn’t my thing. I have to be honest here, part of why I didn’t sell off this single like I did some of her other albums was the cover. Wish I had kept a few of her other CDs and gotten rid of this one.
At one time I had more of her CDs, but sold a bunch around 2002. The direction she went into the electronic music genre never really spoke to me. I have heard that her newer stuff is more like her older stuff, which means I should definitely check them out.
Hope you enjoyed this installment.
Up next, the Barry White of the late 90’s…. You’ll have to wait to find out who.