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The Flemish newspaper De Morgen reviewed A Piano: The Collection. Thanks to tip_of.yourstar for finding and translating the review from the Dutch!
Tori Amos – A Piano: The Collection
Tori Amos sums up her career in a fancy box with five discs filled with hits, important album tracks, rare b-sides, demo’s and alternate takes.
A nice document of a singer who occasionally loses her tracks, but who is also able to use those moments to create songs that are purely made of poetry.
Tori Amos seemed to appear out of nothing when she released the most heartfelt record of 1991, Little Earthquakes. It was a collection of personal songs in which not only her confrontation with rape stood central (the a cappella ‘Me and a Gun’), but in which she also got rid of severe feelings of guilt (‘Crucify’, ‘Silent All these Years’) and looked back on a failed relationship (‘Winter’).
Her passionate use of her voice occasionally resembled Kate Bush and even more so the highly underestimated Laura Nyro. Partly because of her sincere interviews and her sensual on-stage personality, she quickly became a phenomenon, so it didn’t took long when Amos’ dubious past as a rock singer (including a record for which she posed as a black leathered pin-up) was revealed.
In an attempt to bend the historiography in her advance, Tori Amos ignored that doubtful foreplay. The songs from Little Earthquakes, however, are integrally present on this box (although a lot of this material in a slightly different version) and completed with beautiful piano tracks that appeared earlier as b-sides. Little Earthquakes still is the album to which Amos mostly gets associated with, even though her big commercial breakthrough happened a few years later, when Armand Van Helden hammered her ‘Professional Widow’ into a brutal thumping house track, which is isn’t representative to the rest of her work.
On Under the Pink, Amos explored the complex relationships among women, from intense friendship to the vicious war spirit, for which she is known. This came forth in ‘Cornflake Girl’ and ‘Past the Mission’, two of the best pieces she recorded in her career. Amos, an extraordinary productive artist, released later on seven more albums that weren’t all equally well balanced and further sometimes result in monotony. But for this overview, the singer selected almost flawlessly her best work and in the booklet she clarifies the background of her songs in several short essays.
In ‘Blood Roses’ she talks about “tracking the bloodline of the piano” and “searching the centre of her life”. She refers to her songs as if they were girls and she gives them characteristics that change over the years. She also explains that the demo’s she originally thought were not suited to release, were now ready to be exposed to the cruel world. Other songs are as well present in their unfinished as in their completed form, so the listener can follow the evolution from embryo to adulthood. All songs have this in common: they’re highly intimate, extraordinary confessional songs about family, femininity, pain, love and spirituality.
Also the musical framework has expanded over the years. Off course, the sound of her beloved Bösendorfer remains the centre point, but in the course of time the spectrum got expanded with percussion and even a choir.
Isn’t there anything wrong about A Piano? Yes there is. The share of unreleased songs is somewhat small and Tori Amos has recorded as well live as for her b-sides several magnificent covers of Nirvana, Led Zeppelin, U2, Tears For Fears and Radiohead and many more. And more than once she revealed an aspect of those songs that you hadn’t noticed before. A few of these renditions could’ve made this overview even more complete.
But in the end that’s just a minor point of criticism. Amos proves with this stylishly shaped collector’s box that she wrote an impressive repertoire over the past fifteen years. At the moment, she’s working in Cornwall on the successor of The Beekeeper. I wonder if she’s still able (at age 43) to chose a completely new direction.