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Non-Prog CD Reviews

Tori Amos

Scarlet's Walk

Review by Gary Hill

Tori Amos always produces quality albums and has never failed to entertain this listener for certain. This album is no exception. The only complaint I can make is that, musically anyway, the disc does not seem to break new ground. It seems to be more variants on the same themes. I believe that this is the first album she has done which seems to be "more of the same". That said, this is probably her boldest adventure from a lyrical standpoint. She uses her words to relate various issues and situations she perceives using stories of various individuals her main character meets on a cross-country tour. This makes for an intriguing idea for a concept album. The disc is of equal quality to the rest of her catalog, and certainly should please her fans. It has been causing a bit of a buzz in the press, so perhaps it will help to expand her fan base, too.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2002 Year Book Volume 2 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Amber Waves
This cut is a strong mid-tempo number that gets quite powerful at times. It serves as a strong intro to the album. It drops down to a pretty and fairly sedate verse to end.
A Sorta Fairytale
This one has a bit unusual and stripped down sparse texture, heavily rhythmically based. The vocal line and overall progression truly carries the number. It has a gradual building mode, getting more involved as it carries on, but truly Amos' vocal performance is what makes this one as strong as it is.
Wednesday
Bouncy and fun, this one has strong Beatles leanings. A dramatic segment adds to the success of the piece, as do the lyrics.
Strange
It may be called "Strange", but this one is fairly straightforward and potent. A string type arrangement adds to the power of the piece.
Carbon
A brief percussive interlude begins this one, then intricate piano takes the piece. Next a very potent arrangement, feeling pretty, powerful and just a little dangerous, takes over. This is another highlight in an album full of highlights. The cut has a lot of musical surprises and layers.
Crazy
A more modern sort of almost alternative rock arrangement makes up the main element of this one, but it drops down to a sparse format on the verses. The build up of the chorus is very powerful and that has an intriguing, somewhat unusual feel to it.
Wampum Prayer
This brief acapella number feels appropriately Native American inspired.
Don't Make Me Come to Vegas
Starting with percussion, this cut has an interesting arrangement, feeling a bit like a cross between jazz and country tinged folk music. It gets rather involved as it carries on.
Sweet Sangria
Another that begins with percussion, this one also has a cool jazzy tone and a great rhythmic structure. It has some intriguing changes and secondary melody lines.
In Your Cloud
If the last couple cuts showed jazzy structures, this one goes all out. It is a mellow balladic piece that feels a lot like the jazzy Dark Side of The Moon era Pink Floyd. It is a beautiful song that is primarily carried by Amos' potent vocal performance.
Pancake
This one has a great, slightly weird texture and Amos' vocals are again, very strong. This one is truly a stand out.
I Can't See New York
Piano begins this one, tentatively at first, then weaving lines around accompanied by textural keys. Eventually Amos' voice joins, and the cut truly feels a lot like Renaissance. This is a beautiful and powerful composition that, although balladic, feels very progish. As it carries through, other instruments join, and it becomes quite dramatic. A Pink Floydish element comes in with a twist late in the piece. This is arguably the best song on the CD. It is also the longest track on the album.
Mrs. Jesus
This is another rather off kilter cut, a little bluesy, a little Elton Johnish. A string arrangement is used to good effect to lush up the arrangement. This one gets rather involved.
Taxi Ride
Another that starts with percussion, this one feels a bit bouncy and a little playful. The arrangement gets quite full and potent as it continues.
Another Girl's Paradise
Starting with solo piano, vocals join in, and the cut begins a building process. Eventually the rest of the band comes in, and the jam is on. This is another that feels just a little like Elton John in its arrangement.
Scarlet's Walk
The title track begins with a rather haunting arrangement that builds for a time, then drops down to essentially just piano and vocals. As it jumps back to full band zone, it is as a completely new section that feels a bit more mainstream. The cut continues by alternating between these segments.
Virginia
A dramatic arrangement leads this one off. The cut builds on this strong texture. The piece really doesn't wander far, but instead gains its changes by building on and reworking the basis that serves as its foundation.
Gold Dust
Tentative piano starts this one, and a string arrangement causes it to gain a lot of emotion and take on a classical sort of texture. It runs through in this mode for a time, then the piano and voice emerge alone to forge out the song proper. The strings do return, but the new melody does not have the drama of the intro. Still, this is an evocative and potent cut that makes for a good album closer.
 
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