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Tori Amos - To Venus And Back CD (album) cover

TO VENUS AND BACK

Tori Amos

 

Crossover Prog

3.46 | 38 ratings

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Finnforest
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Nice closer to Tori's 90s work, with live bonus disc

When Tori released her fifth album "To Venus and Back" back in 1999 I remember thinking it was too quick on the heels of her landmark 1998 album "From the Choirgirl Hotel." I failed to give it fair opportunity to capture my attention and quickly relegated it to the back burner of my Tori collection where it sat for ages. Revisiting the album it became painfully obvious I misjudged Venus back in my less patient years. This moody and refined piece of ear candy is a far stronger album than I believed. As an added bonus it comes with a second disc which is a live album from her 1998 "plugged" tour, the first tour where she had employed a full rock band.

The project started out as a collection of B-sides initially, as Amos was not planning to rush back into more writing. The story goes that during a night out with girlfriends and too much sinfully expensive wine, the title and concept for this work "came to them." Soon after, the songs began to come. Venus takes the electronic elements born on Choirgirl and goes further, streamlining whereas Choirgirl had a wider palette, and also deconstructing the heaviness of the Choirgirl band sound in favor of something sparser, perhaps more spacious. I would guess there is a trip-hop influence here as well, at times some of these songs remind one of Portishead, other times the electronica/club experiments of Bjork would seem to figure in. Tori's signature piano has moved as far into the background as it ever had, though it is there and provides familiarity and grounding when the sound strays too much.

Many solid tracks can be found here. "Concertina" is one of Tori's loveliest melodies. So is "1000 Oceans" which is very beautiful and soft, something like "Northern Lad." "Bliss" is a solid opener leading into the trippy "Juarez" with a repetitive series of piano notes over a heavily electronica-inspired beat. My favorites are the "out there" stuff of course. "riot poof" is catchy-as-hell pop at first with a cool high pitched vocal part and then with a shuffling, groovy call-and-answer vocal. Clever and delicious songwriting. Then comes perhaps Tori's druggiest track in "Datura" which features her vocal experiments over a detailed reading of the plants present in her garden at the time. Datura was the one plant that thrived in her garden, which she found very interesting because it is highly toxic and very dangerous (never ingest it, it can easily kill you!) It's an interesting 8 minute track that apparently came from an improvisation session with Chamberlain. The disconcerting vocals sound like psych-rock leftovers, a nice touch on this already bizarre album. Amos was a relatively experienced hallucinogen fan and this is but one place in her 90s work where you can hear that psychedelic muse coming through.

I consider the live disc a bonus personally, and one so good it makes the album a two-for-one really. Venus is a real treat for the established Tori fan although it is not where one should start. Tori is best approached in chronological order in my view, but if you want to pick one or two titles to sample her, go with "Little Earthquakes" and "From the Choirgirl Hotel" as your first picks.

Finnforest | 3/5 |

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