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Tori Amos - Scarlet's Walk CD (album) cover

SCARLET'S WALK

Tori Amos

 

Crossover Prog

3.47 | 43 ratings

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Finnforest
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
2 stars Keep walking, Scarlet

"Woke up to a world I am not a part except when I can play its stranger..."

In a bio I read, sometime after the "Venus" album, Amos' husband lamented how dark and strange her recent material had become, wishing she would produce some work that was more feminine and perhaps sunnier. Unfortunately it appears Tori took his advice. Tori's most boring album is something of a travelogue across the United States, and in terms of relaying the feeling the beautiful countryside evokes, is perhaps the least successful pop album I've ever heard. I've traveled the same lands that Tori shows us on her little map, and have to wonder if she was touring dentist's offices rather than the actual lands themselves, as the music feels more like the background music they play while cleaning your teeth.

Sadly we hear Amos' amazing talents watered down to the point of sheer tediousness, her fantastic piano simply wandering and unfocused over completely dead-in-the-water drumming, utterly passionless songwriting, and little dynamic change or adventure. The tracks are all the same, with few surprises and plenty of background pleasantries, as if Tori were merely singing the songs of other middle-aged, largely washed-up performers like Natalie Merchant or Sarah McLachlan. (Thankfully Tori doesn't fall into this kind of ennui for long, and returns with better work down the road.) Tori sounds mostly disinterested in the music herself, her trademark passion and enthusiasm nowhere to be found. The tracks are very laid back and probably trying to evoke the wide open skies she was seeing her travels, trying to impart her sense of wonder and abandon. I suppose it works occasionally in getting those feelings across, but given the variety of mood, the album should have been about 35 minutes long.

As always, her vocals are very beautiful and the increased focus here on impressive vocal harmonies gets the second star from me. Tori is amazing at backing up herself with lovely overdubs and there are very beautiful moments on this album. It can be useful as a relaxing background listening experience. All I'm saying is don't expect a truly riveting journey like the Amos of the 90s gave you. This one is all about music for the background, music for lulling your toddler to her nap, music for catching up on some work at home. Nothing wrong with that. But with Amos it feels as unnatural and staged as the silly photo of Tori doing the rundown roadside US diner shot in the booklet, where we see the artist eating bad food at a much cluttered table. Tori looks as if she needs direction on how to handle this photo and it's a perfect metaphor for why I believe Tori doesn't sell this project---at all. She looks like Tori, sounds like Tori, but the Tori essence is nowhere to be found.

The lyric I chose at the top could be her answer to skeptics of Scarlet, like me. I'm asking her to be the "stranger" all the time. Perhaps Tori, but you're the one who showed me how amazing the stranger and her "little girls/fairies" (as she refers to her songs) are in the first place, so don't be surprised at disappointment when you put out a 75 minute Ambien set for those who like office music. I'm a huge fan of Amos but not the kind willing to give her a pass at every turn.

Finnforest | 2/5 |

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