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Tori Amos - Little Earthquakes CD (album) cover

LITTLE EARTHQUAKES

Tori Amos

 

Crossover Prog

3.73 | 91 ratings

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rogerthat
Prog Reviewer
3 stars Tori Amos may not be readily accepted as a prog artist (at least partly because of her popularity as a pop artist!) by many including this reviewer but that is not a consideration for me when it comes to reviewing the album. I am more interested in the merits of what is essentially a "piano-cum-singer-songwriter" album with some art rock ambitions.

Yes, there is some art rock in this 12-track album but you have to dig it out from amongst mostly American pop music. Tori Amos is often compared to Kate Bush with some insisting she is just a 90s clone of Kate, but it is difficult to understand this comparison. There are some melodies of Tori that might bring to mind Kate Bush but other than that, the only similarities to me are that they are female and they play piano (duh!).

Kate's work is far more colourful and edgier than at least whatever's on offer on Little Earthquakes. Whether in the Andrew Powell days or the albums she produced herself, she used a wider array of sounds and appeared to absorb more diverse influences. She also relied much more on discord. It is well advised not to make this comparison because Tori's music sounds pretty safe and staid by comparison.

Which, mind you, is not necessarily a bad thing at all. Because she is also very earnest, almost too much so at times, and this quality elevates tracks like Girl. I can safely say that had said track not resonated with me, I might never have got this album. The arrangements are restrained, subtle and sensitive on this album and work beautifully in combination with her soft mezzo voice more reminiscent of Madonna than Kate Bush.

But not all of her piano ballads are nearly as captivating and some tracks can evoke a generic late 80s/early 90s pop sound. Not so much in terms of the arrangements or the piano work, both of which are tasteful, but the melodies. I am afraid melodies like China don't hold my attention much and as I progress further through this album, it gets more and more difficult to stay the course.

Perhaps to break the monotony, she introduces some light piano rockers like Happy Phantom and Leather. But this brings in its wake two problems. One, a song with a seductive mood like Leather doesn't gel with the strident feminist pathos of the rest of the album. Two, Tori's singing is not bold enough on such songs. She tends to stick to a mumbling croon which works up to a point on the ballads but can't open up on the rockers. Her singing style is somewhat at odds with the emotions she is trying to express, as if trying to make it sound more acceptable from a mainstream perspective. Why Kant Tori make up her mind whether she wants to make pop or art rock.

Until the end, notwithstanding the impressive title track, this dilemma remains unresolved. This is the work of a talented and ambitious musician who is just a bit mindful of making her ambitions palatable for a large audience. In the process, she perhaps eschews the opportunity to say much more with the music than she actually does. 3 stars for a good album with some standout moments (also Crucify apart from the ones already mentioned) but which is not quite essential.

rogerthat | 3/5 |

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