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Tori Amos - Little Earthquakes CD (album) cover


Tori Amos


Crossover Prog

3.70 | 101 ratings

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3 stars Queen of the Nerds

"boy you best pray that I bleed real soon, how's that thought for ya?"

Self-proclaimed "Queen of the Nerds" Myra Ellen Amos was born in 1963 in the great state of North Carolina, daughter of a Methodist minister. A big believer in reincarnation, Tori claims it was she who chose to be born to the Amos family. This little girl was an incredible talent from earliest childhood, beginning to play piano before she could string sentences together. By the age of 5 she had passed an audition and won full scholarship at the prestigious Peabody Conservatory where she would study for years. But it was not long before Tori's mischievous free spirit began to butt heads with the conservative instructors at the school, who were less than amused by her "interpretations" of classical legends. In the 5th grade she smoked her first joint, found Robert Plant, and Playgirl magazine. Soon after she experienced the traumatic loss of her maternal grandfather to whom she was incredibly close, her Mother claimed she would go to his grave three times a week to sing to him for years. She claims Tori "never got over his death....he was the only person she ever completely respected." When her older siblings moved out soon after, Tori felt even more alone and began to sink into depression.

Her parents continued to encourage her music even though she had parted ways with the Peabody. In a brave but truly loving move her father took the unusual step of helping Tori become a piano bar performer, to give her an outlet for her passion, and perhaps a way forward in music. She was still underage, and her father would often come along and agree to chaperone so the bars would not be charged for employing someone underage. It was a move than changed her life, as she became an amazing pianist and a seasoned performer from this experience. In 1984 she took off for LA to follow her dream. The 80s were hard on Tori as she was raped early on, then spent years spinning her wheels in the infamous "Y Kant Tori Read" band. (Few realize this was a reference to her inability to read sheet music and not simply making light of inability to read). The band released an album which was supposedly not as bad as you'd expect, though cheesy, but it failed miserably. The end came when she walked into a restaurant and a record company executive laughed at her. She realized she was seen as a joke in this band and nearly gave up the dream. Her friend Cindy Marble convinced her otherwise, and Tori rented a piano and started over. The rest is history.

Tori believes none of us are truly honest, that we show different sides to different people, as convenient for us:

"You can compartmentalize different sides of yourself. You put them onto different shelves, and then you bring them out as you need them. Everybody has a barroom personality and a Sunday lunch personality; one personality for their husband and another for their tennis instructor."

And so this quote perfectly sums up the emerging Ms. Amos, who was beginning the process of dealing with the different boxes of her personality through song. Finding a bridge from the strict Christian upbringing she had to the essence of her own adult self. Atlantic Records gave her six months and one more chance, and thus she began the work that would become "Little Earthquakes." When some initial efforts failed to impress the Atlantic guys, Tori again grew depressed until Cindy once more pulled her through. She then created a "faerie ring" in her living room, a magic ring for writing inspiration. Before you laugh, Tori credits her "faerie sh*t" with opening her up to the creation of 11 tracks that changed her life. The execs still didn't know what to think of the new material so they shipped her off to London to deal with the team in place there. Tori took to London "like a duck to water." The album was released in early '92 and the comparisons to Kate Bush by the rock press were immediate. The actual comparisons to Kate are largely superficial and to their credit many of these journalists would later recant. Tori's ascent from this point was rapid, long fought for, and richly deserved. She and her "children" (as she calls her songs) would be among the most important of the crowded female songwriter field of the 1990s.

"Little Earthquakes" is a turbulent debut; spirited, sassy, occasionally disturbing, and often just flat out beautiful. My God, the strength in the middle of the album is formidable. A run of some of Amos' strongest tracks begins with "Girl" as Amos proclaims her(?) independence with "she's been everybody else's girl, maybe one day she'll be her own." "Silent All These Years" is where she forges her famous style with one number: heartfelt, passionate vocals and orgasmic piano melodies. "Precious Things" turns a bit darker and more dramatic as those Christian boys are cut down to size once and for all with a zinger of a line. "Winter" is perhaps the most beautiful lullaby-vibed melody Tori ever wrote; stark and searching are the notes of her piano. The song is one of my very favorites as she talks about love and change. "Happy Phantom" sees her move another direction, perhaps creating the most light-hearted and upbeat song you'll ever hear....about death! "Phantastic" piano and lyric! "China" is like getting an encore of "Winter," another sweet-sung and mellow piano ballad. "Leather" finds Tori getting saucy and playful with her flirtatious vocals and sensual rhythm. The last four tracks are not quite as perfect in my book, but decent. "Me and a Gun" is a painful account of the sexual assault Tori endured in LA, and is very difficult to listen to. But I can only assume it was therapeutic for her and that I do respect very much, as well as her creation of RAINN, a network for victims of sexual assault and incest.

"Little Earthquakes" is a very solid debut album from a woman who should make Americans proud, a truly unique and inspirational artist from North Carolina. She put together an impressive body of work and boasts one of the most devoted fanbases you will ever see in music. In that sense, she is just like Kate Bush. 3 stars.

Finnforest | 3/5 |


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