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Tori Amos - Under The Pink CD (album) cover

UNDER THE PINK

Tori Amos

 

Crossover Prog

3.11 | 70 ratings

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Chicapah
Prog Reviewer
3 stars A while back I started to investigate Tori Amos' music and was surprised by how good her debut album was. She definitely proved herself progressive enough to warrant inclusion on this site and I found her novel and rebellious approach to being a female singer/songwriter quite refreshing. A Madonna clone she ain't. I was hoping that she'd push the envelope even harder on "Under the Pink" but she backed off a bit and I must admit I wasn't as impressed this time around. Conservatism happens often on sophomore efforts where an artist has put the material they've been fine-tuning for years on their first record and then has to come up with new stuff in a much shorter timeframe. What she does retain is her unorthodox attitude and individuality and both traits cover a lot of shortcomings.

She opens with "Pretty Good Year." Piano and vocal with a smattering of airy strings is always a good combination in my book and her sudden but very brief detour into a heavy rock motif, while jarring, shows that she's still willing to shake things up at a moment's notice. "God" is next and it's outstanding. The song benefits from a funky underlying track that toys with some uncommon and proggy time signatures and I'm always appreciative of that. The repeated lyric line of "God, sometimes you just don't come through" exploits our humanness that wants God to be what we'd prefer Him to be, not what He is. All in all it's a thought-provoking tune that delves deep. "Bells for Her" follows and Tori erects a very subtle atmosphere for this number but, alas, the lone piano and her breathy voice, expressive as they may be, are not enough to keep me engaged. "Past the Mission" is a light rocker that reminds me of Carole King (if she was into the emo thing, that is). I do like the contrasting aural textures she utilizes and the progressive mindset that permeates the song. "Baker Baker" demonstrates how adept Amos is at creating delicate templates without losing any of the tune's basic substance. Joni Mitchell's influence is all over this track and I suspect she's not trying to hide it. "The Wrong Band" sports a lilting waltz. The cut is short and sweet but far from challenging.

"The Waitress" is a highlight. I love the industrial groove of the backing rhythm and the angst in her voice is honest and forthright. "Cornflake Girl" is another interesting number. The strong attack her band delivers brightens the mood and the song contains plenty of the cool quirks in the arrangement that sets her apart from the norm. I detect an invigorating hint of Annie Lennox in her voice during the second half and Tori's piano work is noteworthy and exciting. "Icicle" is next. The minimalist, fragile aura of the opening builds suspense but it fails to deliver when the subsequent recital-like vocal-with-piano performance enters. A track can grow ponderous in a hurry and this tune suffers from that tendency. "Cloud on my Tongue" follows. Fluid strings help to fill in the blanks left by the piano but Ms. Amos sometimes gets so intimate (as she does here) that I start sensing that I've intruded on one of her private therapy sessions and I just want to leave her alone. "Space Dog" is well-placed. A live recording with her band in tow, its jazzy foundation enables this tune to generate some much-needed energy and the tightly executed dynamics are intriguing. Tori's willingness to change direction in midstream is one of the things I like most about her. She closes with the nine and a half minute "Yes, Anastasia." I'm so rhythm-oriented in my listening preferences that it's hard for me to be objective about numbers like this one that just float along and set my mind to wandering where it will go. It's the same problem I have with some of Joni Mitchell's early material in that I have to be in a specific emotional state in order to fully appreciate and stay connected to the artistry involved. The stirring orchestral score is a pleasant intervention, though.

"Under the Pink" was released in January of 1994 when the music world was weaning itself off the MTV teat and the disc found a more receptive audience to her oddness than it would have a decade earlier, that's for sure. As with her "Little Earthquakes" CD, it did better over in the more accommodating UK where it went all the way to #1. It fared in a fairly respectable manner stateside, too, reaching the #12 spot and that's nothing to sniff at. Having sold over 2 million copies to date, it means that most will disagree with my deeming it to be not as good as her debut but I can live with that. It's not a bad record at all. I do like piano in my prog and her voice is unique so I look forward to exploring more of her catalog of work in the future. 3.2 stars.

Chicapah | 3/5 |

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