Tori Amos,
Boys for Pele
(Atlantic, 1996)

It is very difficult to write a review for this album. It is so dark, mysterious and complicated that I can't pretend to understand all of the songs, but I have no problem hailing it as an original work of musical genius. Tori Amos opens up her heart in so many ways that you can gain new insights each time you listen.

This is, for the most part, a somber collection of songs. While I, as a man, love this CD, there are some places in which Tori seems to release some negativity toward men and failed relationships. I believe there is a strong female empowerment theme in these songs; even the unusual cover portrays a woman more than capable to rise above any man who approaches. More universally, though, Tori encourages every individual to strengthen him or herself.

This album starts out slowly and quietly, as "Beauty Queen" begins with one note on the piano repeating itself; the song soon melds into "Horses," a more intensive yet relatively quiet song. Then the waves crash on the heavy, harpsichord-accompanied "Blood Roses," which seems to echo the bad end of a relationship and categorizes at least some men as "nothing but meat." "Father Lucifer" has a slow, easy melody that climaxes with a slight pandemonium of lyrics.

Tori rocks the harpsichord with "Professional Widow," in which soft, lilting lines bridge emotional, intensive lyrical episodes. I love this song, but I imagine the message better relates to women than it does men. "Mr. Zebra" is a short track marking a transition back to soft, lilting music. "Marianne" is a somber song that seems to deal with the suicide of a friend. With "Caught a Lite Sneeze," Tori makes her own hate machine from memories of a failed relationship; this first single from the album is an infectious, masterful song. "Hey Jupiter" is a very slow, serious song that must be listened to closely in order to be truly appreciated -- this one really hits you and grows on you over time. I was a little surprised when it was released as a single because it is so serious and slow, but there is no denying the song is incredible.

"Talula" rocks, but it is slightly different from the version on the Twister movie soundtrack. The second half of the album is filled with slow, delicate singing and minimal accompaniment. Wondrous songs such as "Not the Red Baron," "Doughnut Song" and "Twinkle" do not tend to stay in my head too well because of their fragile composition, but they are more than worthy of a listen. "In the Springtime of His Voodoo" and "Putting the Damage On" form a nice yet sympathetic contrast to their more ethereal immediate counterparts.

This is indisputably a unique, eclectic album with almost 70 minutes of music. The real gems are "Caught a Lite Sneeze," "Talula" and "Hey Jupiter." The first two of these songs have a strong beat and a rock feel to them, but the beat-driven songs on here make up a significant minority. While much of the music is piano-based, Tori brings in all sorts of unusual instruments to her songs -- the harpsichord and Bosendorfer piano are used extensively, whereas bass and drums make a forceful impression on select tracks such as "Talula" and "Merry Widow."

This album is so unique and unusual that I can understand some people, maybe even a few Tori Amos fans, disliking it. This isn't music to pop in the stereo and start dancing to. Tori puts a lot into these songs, and she demands a lot from her audience in return because only the listener's attention can secure his or her comprehension and enjoyment. Finally, I will just say that you should not toss this CD aside if you do not like it initially; I myself had to listen to it several times before its magic really became clear to me.

- Rambles
written by Daniel Jolley
published 30 July 2005

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