Tori Amos,
Little Earthquakes
(Atlantic, 1992)

Although Little Earthquakes is Tori Amos's first CD, it is also her best. As much talent and innovation as she has shown in the years since this album was released, she has yet to achieve again the well-nigh perfection of her initial offering. These songs utilize beautiful music, raw emotion and lyrical poetry to address a wide array of issues, ranging from rape to relationships to religion.

Tori's style is uniquely her own, and the contrasts between soft piano-playing and abrupt emotional outbursts of strident notes, instruments and words are incredible. No one bares her soul through music as forcefully as Tori. This is best exemplified by the a cappella performance of "Me & a Gun," which deals with Tori's own experience of being raped. These songs are all about empowerment, courageously finding one's voice and taking control of one's life.

"Crucify" is probably the most recognizable song on the album. Its message is one of freedom; too often people restrict themselves out of the fear of being laughed at or judged unfavorably; and Tori preaches that you don't have to wallow in your self-guilt and suffering in order to achieve happiness. "Silent All These Years" suggests a life spent with an abusive or insensitive partner and the self-imposed exile and voicelessness such a relationship can lead to. "Winter" deals with standing on one's own two feet, believing in oneself and bravely striking out in a world without your father's constant protection. "Mother" strikes a similar theme, evoking images of a caring mother pushing her child out of the nest and helping it begin a new life of its own. "Tear in Your Hand" is an anthem of self-discovery in which Tori tells the man who is leaving her for another woman that she is more fascinating and powerful than he has ever taken the time to realize.

In "Little Earthquakes," Tori cries out for both life and pain, realizing that a full life by necessity includes both the good and the bad. "Girl" carries the message that you must be true to yourself, that if you live your whole life trying to please others and ignoring your own desires, you will go crazy. "China" explains how two people can gradually grow apart over time. "Happy Phantom" is a fun little jaunt in which Tori looks forward to forgetting her earthly troubles and becoming a ghost, but it ends on a more serious note about the limited lifespan of memory.

The real prize of this CD is "Precious Things," an intensely emotional song harkening back to days of unrequited crushes, cruel individuals and adolescent pain; the message is that you must forget the painful memories of your past in order to become your true and ultimate self.

These songs may mean different things to other people, and it is almost impossible not to discover new hidden insights each time you listen to them. Tori Amos truly bears her soul for all to see on this CD, and we can all benefit ourselves as a result of her efforts. Tori is a unique musician, and her music will not appeal to everyone, but this album is much more accessible, particularly lyrics-wise, than her later releases. As far as I am concerned, this is the greatest CD ever produced by any musician.

- Rambles
written by Daniel Jolley
published 14 May 2005

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