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Non-Prog CD Reviews

Tori Amos

Strange Little Girls

Review by Gary Hill

What an interesting decision and album this is. Amos this time chooses to record a collection of covers of other musician's songs rather than original material. She really chooses a unique group of artists from which to find material. Among that group are such unlikely candidates as Eminem, The Stranglers, Slayer and Lou Reed. Amos really doesn't so much cover the songs as she uses them as springboards for completely unique performances. Isn't that the whole point of covering songs? After all, if you want to hear the original, you can just listen to it, but if someone chooses to cover a piece of music, they should make it their own. Amos has certainly been successful in that endeavor here. This is a great collection and features, among others, King Crimson's Adrian Belew on about half of the songs.

Track by Track Review
New Age
Tori takes on a Lou Reed song here, and the cut is a fine, slightly strange piece. It starts quite mellow, but Adrian Belew's guitar rocks out at times.
'97 Bonnie And Clyde
When Eminem recorded this one it was an angry, screaming rant. Amos takes it on in a sedate sort of building fashion. The result is that the true horror and terror of the lyrics are revealed. This one may well be the most frightening song you will ever hear.
Strange Little Girl
Originally recorded by The Stranglers, this feels like a more typical Tori Amos sort of number. It has a great arrangement and really rocks out.
Break The Silence
In covering this Depeche Mode number Tori uses a minimalistic approach, and it works largely due to an interesting vocal arrangement.
I'm Not In Love
Based on a drum machine type of rhythm, Tori's version of this one has an almost psychedelic texture to it. It's a minimalistic and odd approach, but it really does the song justice.
Rattlesnakes
This cut, originally by Lloyd Cole, feels like fairly typical Tori Amos. She makes a good solid tune of it.
Time
Originally done by Tom Waits, this one is done just by Tori solo here, and she uses her sometimes snarly, sometimes whispery vocal style to this one. It is very effective.
Heart of Gold
As this one comes in, you really don't recognize it as the Neil Young classic it is. As the lyrics sink into your head, and realization floods through, the familiar melody seems to step out of the shadows. It was there all along, but in such a way that out of context the mind doesn't recognize it. Hard edged and potent, this one is a definite winner.
I Don't Like Mondays
Another quite familiar piece, this time Amos touches on the Boomtown Rats' classic. Her solo rendition shows a that a minimal arrangement works quite well here.
Happiness Is A Warm Gun
Beginning in an electronic sounding sort of modern psychedelic montage sound, various gun related sound bites, including some by both President Bushes, carry through. Tori pretty well completely reworks this cut, which bears quite little resemblance to the original. She retains the lyrics and a couple of the melody lines. Other than that, this is really a whole new song, and makes for quite an intriguing rendition.
Raining Blood
Well, whoever put money of Tori Amos Tori Amos covering Slayer must have made a fortune with the odds on that bet, but here it is. She makes this a very haunting sounding number. This is quite interesting. The piano work here is very powerful, and Tori's vocals at times feel almost like siren song. All you can say after hearing this gradually building masterpiece is "WOW!".
Real Men
A cover of a Joe Jackson piece ends the album. Tori puts in a killer melodic version of this one. All the power of the track comes out in the intensity of the arrangement and the quality of Amos' performance. With an almost progressive rock texture to it, this is probably the most typical Tori Amos song on the disc. It makes for a great ending.
 
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