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Non-Prog CD Reviews

Tori Amos

Live At Montreux 1991-1992

Review by Gary Hill

The companion to the DVD, this CD represents Tori Amos’ two appearances at the Montreux Jazz Festival. The first set of songs are from 1991, before her debut album was released. The second group are from the following year. While all of these performances are magical, it’s interesting to hear how she had matured as artist in that one year. For my money Tori Amos is a musical artist who is simply incredible – I used to call her “the music goddess” and there are still times when I think that moniker applies. This set gives an interesting insight into her musical development. Besides that, it’s just a great listening experience. It will certainly go down as one of my picks for best album of the year.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2008  Volume 5 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Silent All These Years
The piano starts this dissonantly, but yet gently. This was Amos’ first song that got lots of attention. Her delivery here is solid and the song still holds up extremely well. It’s interesting to remember how at the time she was constantly (and rightly so) compared to Kate Bush, yet today she is an artist in her own right. She’s probably better known that Bush, too – at least in the US.

Precious Things
As strong as the previous number one was, this is even stronger. It seems as though Amos was gaining confidence as the performance went on and puts more energy and enthusiasm into the track. In many ways this song, with its angular piano lines and uniquely Tori Amos vocal performance is not all that different from the previous one, but they both have their own identity. We get some cool jazzy dissonance later in the piece. The one time I saw Amos live her voice was capable of sending chills down my spine. There is a bit of that quality here. For a recorded performance that’s impressive.
China
This is much gentler and focused on prettier musical territory. It’s no less vital or powerful, though. Amos’ voice displays some more incredible power on this. There is one powered up, quirky segment on this track for good measure. I don’t know if this is as strong a track as the previous two, but Amos can certainly sell it as such.
Crucify
Another strong piece, compositionally, in many ways Amos’ vocals are more prominent here – at least in terms of driving the track – than on the earlier piece. It’s a great live recording, but there are no weak showings here.
Leather
Playful and tentative in terms of the piano arrangement, the lyrics and vocal delivery are more serious and even a little dark. It’s another great song and great performance.
Song For Eric
This is a purely amazing acapella performance. It’s definitely a surprise.
Upside Down
Here we get another piano and vocal powerhouse excursion. I like this one a lot.

Happy Phantom
Bouncy and fun, there’s a bit of a blooper on this as Amos describes it, “I forgot my own words…” This is a cool song and one of the catchy ones.
Winter
The final song from the main set of the first show, this is more dramatic (in some ways) and yet quite pretty. It’s another of my favorites from Amos and is performed very effectively here.
Thank You
Amos does an awesome job of covering Led Zeppelin here. Her arrangement reminds me a bit (musically) of Elton John. Her vocal performance is all Tori Amos. It’s always been a song I’ve liked a lot from Zeppelin and Amos does it justice plus some.
Little Earthquakes
The first track of the second show, this is in some ways not that different from a lot of the other material. Still, Amos brings a unique quality to all her music. She interrupts this song to chide some folks in the audience for having a conversation during her set.

Precious Things
One of a few repeats from the two shows, while the earlier version is strong, this one is a complete grand slam out of the park. It’s amazing!
Whole Lotta Love / Thank You
It’s a ways into this medley before I really recognize “Whole Lotta Love” as the song that it is. Amos’ version is quite different, but also incredibly cool. When she shifts this out into “Thank You,” the difference in Amos’ vocal confidence and delivery is amazing. It’s hard to believe this is the same song as the earlier rendition. Her vocals on the first one were good. Here they are sublime!

Me And A Gun
Acapella, this is playful and cool. It’s always been one of her lesser known but incredibly cool numbers – at least in the view of this reviewer.
Winter
The final duplicate from the other show, this one doesn’t feel a lot different than the earlier take to me.
Smells Like Teen Spirit
Amos takes on Kurt Cobain and Nirvana here. This piano and voice rendition is quite powerful. It’s a great closer.
 
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