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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Tori Amos

Night of the Hunter

Review by Gary Hill

Tori Amos describes this album in this way, “I have used the structure of a classical song cycle to tell an ongoing, modern story. The protagonist is a woman who finds herself in the dying embers of a relationship. In the course of one night she goes through an initiation of sorts that leads her to reinvent herself, allowing the listener to follow her on a journey to explore complex musical and emotional subject matter. One of the main themes explored on this album is the hunter and the hunted and how both exist within us."

Certainly, I wouldn’t put all Amos’ music under the heading of progressive rock, but based on that explanation, that label clearly applies to this release. It’s quite a bit different from a lot of Amos’ other albums, but there are definitely links to her previous catalog. All the tracks are actually based musically on classical pieces. I’m not sure this will ever make it into my list of favorite Tori Amos albums, but it certainly is a good disc that grows on the listener with repeated exposure.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2011  Volume 6 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Shattering Sea

While this is classical in terms of musical instrumentation and structure to some degree, it also rocks in an acoustic manner. This, in a lot of ways, feels a lot like a pretty standard (if there is such a thing) Tori Amos song, but with additional layers of symphonic instrumentation added to her piano based arrangement. It’s a powerful cut that’s one of the best on the set. There’s a great mellower movement later that’s got some of Amos’ gentler vocals. It’s quite a dynamic composition, moving in various directions as it continues.

SnowBlind
Here’s a huge variant from the rest of Amos’ catalog in that it features another vocalist (playing one of the characters) in addition to Amos, namely Natasha Hawley. This is an intriguing piece, and another that in a lot of ways doesn’t feel greatly removed from Amos’ previous output.
Battle of Trees
A mellower arrangement is used here with the piano and vocals providing the main melody while strings add layers of texture. This would really feel at home on just about any Tori Amos album.
Fearlessness
In some ways this is similar to the previous piece. There’s a lot more intensity and drama here, though. This is a strong cut that works through some intriguing territory. I think it might have worked better in a different position on the disc, though because it’s a little too much like the song that preceded it.
Cactus Practice
Somehow I’m reminded a bit of some of the music from “The Wizard of Oz” here. Again the piano and symphonic combination here is starting to feel a little monolithic. I’m not overly crazy about the vocals provided by Hawley here. This whole cut is a bit odd in my book and one of the ones that’s least successful here.
Star Whisperer
Somehow this one feels more directly classical to me. It also seems like one of the best cuts here. It’s another that wouldn’t feel out of place on just about any other Amos album. Later, violin creates some wonderful sonic tapestries after the first vocal section. The arrangement grows in some great classical ways from there. At almost ten minutes in length, this is rather epic in proportion.
Job's Coffin
While Hawley’s vocals work better here, they don’t make this feel like a Tori Amos song. This is actually a pretty intriguing number, but feels more like Bjork than Amos to me.
Nautical Twilight
Here’s a powerful and classically arranged piece. It’s another that would fit pretty well on a different Amos disc. The piano and vocals are the real selling points here, and this is quite pretty and evocative.
Your Ghost
Here we have a powerful classical arrangement featuring Amos’ vocals. In a lot of ways this feels more like classical music than it does like anything from the rest of Amos’ recorded output. It’s both a nice change and a very pretty piece of music.
Edge of the Moon
There’s more of a playful classical arrangement to this number. It’s got a lilting sort of progression and is gentle and pretty.
The Chase
Somehow the vocal arrangement on this one feels a bit awkward, almost like it was just sort of taped onto the piece. It includes a duet “conversation” between Hawley and Amos. It’s one of the weaker pieces on the set.
Night of Hunters
Here Amos applies more of her own personality to the proceedings in terms of the musical arrangement and vocal delivery. It makes for a stronger cut. It’s another that wouldn’t be out of place on one of her other discs. The classical music elements that build later, though, would be a stretch if applied to the earlier catalog.
Seven Sisters
Wind instruments dance around one another on the introduction here. The piano builds out as this continues. This is an instrumental that’s quite classical in nature.
Carry
Here’s a more typical Tori Amos song, basically augmented by some strings. This is arguably the most like Amos’ other music of anything here. It is quite a powerful and growing piece of music, though. It drops to just mellow sounds to end.
 
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