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Non-Prog CD Reviews

Tori Amos

From the Choirgirl Hotel

Review by Gary Hill

It seems that every album that Tori Amos does is better than the previous release. Considering the quality of her albums, this has to be a difficult task. This disc has some very solid work and seems to improve with each listening., and it has rapidly become my favorite of her albums.

The musicians on From The Choirgirl Hotel Spark, Matt Chamberlain, Justin Meldal-Johnsen, Steve Caton with side musicians.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: The Early Years Volume 4 at

Track by Track Review
The opening guitar textures to this track have a nice modern/alternative sort of feel. Another wonderfully interesting feel to the track comes from the piano work on the chorus which is beautiful. The arrangement is both lush and sparse at the same time. This track is very well arranged and performed.
A very percussive oriented piece, Cruel has an intriguingly gritty and intricate sort of texture, and still contains a lot of beautiful soundscapes. The chorus has a vaguely orchestrated sort of feel that works quite well.
An enchanting piano melody dominates this piece. The vocal line to this song is contagious and enchanting in Tori`s trademark manner, and the arrangement seems to become more lush as the song progresses.
Raspberry Swirl
This musical composition starts somewhat in the mode of a Nine Inch Nails number, with slightly angry guitar chops and a techno type of percussion feel. Quickly, it drops more into a typical Tori Amos mode. Tbe swirl in the title is somewhat musically represented here with a backing musical segment, present in almost the entire song, which seems to be swirling us in ever moving directions. This is quite a potent cut.
Jackie's Strength
Another tune which draws it`s central emphasis from the simple elements of a beautiful piano melody and an emotional vocal line. A string arrangement adds to the lovely textures of this track.
A strong percussive feeling dominates here, with definite playful ethnic elements. This song really combines many varied layers of sound into an intriguing piece.
Liquid Diamonds
The arrangement to this track is intriguing, the central textures being drawn from prominent drums, bass and piano. The piano at times imparts a bit of nice disonance. In fact, although they work very well together, all three of the prominent instruments, taken independently, are in different sort of styles. The drums are in a sparse, but dominant sort of mode, while the bass is in a busy, but almost cool jazz sort of approach. The piano runs in considerably intricate patterns.
She's Your Cocaine
Combining diverse sound patterns to achieve a very interesting arrangement, the central structure of the song is based on a percussive and rather gritty alternative sounding texture, while the break to the song is gentle, pretty and just a bit whimsical.
Northern Lad
This song is about being in a relationship that both people know is dying, but neither want to admit it. "I thought we`d be ok, me and my molasses, But I feel something is wrong, But I feel this cake just isn`t done, Don`t say that you don`t". Musically, this one calls to mind "Hey Jupiter" from Boys for Pele just a bit. A quite beautifully sad song, the vocals here are soaring and quite powerful.
Really showing the Kate Bush sort of influences that Tori Amos exhibits from time to time, this number feels like a Kate Bush piece, but I really like it more than I have liked any thing by Ms. Bush. It seems that Amos takes those sort of influences and thoroughly updates them into her own style. This is certainly one of the standout cuts on this album and contains many interesting twists and turns and is full of emotion. The ending here is a whimsical little segment that has a very unique feel.
Playboy Mommy
Although cut from a fairly standard Tori Amos sort of song structure, Playboy Mommy features one large surprise in the form of some quite twangy pedal steel guitar work.
Pandora's Aquarium
This is another standout track combining jazz influenced textures with strongly emotional and evocative moods into a very strong piece.
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