The Daily Mail (U.K.)
May 1, 1998

Added May 3, 1998

There is an Album Review from The Daily Mail on May 1, 1998. Thanks to Mike Gray for the article.

Tori's Torrid Tales

Verdict : Amos's most grown-up album to date. *** out of *****

Her recording career may be almost ten years old, but Tori Amos remains one of rock's most enigmatic talents. An eccentric, unorthodox performer who has inspired a host of imitators, the American singer-songwriter has penned many songs of piercing insight and honesty.

Just as often, however, she has undermined her good work with a juvenile desire simply to shock.

From The Choirgirl Hotel is Amos's fourth solo album and it is the most powerful indication yet that the singer is finally growing up.

A more expansive, mature collection than 1996's Boys For Pele, it is also strongly influenced by events in the singer's personal life over the past two years. Since she completed a world tour at the end of 1996, Amos has married British-born sound engineer Mark Hawley.

At the start of last year she also, sadly, suffered a miscarriage while three months pregnant. The effects of the tragedy cast a profound shadow over From The Choirgirl Hotel, and the album is imbued with a deep sense of loss.

But, in keeping with her wilfully enigmatic streak, it is also a very disjointed affair. In striving to present a collection of songs which stand on their own merits, she has made an album with little overall coherence.

Jackie's Strength, Playboy Mommy and Spark rank as three of the finest songs Amos has written, but there are moments of indulgence when she is undone by her conceit and ambition.

On a musical level, the record is a significant progressio for an artist who once relied predominantly on her own virtuoso piano accompaniment.

Perhaps inspired by dance pioneer Armand Van Helden's brilliant club mix of Professional Widow - a track from Boys For Pele - Amos, backed by a four-piece band, adopts a more rhythm-based approach here.

Cruel recalls the world rhythms of Peter Gabriel, Raspberry Swirl hints of the phased guitars of the Stone Roses, and Liquid Diamionds is a complex jazz number. For all their experimentation, the rhythmic songs are the most disappointing, due largely to Amos's inability to combine an insistent beat with a decent tune.

Her greatest strength, as the album's better tracks show, remains her knack of conjuring a beautifully ornate melody from a combination of intricate piano and a swooping theatrical voice reminiscent of Kate Bush.

The gorgeous Jackie's Strength and Northern Lad, a simple love ballad, are two songs which stand out simply because of their melodies.

The album, though, is dominated by the loss suffered by Amos through her miscarriage. On the opening track, Spark, she sings of a woman who was convinced that she could 'hold back a glacier' but was unable to preserve the life of her unborn child.

On Playboy Mommy, lent a Cajun ambience by pedal steel and fiddle, she appears to blame herself for the tragedy before pleading not to be so harshly judged.

Trakcs such as these are undoubtedly cathartic for the singer, but they make for uncomfortable listening. Those who have likened some of her older songs to a personal diary or a therapy session will find the topics addressed here as harrowing as anything tackled on her previous albums.

But, like Joni Mitchell before her and Alanis Morissette more recently, Tori Amos has always written intimate, often bitter, songs based on her real-life experiences.

She may have made her commercial breakthough in Britain, and is still partially based in this country, but the enigmatic female tradition she is holding up remains very much an American one.

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