After a week of listening to the new album, I have posted my review of Tales Of A Librarian. I have also posted some of the other reviews that have been sent to me so far. If you would like to send me your thoughts on the new album, please email me. While I may not be able to post everything I receive, I would like to post a representative sample of how Toriphiles feel about the new album. Click the details link to see the reviews I have so far.
The reviews are below. Click here for general information about Tales Of A Librarian.
I do not plan to write a long review, because I am the kind of person who has a hard time describing music and why I like or do not like it. I have always found that words are hard to come by in this regard. But I wanted to say something about Tales Of A Librarian, so here is my attempt. (I do not really cover the bonus DVD below, but I will say that I enjoy it, and found the live soundcheck performance to be more effective than I would have thougt!)
I am happier with TOAL than I thought I would be. When I first heard than many of Tori's classic songs would be "revisited", I was rather skeptical. I have come to truly love and appreciate many of these songs, and it was scary to think of anyone (including Tori!) tampering with them.
Once I heard the album, I was surprised how many of the songs had been changed and how easy it was for me to hear those changes. I guess the older version are so ingrained in my head that it was easy to detect the alterations. I think I can now say that in general, I like most of the musical changes Tori made to the songs. The strings that were added to Winter, Silent All These Years, Baker Baker, and Jackie's Strength have made those songs much stronger and more emotional. I especially feel this way about Winter, which is achingly beautiful with the added strings. Other musical changes seemed in some cases to make some of the songs clearer and less jarring, and I keep hearing little sounds during parts of songs that I never heard before. I credit this to the remastering, which has been extremely well done. The only non-vocal changes that seem like negatives to me is making Playboy Mommy more "twangy" and reducing or removing the acoustic guitar sound on Tear In Your Hand. Other than that though, I am very happy with nearly all of the non-vocal changes to the songs.
Most of the changes that I do not care for relate to alterations in the background vocal or layered vocals. Some of those changes seem to disturbingly leap out at me while I am listening. Examples include the scary speaking part that you hear on the bridge during Tear In Your Hand, the background vocals on the re-recorded version of Mary, the male vocal on Precious Things, and the weird echo-like vocal pattern at the end of Bliss. These just do not sound right to me most of the time.
I do not dislike all the vocal changes however. I love the louder recitation of the bible verse on God, and the extra vocals during the "man with the golden gun" part of Cornflake Girl are wonderful. I also like in some places where Tori's vocal sounds clearer and her words seem to leap out more forcefully, such as during parts of Precious Things and Spark.
I simply adore both of the new songs. They are very emotional and potent additions to her catalog. Angels sounds like something that could have been on Scarlet's Walk, while Snow Cherries From France seems like a song that could have been at home on Pele or even Under The Pink. (I am not sure why I feel that way.) I also enjoy both of the re-recorded b-sides. Mary is wonderful, except for some of the background vocals, and Sweet Dreams is great fun. I love the "Who's your daddy" reference to Dubya.
I think this is a strong selection of songs. If I had my way of course, I would not have included the remix of Professional Widow. i do not dislike dance remixes as much as many of the Toriphiles I know, but I would have preferred that they not be part of this collection. I was also extremely sad to see that Boys For Pele is not truly represented on this album. Boys For Pele is one of my favorite albums (after Scarlet's Walk), and without more Pele songs, this does not feel to me like a collection that completely represents the totality of her work with Atlantic, although it comes close. (It is nice to see on the bonus DVD all the Pele-era photos during Putting The Damage On a least!) That being said, I know Tori had good reasons for choosing the songs she did, and I don't think she ever said that Tales was to be a simple summary of her career at Atlantic. She wanted to tell a story, and for some reason Pele did not play a large part in the narrative she wanted to tell. I can respect that.
Overall, I feel this is a really strong collection that I enjoy listening to very much. While I have a few objections, I would highly recommend it to any Tori fan. The songs do fit together sonically and thematically, and each song seems to flow well into the next one. I am very pleased with the work that Tori and her crew obviously put into this last album for Atlantic. I am willing to say that this collection does reflect the creative output of Tori's pre-Sony years, other than the fact that it leaves out much from Boys For Pele. At this point if I found someone who wanted to learn more about Tori Amos and be introduced to her music, I would give them Tales Of A Librarian, Boys For Pele, and Scarlet's Walk. Those three seem to sum up this woman's incredible career.
Although I disagree with the selection of tracks Tori has done for TOAL, I do think that a lot of them are truly better now they have been reworked.
In general, the strings are far better now. For example on Baker Baker, Jackie's Strength and Winter, the strings stand out much more and just sound better.
On some songs, the background vocals are much clearer, e.g. on Cornflake Girl (the background vocals during the 'man with the golden gun' part) and the spoken lines 'give not thy strength.....' on God. As for the new material: To me, Angels and Snow Cherries don't stand out very much, they are nice songs and easy to take, but no surprises or innovative things there.
The DVD section is great. The three live songs were recorded during a soundcheck, so there is no audience, which makes it a little more intimate. I don't know how the surround versions of Mr. Zebra and Putting the damage on sound like, as I don't have surround equipment. However on plain stereo they don't sound much different, but on PTDO I think Tori has re-recorded the vocals.
The DVD also has a few unexpected things. The menu has a different, more playful, instrumental version of Mr. Zebra playing in the background, and the instrumental version of PTDO that is played during the photo slide show, is not just an instrumental version, but it's also different from the surround version (for example the brass is less pronounced).
I was very sceptical about TOAL because of the tracklisting, wasn't even sure if I'd buy it, but now I've heard it I'm glad I picked it up. It's a nice collection and most of the changes really improve the songs. The only thing I am very unhappy about is the fact that it's the remix of professional widow instead of the album version that ended up on the CD...oh well, there is always the 'skip' button....
Dennis sent in these additional comments a day later...
in my first e-mail I told you Tori had re-recorded the vocals for the DVD version of putting the damage on. After listening to it for a few more times, I think I was wrong; it's still the same vocals, but at times it sounds a little bit different, probably because of the new mix.
Another thing I might add: the photo gallery is very nice. Many beautiful photos of Tori from the early LE days (even a photo from the YKTR-era!) to the Choirgirl-era are presented in a slide show. There are 3 separate slide shows on the DVD; the ones that play during Putting the damage on and Mr. Zebra are focused on the BFP-era; including some pictures from the church where Tori did most of her recording for BFP.
I bought my copy of the new album and DVD yesterday; it is interesting to see that, musically, the album runs from Little Earthquakes till To Venus and Back, but picturewise, it runs from Y Kant Tori Read till TVAB!!!!! One of the pics from the gallery is the picture of Cool on Your Island! I was soooo surprised to see it!
PS: The new audio mixes don't really work for me, although I'm glad the complete lyrics of songs like God, Cornflake Girl and Professional Widow are included in the booklet.
As from the Netherlands I picked up my copy on Friday. Listened to it serveral times; especially Angels is beautiful. Alls songs ok, except Professional Widow (Skip button). Â
The 3 songs on the DVD are great, but why a shooting during a sound check? I guess the sound check was "upgraded"because of this. Why not a really live shooting? Why no songs from the Scarlet's sessions last year. No sorry, music ok, but DVD adds not much. Enjoy the music!
From Cass Smith:
I got Tales of a Librarian on Friday and wanted to make a few comments. While it is just lovely to get a new Tori album, regardless of the fact that the term new may be inappropriate, I must say how disappointed I was about the inclusion of the remix of Professional Widow.I know that this gave Tori her only number one here but the original is a masterpiece and the remix just doesn't come close to doing it justice. Also, it seemed to be a nod in the direction of those who had never cared about Tori before that single and, in all likelihood, don't now. Let's face it, there is a core of people, including us, who will buy anything Tori releases. Then there are the people that take the piss out of us for doing so, who then heard the remix of Professional Widow and said it was the best thing she'd ever done, obviously having nothing to compare it to anyway in their small minds. These people are really not likely to buy the album, so why not concentrate on those of us who want to hear Tori at her best, not drowned out by monotonous drum beats.
On a brighter note, I think the new tracks are wonderful, and even though I may have chosen different tracks from each of the albums, the whole thing sounds fantastic. The remastering of Sweet Dreams, in particular, is glorious and can be appreciated as a different take, rather than a replacement of the original. Incidentally, I read that Mary was originally a B-side. Could you confirm what it was the B-side to, as I can't seem to find it to compare.
Lastly, the DVD. Fantastic presentation, beautiful gallery with instrumental version of Putting the Damage On as backing but why can't we see Tori performing the live songs with an audience? Anyone who has ever been to a Tori concert will know how special an experience it is, and I'm sure I'm not alone in being desperate for them to release a live DVD. The idea of being able to see the soundcheck is great but I can't help feeling that it would have been better if she had been performing it to an audience of adoring followers!
All in all, sorry to whinge, as I love Tori more than ever but I fear that the influence of Epic may be a negative thing.
From Laura K. Heywood:
Came into the station (107.7 The Bone) this afternoon to record my show for Sunday. How was I supposed to expect that a kind soul at KFOG had left me the Librarian CD?! Oh, it's so gorgeous, the pictures so much prettier than on the computer screen! I love Tori in pink (and usually I think redheads should avoid it). Now I'm sitting in the little studio, NOT recording my Sunday show, listening to the tracks with my heavy duty radio-station headphones.
Checked out "Angels" and "Snow Cherries" first. I LOVE Snow Cherries. Reminds me of a boy I just met who sort of already put a crack in my heart. I like Angels too (I'm hearing it right now for the second time). Somehow it reminds me of Choirgirl. That era.
How long ago was it written? The CD case says it's copyright 2003, but that can't be right. It was first heard in 2002, wasn't it? Maybe written before that...?
Precious Things and SATY have very few (if any) differences from the original tracks. I thought I noticed a slightly different guitar track on PT, but I'm not sure. Very subtle, at least to my ear. I can't wait to hear what everyone else thinks & hears.
CFG has new lyrics over the "and the man with the golden gun" lyrics! "To close this door I know it's so easy" is what she repeats. It sounds cool! It's unexpected -- you go along listening, figuring everything is going to be as you know it -- and then suddenly there is this new audio! Whee!
Mary, obviously, is new. It's definitely been re-recorded, not the B-side version we know from the LE days. Also, the musicians listed on that track are Matt, Jon and a guitarist named Mac Aladdin. (Didn't the original have Steve Caton on guitars?) Also, Tori had her friends record background on this track! Background vocals are Tori, Chelsea Laird (the Project Director for TOAL), Alison Evans (relation to Jon?), Jon Astley, Matt Chamberlain, and Duncan Pickford.
A note here, as I continue to listen:
GET HEADPHONES. There is all sorts of stuff going on on either side of my head. :) I have the benefit of watching the needles bounce up and down on the mixing board (if this doesn't make sense to you, picture the speedometer on your car responding to music instead of your velocity). The left and right needles (correspondng to those "channels," or those sides of the headphones/ speakers) are doing very different things in some of the songs (CFG in particular, so far).
There is a part where she recites a section of Proverbs from the bible. She does this on the original, too, but it's much more amplified in this version. Also, it's credited in the liner notes, which it definitely was not on UTP. It's a subtle change, but I REALLY like it. I remember listening to that segment on UTP over and over and over, trying to discern the exact words. They are: "Give not thy strength unto women nor thy ways to that which destroyeth kings".
With about 1:45 to go, I notice a very subtle extra drum track in my right ear. Reminds me of the "vocal & percussion mix" on the "LE Demos & Outtakes" bootleg CD. I'm almost positive that wasn't on the LE version. (Then again, it's been a long time since I listened to Winter with headphones.) It will definitely be interesting to sit down and compare the originals to the remixes, see if I can hear differences when I listen to both versions back to back!
At the start, the instruments seem more subdued, he vocals more prominent than on the version we know. Also, right away, more extra vocals overlapped on top!
Again, they're referenced in the liner notes: "Between cotton balls and xylophones" & "I'm getting old"... and then later "Swing low" & "Swing low sweet chariot". Don't remember these at all. I wonder if they were recorded in the original sessions and edited in for this, or re-recorded and added in... At "How many fates turn around in the overtime," the piano is really stacatto. Much more so than in the original. (Also there's a typo in the lyrics here -- it says "How may fates" but she clearly says "many".)
A little more "echo-y" at the start. Very subtle (again, get headphones!). The last 40 seconds are GORGEOUS and totally different. Sounds like a gospel choir!! So soothing, so gorgeous...
And then, all of a sudden --
It's one of the dance mixes and starts off rocking, a big contrast to the gospel sound of "Way Down"! The lyrics are listed for the original (starting with "slag pit, stag shit" -- actually written as "slag pit, stag s**t") but there are plenty of "honey bring it close to my lips"s and "it's gotta be big"s before you even get there. In fact, most of the lyrics are never even sung. I don't know Armand's Star Trunk Funkin' mix and the other PW mixes well enough to say which one this is or whether it's a new one, but I find it interesting that all of the lyrics to the original are listed. I suppose it makes sense that they'd use a dance mix for this song on a Greatest Hits album, since it was her best selling single in the UK.
Sounds exactly the same to me. Let me know if anyone hears anything new...
Wow, I had forgotten how gorgeous the paino part is on this song. Not new, just the first time I've heard it with headphones, or paying attention like this, in awhile. So beautiful. It does sound like the piano track is cranked up a bit and the percussion turned down a little. Plus there's a little of that "echoiness" that I mentioned hearing in "Way Down". Reminds me of what Mark does when Tori's performing live. Interestingly, it sounds like there's actually *less* processing in the background vocals in the chorus that in the original. Not as flowy, not as drawn out. One of the background singers is Tori's friend Beenie!! The other is a woman named Tina Gullickson. One other thing is the addition of a ukelele in this song! I could hear it during the chorus.
Me and a Gun:
Another one I haven't heard in a long time. Didn't hear anything new, which I am glad of. The point of this track has always been it's starkness. It wouldn't be the same if it had effects & orchestration. I'm glad it was included in the set, even though it's such a "downer" -- it's really an identifier for Tori and it does say a lot about her as an artist. I don't think any "collection" that attempts to tell her history would be complete without it.
Subtle differences at the start -- sounds like a helicopter going by? (I think it's actually a bass effect -- thanks, Jon!) Other than that, no major changes. About 20 seconds before the end, she throws in a couple of extra "bliss"es... I almost didn't notice them. Very cool song.
I'm going to take a break and listen to the last 6 tracks when I get home. I'll send my continued review then!
A couple of comments. I finally voted in your poll after a quick listen to the album, and I've got to admit I absolutely hate the new version of Mary! :-(
I quite like the live tracks on the DVD though, I saw someone complaining it'd be better to see a true live performance rather than the soundcheck - but you don't get the intrusion of the crowd this way.
Don't like the cardboard packaging of the the DVD version, it certainly looks really nice but it'll be hard to keep it in good condition.
Overall, I'm pretty happy withTales of a Librarian. It didn't bother me that several of her best singles didn't make the album since I already own those songs. Frankly, I'm happy with "Caught a Lite Sneeze," "Hey Jupiter," "Raspberry Swirl," and "1000 Oceans" just the way they are. That being said, I love some of the revisions made to old favorites. So here's asong-by-song review:
1. "Precious Things" - A great new version. I love how crisp and clear her young voice is on this track. I was surprised by some reviews on Amazon.com that claimed there's little difference, which makes me wonderwhat conditiontheir ears are in. I think the overall sound quality is far superior to the original version, not that I like the original any less.The change made to the whip crack is probably my favorite alteration.
2. "Angels" - A beautiful track that, unfortunately, has been passed off as mediocre by most columnists and fans. Personally, I think it has more dimension to it than "Snow Cherries."
3. "Silent All These Years" - Like "Precious Things," this track is crisper than the original.
4. "Cornflake Girl" - I'm kind of ambivalent about this one. I think I love the original too much to really care for the changes made. I'm so happy to know what those lyrics are in the background during the "man with the golden gun" part, but I hate how much louder they are. Merry's voice is totally drowned out.
5. "Mary" - Don't like how the "Na na na" part was changed, but sound quality is superior.
6. "God" - I think I miss the reverb (or whatever effect it was) that's on the "oo-hoos" of the original version.
7. "Winter" - Where are all the strings I'm supposed to be hearing? I've always heard strings on the original; the only difference I can tell is that they are slightly louder.
8. "Spark" - One of my least favorite tracks, which is a real shame since I love the original. As one reviewer put it, Tori's voice seems divorced from the music. This track has been made rather oversimplified.
9. "Way Down" - It's nice to hear those vocalists do their thing.
10. "Professional Widow" - I think "Father Lucifer" should've been placed here instead, and I don't mean the remix version. I'd really like to know once and for all whatthosebackground lyrics are.
11. "Mr. Zebra" - I don't detect much change here. I might have to listen to both versions side by side.
12. "Crucify" - Not as good as the original, but not bad.
13. "Me and a Gun" - Little if any change.
14. "Bliss" - Like "Spark" I absolutely abhor this version. It's like someone sucked all the energy out of it.
15. "Playboy Mommy" - I'm so glad that the sibilance has been fixed! Nearly all ofChoirgirl Hotelhas that sibilance problem.
16. "Baker Baker" - Once again, little difference other than slightly louder strings.
17. "Tear in Your Hand" - I would love this version if it weren't for the fact that the spoken words of "Haze all but clouded up my mind..." are way too loud and drown out the sung lyrics.
18. "Sweet Dreams" - I never cared much for this song, but I love this version. It has so much more gusto than the original.
19. "Jackie's Strength" - I think I'll always love the original best, but this is one of the more interesting takes on a classic Tori song. Strings are played in parts where I've never noticed them before, and the echoing "make me laugh, say you know" and "so I show you some more" are welcome additions.
20. "Snow Cherries from France" - A lovely tune that has a tendency to get stuck in my head for hours at a stretch. I think the only way it could have been improved uponwould be if aclever bridge were added.
From michael knudsen:
its brilliant - the revisited songs to the average tori listener may not detect a difference from the original - but heck after loving her since 92 - and knowing her songs inside and out - listening to this CD is such a treat - the differences are subtle - but amazing - for instance on GOD she whispers a prayer - CORNFLAKE GIRL has a slightly different end part - and way down contains more of that beautiful chorus - its so amazing to me - NO ONE who ever releases a great hits type of CD - ever changes the songs - and tori is such a goddess in giving us these musical treats - gosh i feel like i have chip in my brain that i am part of some tori type ethereal thing - and as i write this email i am blown away by the ending of WINTER.
From Maryam (aka littlebluegrl):
First of all, I have to say its absolutely stunning! The packaging alone is worth the price! I watched the DVD first, and its great. The live performances at the sound check are gorgeous. The whole band is there, Jon on the double bass, and Matt on drums. Beautifully shot, and the 5.1 surround sound on it kicks.
The two audio tracks, Mr Zebra and Putting the Damage On, definitely do this with the home theater bit, you will feel like Tori is sitting in your living room..Photo collageand video during these songs is from the recording of Boys for Pele.The lyrics are for the songs on the DVD, and the photo gallery is beautiful.
Then the CD. I put this on in my DVD player... recommend this to anyone with the surround sound theater. I was floored by how crystal clear the songs sound, lots of little bits are exposed that were muddled in the background of the original releases.
Precious Things -the breaths at the beginning are brought into the foreground with lots of reverb... very lovely version.
Angels -Im liking this song more now that I heard it on the CD, its gorgeous with the vocal work.
Silent All these Years -This girl has some neat new tricks up her sleeve... listen for the cello and oboe orchestration added.
Cornflake Girl -Love this version... louder more prominent drums, and now we can finally hear the background up front: Dont close this door - I know its so easy, To close this door - I know its so easy.
Mary - I still love the original of this song, but this is pretty too :)
God - very cool soundscape in this one, lots of reverb in the vocals. Lots of clicking sounds during the 'Tell me you're crazy... ' You can hear the 'Give not thy strength unto the many nor thy ways to that which destroyeth kings..' now :) And the ending ooh hoo haa is now even better than before :)
Winter - this song still reminds me of the firstdusting of snow every year... listen for extra percussion at the end
Spark - Vocals are no longer distorted - you can hear the background vocals more clearly... headphones make this one sound really cool :)sweet reverb guitar at the end...
Way Down - beautiful sound, extra choir piece at the end of it.
Professional Widow- I was disappointed by this one, I was hoping for the non-remixed version.. but alas, its the trippy track on the disc ;)
Mr. Zebra - gorgeous and fun little number.
Crucify - echoing vocals, background 'Crucify Myself' brought out.
Me and A Gun - nothing different here, haunting and beautifulas usual
Bliss - very cool version... lots of effects on the vocals. especially at the end...
Playboy Mommy - vocals seem different on this one, some more of thecountry slide guitar in it.
Baker Baker - you can hearmore of the strings in the background. cant ever get through this one without shedding a tear!!! :)
Tear in your Hand - I love the remaster of this one! Its so much more clear and pretty sounding... this girl's definitely put on her MAC to go out. Interesting vocals at the end - tori talking over the singing...
Sweet Dreams - Starts off with 'Who's your daddy?' :) very funky version... i like it alot :)
Jackie's Strength - beautiful strings in the one, very classy. the chorus has vibrato strings in the backgroundwhich is so pretty.
Snow Cherries From France - so glad this one finally made it out of the closet ;) interesting slide guitar in it, and the mandolin...
From Pete & Chris:
I do love the remasters of the songs. Most of the subtle changes are the fact the removed a lot of that digital effect on some of voices. Like on God, plus the fact that one the Proverb is also more prononced (for the longest time I thought it was the Serenity Prayer "Give Myself the strength to change the things I can and accept those that I can't) :P. Silent All These Years, the most prononced thing I noticed was the addition of Flutes in the chorus, which is BEAUTIFUL!!!! I will agree that they should not have included the Remix of Professional Widow ( I do like this version), it just seems a little out of place. I also noticed the bongos in the background of Winter. The Extra echos added to Jackie's Strength made me think of the way she preformed it on her Plugged Tour. Snow Cherries from France is also very pretty like it much more than I do Angels. She Completely redid Sweet Dreams, which if you listen to the original and then the new version you can hear a maturity in it now ( Grant you it did come out 10 years ago).
Cornflake girl I hear added vocals.
The best part about the songs being remastered is that Tori voice is more prononuced Spark I enjoy so much more on TOAL than I do on FtCH, Same with Playboy Mommy.
Overall I would say this is a good album for All Tori Fans if Just for the DVD. Its a great starter album for newbie fans.
From Indiana Dave:
Just read the reviews you've posted on The Dent. I don't have much to add to most of it, but I did want to make a comment about Sweet Dreams. (fyi, my full review can be found here: http://www.livejournal.com/users/ashfault76/100927.html ).
Regarding "Sweet Dreams"...well...I need to give it some time. I love the original recording of it. The new recording has a totally different tone. The tempo seems slowed down a little, the piano is muffled, and the whole thing is just more mellow. Whereas the original "Sweet Dreams" sounded very angry (to me), the new one strikes me more as sad. Perhaps that was Tori's intention and the reason she rerecorded rather than remaster. I will say, though, that the crazy operatic undulations of the new backing vocals are pretty cool.
I hope other Tori fans won't jump downmy throat for this, but i have to be honest, i'm really a little dissappointed with TOAL. Obviously there's little point in complaining about the track-listing as we all will have our favourites, but i do feel that somes of Tori's greatest works aren't here. I was so suprised to see so little of Boys For Pele represented, and i think Concertina is an obvious highlight from Venus and should have been on there too. But naturally we'll all disagree on these points. Overall i just feel like, to be honest, its all a bit of a gimmick. The re-conditioned tracks, which i was originally horified to hear about, are generally okay, but was it really necessary? Do they really make anyone think of these songs any differently. I feel there was absolutely no need or point in most of these re-workings, and although the changes don't make the songs any worse, they don't really make them any better either. And in the case of 'Tear In Your Hand', well it should have been just left alone. In the context of the album as a whole 'Angels' stands out for the wrong reasons, it's just not strong enough to stand between Precious Things and SATY. Of course its always great to hear new songs, but it just doesn't stand up to scrutiny, despite some great lyrics. Having said that SCFF is wonderful, and worth the price for all tori fans on its own. It seems most of you guys really like Mary and Sweet Dreams, personally they are two of my least favourite of Tori's many remarkable b-sides, and althought the new versions sound slightly better, do they really represent the best of all Tori's great work? I don't think so. I'm gald that most of you are happy with TOAL, but i can't help feeling a little let down. Sorry!
I just wanted to add that I cannot believe Baker Baker made it on above such incredible, defining ballads like Pretty Good Year, Putting The Damage On, Hey Jupiter, Northern Lad and Concertina. Does anyone feel the same? Sure, its a pretty song, but to my mind it just pales compared to the above. Oh well!
From Christie Brown:
Ah, how long I've waited for this album and I didn’t even know it! I found Tori in a moment of need in early 1992. Ever since then, my relationship with her music has been incredibly profound, difficult to explain, and unlike my relationship with any other music. These songs have been my best friends. That having been said, I was skeptical of a revisited compilation album (the words Tori and compilation never seemed to make sense together), but knew I would have to own it all the same. My only two slight disappointments in the track listing are the presence of the "Professional Widow" remix and the absence of "Little Earthquakes". However, the fact that these songs were hand-picked by her fascinated me. She’s always referred to her songs as her children and therefore, she could never really play favorites. As far as the changes in the songs – I found them to be enhancing, unobtrusive and overall OUTSTANDING! I didn't think it would be that big of a difference, but I couldn't have been more wrong. Her voice has never been so pristine and her piano keys have never been more clear than they are on this album. I was completely unprepared to have each little modification jump out at me so obviously – I, too, suppose I underestimated my obsession with each song.
Regarding the new songs on the album…to put it bluntly - I was bored with "Angels" and found it somewhat unremarkable, but I loved "Snow Cherries" and found it to be reminiscent of her "Under the Pink" days. I didn’t think I would enjoy the live soundchecks on the DVD, but I ended up being surprised again. There’s something about watching her perform for no one but herself and her band that seemed very intimate and special. The photos were incredibly endearing! I especially loved the way they flowed with "Putting the Damage On" which is one of my favorites, anyway. And while it was nice of them to include lyrics on the menu, they’re sort of a pain to fast forward through…I’d much prefer a cd booklet.
On a different note, I can hear and understand the now popular observation that she has lost her "edge", but I don’t really see it that way as much I as I see each album of hers being a reflection of her life and its stages. She is in a much more peaceful place at the moment than she was in earlier years, and you can hear that in every new song. Some of us are in love with pain and angst, and identify more magnetically with that aspect of her. Regardless where she is emotionally, I, personally, can never seem to help being in awe of every album she produces.
In summation, this is a must-have for all the fans, no matter how skeptical they may be. It's a beautiful album that will leave any old school Tori groupie reeling with nostalgia and give them the chance to re-experience these songs for the first time all over again! What better gift could we get?
First, let me say that the packaging, photographs and marketing of this project were done well. Generally, I really like this as a whole. The selections from "Little Earthquakes" (although I maybe would have replaced "Tear In My Hand" with "China"...tough choice though) and "From The Choirgirl Hotel" were solid ones. The newly recorded versions of "Mary" and "Sweet Dreams" are nothing short of brilliant. The new songs are standard Tori genius, particularly "Snow Cherries From France" - the lyrics and melody keep replaying in my head!
HOWEVER, like so many other Tori fans I've connected with or read from here, I am very disappointed with:
* The under representation of "Boys For Pele" - I cannot even fathom that she chose not to include "Talula", "Blood Roses", "Hey Jupiter" and "Doughnut Song", especially SINCE this is somewhat of a "sonic autobiography", as she states...
* The choice to add "Baker Baker" from "Under The Pink" in lieu of something stronger like "Pretty Good Year" or "Icicle". I mean it's a good song, but...?
* The bastardization of "Professional Widow" - that irritating remix that sexualizes the decidedly NOT sexual meaning of the song is clearly tracked on this collection to appeal to mindless non-Tori fans who only know that mix as one of her songs. It absolutely stands out like a sore thumb. Yuck.
* The loud vocal over dub on "Tear In Your Hand" (spooky..)
* The complete disregard of "To Venus And Back" as part of this journey. How perfect would "Glory of The 80s" and a nice stripped down version of "1000 Oceans" have been here (talk about autobiographical)??
While I *do* question the exclusion of certain non-CD songs that would seem to fit here ("Merman" and "Butterfly" come to mind), I completely understand why songs from her last Atlantic CD "Strange Little Girls" have not been chosen. Hypothetically, "Rattlesnakes" or "Enjoy The Silence" would have been really appropriate here...had they been her "girls". But, alas, they are not.
As for the DVD, don't get me wrong - it's great. However, I would have rather seen her release a whole live DVD as a complement to a much broader and relevant collection of songs as a midway career retrospective. Just a thought. "Northern Lad" on the DVD sends a chill down my spine.
During the "photograph show" on the DVD I just felt such a since of appreciation for this woman who has given people so much of herself. We all are truly blessed to have lived in this time with such an incredible musician. Watching all the photographs of the different era's of her career with such a beautiful song took me back to the first time I saw crucify on MTV late at night way past my bedtime and thinking back then little did I know what an impact Tori would have on my life up to this very day. Through teenage years to me very on wedding, what makes Tori so special to us is that her songs weave throughout our own lives.
I also love that the songs as a whole were re-mastered wonderfully and I personally love the small subtle changes in Winter and God. They sound so much clearer and her voice really shines through.
From Gina in Orlando
I was reading the reviews posted yesterday and I have a different take on the album, it seems! It really surprised me how apprehensive people were about accepting the changes in the songs. What kind of Tori fans are we if we doubt the ability of the creatress herself to bring the best possible sound, feeling and quality out of her work?
The way I see it, it is amazing that the re-worked songs are all from the same days in the studio as the originals. Funny what vocals are hiding lost in the originals that really come out and grab you in the TOAL versions...
I love, love, LOVE the new Cornflake Girl! For once I am able to hear the bible verse in God (which adds SO much to the meaning), and it sounds less syrupy as well as far as the background vocals. And before I thought that God was a little maniacal with the guitar feedback anyways! Seems to have toned down quite a bit.
After hearing Sweet Dreams in concert, I am thrilled that it was redone and brought up to date. She used to be so drum machine driven, it must be awesome for her to change this now.
It doesn't bother me about the Prof. Widow remix. I can appreciate techno, and I think this version adds a great energy to the song. It could never replace the original, but I do like it.
The new songs are superbly done, and really showcase how much better Tori and the band have blended. I do prefer the piano-only version of Angels I heard at hereinmyhead.com. (From the Shaw Theatre gig). If you haven't checked it out yet, you should, it is amazing, adds so much more feeling to the song. Sometimes all that background stuff does get in the way, however good it sounds.
On that thought, I think it would be great if Tori did a "Let it Be Naked" type thing with her songs such as the LP that was recently released (by the Beatles) stripped of strings, background vocals, etc. There is a time and place for both, I think - the bare essentials and the whole package.
And of course if you are emotinally tied the originals, its not like they disappeared!
Oh and my husband the sound engineer would like to add that he thought it was absolutely necessary for LE and UTP to be remastered with the new digital equip. that is out there now, and that if you listen carefully you will notice how much better it sounds and appreciate them more this way! This may also be the reason why there is less from the later albums on here, because she was itching to re-do these? Where she was not full producer either??? (BFP is my fave. album, too. I have already given up on hearing Blood Roses live ever again.) :-(
I am enjoying TOAL. I think many of the other reviewers are criticizing the choice of songs a bit too harshly. Tori has made it very clear that not all the masters were usable, so she really had to go with what physically was available. The chosen set tells a story of Tori's career the way she would like the story to be told, given the circumstances.
I'm quite pleased with the amount of time given to songs from Little Earthquakes and other earlier songs. From what I have read, I understand that many of her ideas at the time the songs were originally recorded were diluted or wiped out by record company people looking to strike oil, not blood. TOAL gave Tori an empowering opportunity to take back her songs and re-release them, her way. When I hear the songs without the effects on the vocals I feel as if the vocals have separated from the music. It feels like two different textures are superimposed, no longer meshing into a sea of reverb. With the clear vocal over the texture of the music I feel as if Tori, the librarian, is narrating the song, as if to say, 'this is how it really went before they put the duct tape or effects over her mouth.' It's a way of regaining dignity. To further my point I noticed that in many instances the balance between the vocal and piano tracks have changed. Overall it seems to me that the vocals are noticeably louder than the piano, and that this combined with the lack of vocal effect, makes it feel as if the piano and vocal tracks are very independent. I can't remember where I heard it, but I always thought that the vocals and piano were recorded simultaneously, at least on the first few albums. With the reconditioning it seems as if the piano is centerstage to the music, but is disjointed from Tori's voice. I think it works though. It's as if I hear Tori telling me, 'this is what I was really saying when we were recording this, and yet the music sounded like this when they were producing it.' It's giving us a chance to see what it felt like as it hit the microphone, before and effects-that's intimacy. I think it works well for the concept of the album. I feel as if Tori the librarian is singing, and is taking you on a sonic journey through the musical journal entries of this character Tori Amos, who's music we hear. And the irony is, the librarian is Tori Amos.
From jennifer l wilson:
I have listened to the entire toal album and watched the dvd more than once. I have put together a mix of the original versions of the track list with the remastered song directly following suit (not including the new songs of course) and have listened to that a number of times. Following this research like approach to the new album i am in love with the entire collection!!!!!!!!! There is not one thing i would have wanted done differently.
Why?, you ask. The reason is simple, tori amos is an artist, as am i, though of different mediums and to want to change or rearrange another artists work to suit your own liking means you do not value said person as an artist.
So many of the reviews posted before me go on and on about changing this, or i don't like that, or why did she add this. People disliked all kinds of things; The inclusion of the professional widow dance mix, the lack of "appropriate" boys for pele era pieces, the packaging, the soundcheck songs on the dvd, small subtle changes in instrumentals or backups, the song choices for the entire album, the complete void of scarlet's walk tracks (which all should be able to figure out-different record label-sony/epic-atlantic/east-west/warner) and the list goes on. Some go so far as to describe the bits and pieces of each song that they don't like or wish hadn't changed.
If you like tori's live perfomances, go to more of her shows, if you think the paper packaging isn't going to last burn a copy of the original, place the original in a ziploc bag and put in a safe place and if you don't like the changes, new songs or lack of the songs you wanted on the album listen to her original works, they are still out there.
For me, i will listen to and love it all, i will treasure the fact the she is leaving an audio biography for her most cherished daughter (who this album was put together for in the first place!) and i am thankful that when she sings tear in your hand and crucify now, today, she does not have the same anger and anguish in her voice that she did in 1991!!!!! That was almost fourteen years ago. Fourteen years of tori living her life, evolving, changing and becoming the woman she always wanted to be. This was done for her, not us! We just happen to be lucky enough to share the ride.
For all of the fans out there that know of how and why i say these things i hope to share the next respectful, calm, courteous and kind front row with you.
From Erika Wilson:
I just want to say that I love Tori and all of her music and I respect her right to put out whatever songs she feels she must, but after Strange Little Girls, Scarlets Walk, and now Tales of a Librarian I just don't feel Tori much anymore. I feel she is getting boring as an artist and really isn't doing anything different with her music. Yes, I liked a few songs on SLG, SW, and TOAL...but overall these last three albums are not very strong. I know some die hard fans will strongly disagree, but in my humble opinion it is true.Tori seriously needs to get her "edge" back regarding her music.
From Howard Yip:
Before reviewing the album, I have to express my annoyance about its release in Hong Kong. Tales of a Librarian was supposed to be released on 18 November in Hong Kong, just as in the U.S. However, there was a major delay and I had to wait until recently, on 7 Dec, to get hold of a copy. Besides, the CD + DVD special edition is not available to be on sale here, therefore I could buy the 1-CD version only (and I can't see that Tori's photo during her YKTR era!!!). If I knew this, I should have ordered it online!!
And that's all for my dissatisfaction. Back to the review: first of all, I'm pleased to learn that TOAL is not a typical 'Best Of' album - Tori and co had 'reconditioned' all the old album tracks; even more surprise is that this hearty record had been done with her old label, Atlantic. This explains how good the relationship between Tori and Atlantic actually is.
I had read some of the reviews published here; many Toriphiles 'criticised' the inclusion of the Van Helden remix version of Professional Widow (it's called 'Armand's Star Funkin' Mix'). Actually I'm quite open of the selection of the songs - to Tori, there's always a reason for choosing this and not choosing that and so on - and I think the order of the songs had been carefully arranged so to make the record plays as smooth and interesting as possible. Just take PW as an example: it's situated between Way Down and Mr. Zebra. After the extended choir vocals faded, the energetic snyth-sounds explodes all of a sudden; and after all those disco beats, it comes the cute Mr. Zebra with Tori singing 'Hello Mr. ZebraAc' I think it's funny!!
Then for the 'reconditions' made. Personally I enjoy those ballads with more emphasis on the strings, it made them more touching. Examples are Silent All These Years, Winter and Jackie's Strength. However, for those 'darker' songs, say Spark, I'm not very appreciated with the new versions. The dark atmosphere in the original version of Spark were gone, so did the heavy pounding percussion in Crucify (actually it's still there, but less powerful). I think the new versions are too 'neat'. This also happens on Bliss, Playboy Mommy and even Jackie' Strength (more romantic, less stunning). The only exception is Precious Things - the more dominant background vocals helped a lot. But even that it somewhat lost the raw energy of the original version. Maybe the angst inside Tori was long gone; she is now living happily with her husband and her daughter. Who wants her to suffer again???
The reconditions also made some once inaudible vocals audible now. This had been mentioned in all other reviews, so I won't explain it in details. What I want to say is that, to me it's more like a gimmick to satisfy all the Toriphiles: 'Oh, I finally know what she's singing!' Actually, the whole album is like a 'Spot the Difference' game!
And finally, for the new recordings: the 2 re-recorded rare B-sides and the 2 brand new songs. As I never heard the original version Mary and Sweet Dreams before, I'd just consider them as new tracks. Surprisingly, the new versions suit Tori's last album, Scarlet's Walk, well. So does the new track, Angel. Its politically-charged lyrics and the AOR-styled arrangement make it like a track from SW. I don't know when it had been written but it also suits the present political situation, you knowAcAc The other new track, folk-styled Snow Cherries From France, is also the last track of this album. It's like a fresh spring among other songs. I've learnt from this site that this song had been written long ago (if I don't get it wrong, before To Venus and Back was released, you guys had guessed SCFF would likely be in that album), and the style of the song itself reminds me of those b-sides during the Under the Pink/Boys for Pele period. Hello again good old-fashioned Tori!!!
Before end I want to have a word about the package. The Librarian/Dewey Decimal Classification concept is superb; it's not only applied in the album sleeves but also in the ads - I found one (in full page!!) in the Jan 2004 issue of Q magazine (that one with Justin Timberlake on the cover). And Tori looks great too!!!
my goddess has now put all the songs she wanted on a collection. I was first upset by the Tracklisting of this album. I wanted more obscure songs to make it such as Liquid Diamonds, Space Dog and as far as singles go Pretty good year which made the dvd and Caught a Lite Sneeze. instead she gave us songs like Bliss, way down and Pro widow. However I loved the new songs both Angels and Snow cherries from France are nice. I Love the version of crucify just because I like where you can hear the Never going back again line twice with no fading away of the lyrics. I thought the scripture reading heard clearly on God was also nice. the new heard lyrics in Cornflake Girl. Also the new Bliss is nice although still not loved. of course I'm glad songs like Baker Baker, Playboy Mommy, and Tear in your Hand made it. as far as the b-sides go Sweet Dreams was wonderfully redone Love the who's your daddy line. so I like it better then the first. Mary is ok as well just not a fave of mine. Of course Tori's music is better then anyone else's in my opinion. I would have a better track listing for a collection of course I would still give it 3 stars out of five! as always Love and Tori!