Read a positive review of the Fade To Red video collection from digitallyobsessed.com, which was posted there on February 13, 2006. Many thanks to Alisha Parker for informing me of the review.
You can read the review at digitallyobsessed.com or below:
Tori Amos: Fade to Red (1992-2005)
"I'd be on blue screen for hours, and hours, and hours and people would be coming to me with these beautiful drawings... and they're yelling 'You're on a mushroom now!' And I would say, 'I wish I were on many.'" - Tori Amos
Review By: Joel Cunningham
Published: February 13, 2006
Stars: Tori Amos
Other Stars: Adrian Brody
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (sexuality)
Run Time: 01h:17m:49s
Release Date: February 14, 2006
Style Grade: A-
Substance Grade: A-
Image Transfer Grade: A-
Audio Transfer Grade: A
Extras Grade: B
Tori Amos is a minister's daughter, and spent her youth being trained to perform church music via classical piano and voice lessons. Somehow, she came out this sort of Zen, Earth Mother, operatic, semi-gothic pop goddess, specializing in very pretty songs about very ugly subjects. Dad should be proud, though, seriously, because she's carved out a respectable niche in the mainstream music world, and, after more than a decade in the business, manages to keep putting out albums despite the fact that she's, well, a little nutso.
I saw that with love, but seriously, I can count the number or Tori Amos songs with straightforward, easily digestible lyrics on portions of one hand. Though I have no idea what she's saying half the time, though, it is pretty clear she has something to say. The same holds true of her music videos, the majority of which are included here. The visuals are just as entrancing as her vocals, and they often make as much sense to me as her lyrics. All the more reason to watch them again, I guess.
Past the Mission (Album: Under the Pink): This video follows Tori as she walks through a Spanish mission, gathering a throng of women of all ages as she goes. In the end, they all stand up to a priest (or rather, they lie down in his way, but the end result is much the same). The visuals are nothing remarkable, but the song's message comes through loud and clear.
Crucify (Album: Little Earthquakes): On of Tori's earliest videos, this 1992 clip blends baptism imagery with sexualized victorian gowns and multiple Toris in waitresses' uniforms performing a cheerleading routine. The religious imagery seems a bit obvious, and while I don't quite get how everything comes together, this is one of my favorite songs from this particular album, so I'll let it slide.
Jackie's Strength (Album: From the Choirgirl Hotel): Shot in black and white, this clip takes portions of the lyrics literally. There's some Jackie Kennedy imagery, and then we watch as "Tori's" cab gets lost on the way to her wedding and she sort of travels through her past on the way to the church.
A Sorta Fairytale (Album: Scarlet's Walk): Certainly Tori's most unusual and unsettling video, this clip illustrates a love story between a woman (Tori) that is nothing but a leg and a head and a man (Adrian Brody) that's just an arm and a head. The pair, er, hops around the city and then to a beach, until a magical kiss allows them to sprout addition body parts and become whole. I believe I missed that particular chapter in Grimm's. A good video, though.
Winter (Album: Little Earthquakes): This video goes hand in hand with Silent All These Years (which appears later on the disc); both make use of empty white sets and lots of extreme close-ups of Tori looking absolutely stunning. This one has some neat background elements--little kids dressed as snowflakes serving as backup dancers, Tori climbing through a hole in the wall and emerging on the other side in a different outfit--and plays around with the song's father-daughter themes by intercutting the hands of an adult and child on the piano, but the clip really works because of the raw emotion is Tori's face as she sings (particularly the hushed final verse--you can see her heart breaking as she finishes the last lyric).
Spark (Album: From the Choirgirl Hotel): This video begins with Tori bound, blindfolded, and running through the woods to escape a kidnapper. The rather grim imagery fits the tone of the song pretty well, but this is probably the clip that seems most typical as far as these things go, perhaps because the story is so straightforward, not that that's necessarily good or bad.
Sleeps With Butterflies (Album: The Beekeeper): Inspired by the work of Japanese artist Aya Kato, this gorgeous video features Tori in a number of painterly scenes, drenched in red, gold, and green hues (in one scene, she looks to be lounging in elegant Asian dress on a soft mound of vanilla ice cream, with 3-D chocolate drizzled through the air). The costumes are beautiful, and despite a scene in which she sits on a glowing mushroom holding an incandescent butterfly, it doesn't seem corny at all.
Cornflake Girl (Album: Under the Pink): The song so nice, they filmed the video twice (see extras). In this, the U.S. version, Tori drives a truck loaded with the Cornflake and Raisin girls (per the lyrics). They fight, and then dance around, and then stop at a playground to writhe on the equipment. The whole thing has a sort of American West, dusty, mid-'50s feel. Note: Different versions were made because it was decided the American clip needed to tell more of a story. Additional note: I have no idea what is going on in this video.
Hey Jupiter (Album: Boys for Pele): Tori is trapped in a burning building in this haunting video. While firefighters work to extinguish the blaze and onlookers gape, a little girl (an angel?) skips in to save the singer, who is either literally being rescued or maybe being taken to the afterlife, depending on your interpretation.
Silent All These Years (Album: Little Earthquakes): The video for Amos' first big hit song hasn't aged a bit. Again, it shares a lot of similarities with Winter (though this one came first). The emphasis is on Tori on an all-white set. She spends a lot of time climbing in and out of the wooden boxes from the Little Earthquakes album cover, or singing with her face framed in square cutouts. What sets this one apart is the grainy, jerky film that recalls something you'd see in a penny arcade (though with garish color--the singer's fiery red hair really jumps off the screen).
Caught a Lite Sneeze (Album: Boys for Pele): This weird video I actually sort of get--we are continually shown various scenery that we assume to be real until, like, the ocean turns out to be just a billboard with a picture of an ocean. But, like, a giant billboard, so it isn't lame and is worthy of a music video. Also, Tori is singing in a room covered in leaves. And everything is rotating all the time, except when it is sliding back and forth, toward and away from the camera. So I guess I don't really get it, but it looks good.
1,000 Oceans (Album: To Venus and Back): This memorable clip places Tori inside of a glass cube on an L.A. street (ala David Blaine), and as she sings, we see the homeless, the downtrodden, the invisibles and freaks and weirdoes, looking in at her as they pass by.
God (Album: Under the Pink): Predictably stuffed with religious imagery, this video explores alternate forms of worship as Tori rails against the almighty in her lyrics. Scenes involve the sacred rats in a Hindu temple, snake handling and Kabbalah.
Bliss (Album: To Venus and Back): The closest the artist has come to a traditional performance video, this well-edited montage focuses as much on Tori in her dressing room preparing for the show and on close-ups of women (and only women) in the crowd as it does on footage of her actually singing. The black-and-white photography is nice, but otherwise, this is probably my least favorite video in the collection (though I do like the song).
China (Album: Little Earthquakes):Tori sings while strolling down a rocky beach as nature artist (possibly Andy Goldsworthy, though Google offers up little on that subject) builds a few rock sculptures behind her (check out the stone piano!). If you like what you see here, check out the documentary Rivers and Tides.
Raspberry Swirl (Album: From the Choirgirl Hotel):This is one of my top five Tori Amos songs, but I don't exactly love the video. It fits with the pounding bass line well enough, as Tori chases a young boy into some kind of rave and they dance for a while, but then there's this weird ending where a bunch of children turn into pigs. Of course, I have no idea what the song is about either.
Talula (Album: Boys for Pele): Tori has apparently been kidnapped by scientists, because she's being kept in a plastic safe room and prodded by people in coats, who also examine various everyday artifacts with microscopes. Tori's piano is also being kept captive in a separate plastic room, and she uses a blowtorch to escape so she can play the cool piano run at the end of the song. Otherwise... Ya' got me.
Sweet the Sting (Album: The Beekeeper): Filmed during a rehearsal for the Beekeeper tour at the London Apollo, this straightforward video features Tori at her piano, surrounded by a small gospel choir. The warm photography and colors are very easy on the eyes, but otherwise, this is a pretty simple clip.
Pretty Good Year (Album: Under the Pink): A good end to the set, this is another fairly simple video, staged in an interesting way. Tori sings while lounging in an easy chair (again in a nearly empty white room). There's a shot of her jumping through a window that is later reversed, and she also does her own version of a dance video when some buff guys in underwear appear behind her, but, for the most part, she's singing front and center.
The collection isn't quite perfect; missing, for unexplained reasons, are two videos, Glory of the '80s and Strange Little Girl. I like both songs quite a bit, and the latter's Alice visits the dark side of Wonderland video is one of my favorites. By why focus on what isn't here? This long-awaited, near-complete set offers a career-spanning look at one of mainstream music's most interesting talents, and no fan should go without it.
Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: A-
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratio: yes
Image Transfer Review: The videos here span more than a decade, but you wouldn't really know it by looking at them--aisde from looking slightly grainier (sometimes intentionally), the older clips look just as good as the most recent. Throughout, colors appear to faithfully follow artistic intent (with the black-and-white segments looking particularly strong), and I noted no significant edge enhancement, artifacting, or defects in the source print.
Image Transfer Grade: A-
Audio Transfer Review: Songs are presented in both a PCM 2.0 mix (replicating how they would sound on a regular CD) and in a remastered DTS mix (much of which comes from the recently released SACD Tales of a Librarian compilation). DTS is the way to go--it does a great job opening up the songs without detracting from the vocals. Amos' voice stays in the center, while instrumentation, backing vocals, and the like are spread to the front mains and the surrounds. When necessary, the subwoofer does its part, too, adding thumping bass and percussion to songs like Raspberry Swirl.
Audio Transfer Grade: A
Full Motion menu with music
Music/Song Access with 19 cues and remote access
19 Feature/Episode commentaries by Tori Amos
Packaging: 2 disc slip case
1. Bonus videos for Cornflake Girl (UK version) and Professional Widow (Remix)
Extras Review: Rhino has really gone the extra mile with this set. Just on a presentation level, it's very nice. The discs come in a classy cardboard slipcase with a cover that recalls a photo album; that style continues on the DVD menus, which feature what look like moving snapshots of each video. Tori Amos also contributes to a substantial set of extras, a welcome surprise.
The singer provides commentary for all 19 videos (plus the two bonus clips I'll get to in a minute). If you've heard her being interviewed before (or, heck, if you've listened to her music), you know she often favors sort of out-there metaphysical rambling that would make her sound like a space case if she wasn't so obviously talented (fans have dubbed it "Tori-speak"). So while her comments are interesting, and often amusing, she doesn't really explain what any of the videos mean, or at least, she doesn't do so in a way that is any less confusing that the videos themselves. But she does give some background on the filming process for each, touching on what she liked or disliked or found moving about a director's interpretation of her work.
As I said, there are also bonus videos. The UK version of Cornflake Girl is a different take on the song; when the single was released in America, it was decided that the video needed more of a narrative (never mind that I can't make sense of what's happening in either). The Professional Widow video is actually for a remixed "club" version of the song ("I'm a sucker for a good bass line," Tori says), and as such, the video is a remix too, stringing together clips from the rest of her catalogue.
It isn't listed on the back of the box, but the set also includes another bonus, a 20-minute behind-the-scenes segment on the special effects-heavy A Sorta Fairytale shoot. Tori discusses choosing a director with a different take on "fairytale" (I'll say), and we get a look at the shoot, which required a lot of green screen and trickery to piece together.
Extras Grade: B
Though the absence of two videos is a bit frustrating, Tori Amos: Fade to Red is nevertheless a great visual summary of the talented vocalist's career. Tori's music videos are frequently as obtuse as her lyrics, but that only makes revisiting them more enjoyable, as will this excellent package from Rhino.