A good review of The Beekeeper appeared in the April 1, 2005 edition of The Flat Hat, the student newspaper of The College Of William and Mary in Williamsburg, VA.
You can read the review online at flathat.wm.edu or below:
Amos recounts life, love through female eyes in "The Beekeeper"
By WILL MILTON
FLAT HAT REVIEWS EDITOR
Listening to a new Tori Amos album for the first time requires several things. There is, of course, the music itself, but the liner notes, a good two hours and probably a cup of tea are also vital elements. As any Tori fan knows, her songs are not easily accessible. In fact, if you're not paying attention to the lyrics (or if you can't understand the way she divides, draws out and adds syllables), her most recent release, "The Beekeeper," sounds like one long lullaby.
But fear not; Amos has only repackaged and reinvented the anger, angst and "fuck you" attitude. It was that attitude, manifested in moans and combined with fingers that flew across her keyboard, that snared so many fans as this strange little girl's words made little earthquakes in their lives.
When last we heard from Amos, she took us on "Scarlet's Walk," a hyped and commercialized multimedia experience that included a map of her post-Sept. 11 drive across the country, in which she meshed the personal underpinnings of all her songwriting with a new sort of American narrative. "I approached the last album ["Scarlet's Walk"] from the Native American part of my bloodline," Amos said.
In "The Beekeeper," Amos once again brings listeners on an intensely emotional journey. On her website, Amos declares that "Beekeeper" is "the allegory of a coming storm." That storm seems to be a crisis of definition, and in an era that is only tenuously considered post-modern, Amos' words call into question the ways in which things have always been told to us. More specifically, Amos describes her work as a retelling of the foundational stories of the Christian worldview from the viewpoint of Eve ___-- the mother. No personality is left unexamined, not even Christ himself. Amos sings, "Last time I checked/ he came to light the lamp for everyone." For listeners our age who have been with Tori for several years now, "The Beekeeper" once again speaks loudly and accurately, as we leave behind teenage rage and attempt to find our places in the world.
Liner notes in hand, one discovers that Amos has grouped her songs into six different realms. It becomes relatively easy to see how they were grouped thematically, but it should not be lost, (it is explained on the website) that these groupings, (the greenhouse, the orchard, the desert garden, the rock garden, elixirs and herbs and finally roses and thorns) create a map of Amos' woman-centered reopening of Eden, echo the six days of creation in Genesis and reflect the six-sided configuration of a honeycomb cell.
"As I began to realize that the gardens personified the different relationships a woman could have," Amos said, "the songs started coming and coming." And what a deluge.
Amos opens "The Beekeeper" with "Parasol," a song that she says is about how little feminism may actually have progressed.
"I like the idea that a modern woman of today felt a kindred spirit in the seated woman with a parasol," Amos said. "Because ... our woman has a bank account, has a job, isn't forced to marry anybody ... but realizes that ... she's not valued or appreciated ... She realizes that she has to face this." "If I'm the Seated Woman/ with a Parasol/ I will be safe/ In my frame/ I will be safe/ In my frame/ In your house/ In your frame," Amos, sings, invoking the difficulty of the choice between safety and lofty ideals. Additionally, the musical growth she dazzled us with in "Scarlet's Walk" is still apparent in the many sounds she adds to the solid foundation that she never fails to lay on her piano.
A piece in which Amos sounds uncharacteristically like a lounge singer, "Sweet the Sting," stands as one of the album's catchiest pieces. "Baby is it Sweet Sweet/ Sweet the Sting/ Is it real this infusion -- can it heal/ Where others before have failed?" she sings seductively. Amos notes that she was thinking of bee shamans (people who use bee stings for healing properties) when she wrote parts of the album. "Wisdom does not come without the sting," Amos said. Amos gives voice to the often exhausting process of trying to propagate relationships (be they physical or spiritual) that remain substantive and satisfying. Perhaps that is why "Sweet the Sting" can be found in the "greenhouse" grouping of songs.
"Ribbons Undone" is a stunningly beautiful song about the brief space in a girl's childhood when "She can hide her charms/ It's her right/ There will be time to chase the sun/ With ribbons undone." This most feminine reflection on the innocence of childhood, "She runs like a fire does/ Picking up daisies/ Comes in for a landing/ A pure flash of lightning," is not without its moment of realism. "A look in her eye says the Battle's beginning/ From school she comes home/ And cries."
This and the other most maternal moments on the album are represented by their home in the fertile environment of the orchard garden. It is in this environment where Amos' most potent refiguring of mythology comes into play as she renames Eden the site of "Original Sinsuality." "Original Sin?/ No, I don't think so./ Original Sinsuality." Amos reaches out to the women of the Bible, "You are not alone/ In your Darkness/ You are not alone/ Baby."
Call her insane, call her irreverent. "Bitch" has long been an accolade that Amos has received and one that she seems to embrace as much as "genius." To the open mind and ear, Amos is only as crazy as a fox, and a wander through the gardens she has opened up to us in "The Beekeeper" reveals that this chanteuse has neither sold out nor given in to sentimentality, bitterness nor convention.