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The Observer (via University Wire)
Nov 5, 2002

Added November 27, 2002

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A review of Scarlet's Walk appeared in the college newspaper The Observer on November 5, 2002 and became available via University Wire. Thanks to Lucy for sending this to The Dent.

Amos hits mark
By David Hartwig, The Observer

Famous or infamous? The verdict is still out, but Tori Amos definitely has a thing for concept albums. The latest in a 14-year career, "Scarlet's Walk," finally hits a mark that she definitely has fallen short of on recent records. This album follows the path of a female heroine, Scarlet, on a journey through every state in the U.S., focusing on the histories from pre-1492 through the European conquest of this country. The concept for the album itself is very interesting, but true audiophiles know that it is the music that counts. This is where "Scarlet's Walk" shines. After 1991's "Little Earthquakes," arguably one of the decade's greatest albums, Amos' next five studio releases seemed to miss the mark both in terms of musical quality and in sheer emotional intensity. On last year's "Strange Little Girls," the concept overshadowed the music, with Amos covering songs that were originally recorded by all male artists -- mostly songs unworthy of her incredible talents.

Though the entire album is worth listening to over and over, the best tracks on "Scarlet's Walk" include the first single "a sorta fairytale." The path of this song includes California, Northern Arizona and New Mexico. With an up-tempo, folksy beat, this track is definitely new-school Amos. The album's title track and "strange" are the most reminiscent of old-school Amos, with the haunting piano and ethereal voice spouting lyrics that express her profound sense of disillusionment with the world.

This is seen especially on "Scarlet's Walk" when her lyrical tribute to some of the Native American tribes of the Blue Mountains in the Western Carolinas seems to come out strongly against a troubled super-power and its "free" people imposing social morals on less wealthy nations.

Other album highlights include "pancake," which follows the heroine from Philadelphia through New York and Boston and up into the Northern New England states. The bluesy beat of the song drives socially conscious lyrics mixed with personal commentaries, including the lines "it seems in vogue to be a closet misogynist homophobe" and "Messiahs need people dying in their name." On "Taxi Ride," perhaps the best track on the album, Amos makes use of a strong, almost funky beat to show a lighter side.

This is also one of Amos' more commercialized albums, something that seems to go strongly against the concept. The deluxe edition includes a map that details the path each song follows along with Polaroid-like stills from the trip, a sticker book, a charm which must be some kind of souvenir, and a DVD that features videos for "Gold Dust," "a sorta fairytale," and "Taxi Ride."

In spite of or because of the concept, this album is just plain good. In all, it's her best album since "Boys for Pele." With full orchestras complimenting some tracks and Native American prayers providing some lyrics, it is her first since "Little Earthquakes" to showcase the breadth of her musical talents and depth of her songwriting capabilities.

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