The Other Paper
A review of Scarlet's Walk appeared in the November 7-13, 2002 issue of The Other Paper, an alternative weekly newspaper in Columbus, OH. Thanks to Karac for sending this to the Dent.
"Tori's back to normal" by Marty Cole
Wasn't it just yesterday that Tori Amos was a certified Big Deal? Wouldn't quivering teenage girls huddle in the lobby after one of her live shows- always part prayer meeting and part group therapy-and treat every word she said as if it were sacred scripture?
Of course, that was before Ms.Amos started suckling piglets on her album covers, professing that Satan is just alright (daughter of a preacher man, too!), and fillling her discs with songs that might have been good if only they'd had melodies or comprehensible lyrics.
Her fans wafted away like leaves from an October tree. And all those teenagers eventually grew up. Now comes Scarlet's Walk, Tori's new release, which seems to be something of a concept album. It's also a return to the sound of mid-period Tori, with nary an Eminem cover in sight.
The storyline involves a woman named Scarlet taking a zig-zag trip around the United States. Websites reportedly offer "fuller" explanations of the songs, but that's cheating: You live or die by the silvery disc, Tori.
Amos helpfully provides a color-coded map, which links each song to a particular part of the country. It's only after you distinguish between shades of purple on the grid that you realize the journey makes no sense at all. Scarlet's Walk was apparently choreographed by Billy, child star of The Family Circus.
Along the way, our heroine meets some tall, dark and handsomes, has a conversation with the Northern Lights (much like Sun Ra), and eats some pancakes.
There's also a song called Mrs.Jesus and a reference or two to a multiplicity of "gods." But nothing of the whole disc will make your mother come running into the room to see what on earth you're playing.
No, Tori plays it straight here. Scarlet's Walk consists almost entirely of four-minute songs with light rhythm sections, guitars that embellish and season, and Amos's own keyboards and swooping/whispering voice.
The one exception is I Can't See New York, which at seven-plus minutes wants to be meaningful. But given Amos's penchant for obtuse songwriting, it could be one more song about buildings and food. Guess you'll have to use your Internet decoder ring.
I guess Tori's old fans could see Scarlet's Walk as a "stunning return to form." For the rest of us, it just proves that Tori's still pretty far out there. Mentally, she's clearly still got her barn door open. One can only speculate as to which county the horses are in by now.
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