A review of Scarlet's Walk appears on the web site for Relevant Magazine. It was posted there sometime in October 2002. Relevant is a progressive christian magazine and they really seem to like the album. Thanks to Jessica Felder pointing this out to me.
Weve seen many aspects of Tori Amos through the years: angry and loving, open and retreating, shocking and comforting. On her upcoming release, Scarlets Walk, the ethereal voice and entrancing piano lines that characterize her music remains, but the concept is new: It is a sonic novel, a modern opera.
The album chronicles a journey, a road trip in the classic American tradition. It is the story of Scarlet, a girl seeking to understand her past and searching for ways to face the future while being influenced by the people that she meets along the way. Scarlet, the cover reads, "may be the land and may be a person and may be a trail of blood," but that doesnt matter. The story can be absorbed with any of those perspectives and still move you.
A physical journey can be the best way to describe the growth of a character. Through the grand travels of Frodo, the roaming of the Israelites through the desert, and the American wanderer tradition immortalized by Kerouac, we discover a very important aspect of our nature: we relate to ideas with physical language and actions. Outward journeys represent inward journeys.
The song "Amber Waves" begins this road trip. Scarlet visits a friend who is caught up in the pornography industry. The friend has been seduced "from Ballet Class to a Lap Dance straight to a video" by a man who is now beginning to look to other girls. She wants to hold on and realize her dreamshes got a Healing Machine / It glows in the darkbut her reasons only sound empty. The light, in her view, is fading.
Light is a recurring concept throughout the albumpeople losing it, people finding it, people seeing it in new ways. Amos typically holds the amorphous idea of a "Supreme Being," which allows for an easy translation of the morals in her stories into Christian truths.
"A Sorta Fairytale," one of the best tracks on the album, features a laid-back drumbeat and subtle strings accompanying Amos and her piano. The song tells the story of a romanceone that starts with promise but falls apart as Scarlet and her lover learn more about each other. The song, which is catchy while maintaining the mysterious quality that makes Amos music so enjoyable, was released as a single in September.
Native American history is featured prominently on the album, which is intriguing because of Amos own Cherokee ancestry. Scarlet visits locations of important events in Native American history, such as Wounded Knee, and this undercurrent of history traces through the album. The cover art itself shows a map of North America superimposed over a female body, but instead of the states as we know them, the territories of various tribes are marked out.
So lets add another name to our list of fellow pilgrims. Lets make room in our classic convertible for one more as we travel America and our past. We already know names such as Mark Twains Huckleberry Finn; now Tori Amos brings us a new name, a new character to join us as we seek the truth. Travel with her for a while. Listen to what she says. And enjoy the beauty of the music.
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