A positive review of Scarlet's Walk appears in the November 2002 issue of Request Magazine. You get this magazine free when you Join Replay at various Media Play, OnCue, Sam Goody, or Suncoast stores. You can also purchase it on the newsstand. The review gave the album four out of five stars. The album is also an Editor's pick, which means that you get 2,000 bonus points when you buy it on your Replay card in one of the stores mentioned above. Thanks to Danica Knox, Pete B., Aaron Baldwin, Michelle Verna, Brad Kelstrom, Randomlyodd, Annie Rainey, and Prince Adam. You can read the review below.
There is an online addition to this at requestmagazine.com, which takes another look at the album that is not as flattering as the print review. I include that as well below.
In a way, tori Amos has been perfecting the art of the concept album since her solo debut in 1991. Her records consistently serve as a portrait of the artist in her current mood/persona and a reflection of her latest musical preoccupation (writing with a harpsichord in boys for Pele, introducing a full band on from the choirgirl hotel).
Amoss latest offering, scarlets walk, takes the concept-album idea one step further in what amounts to a metamorphical trans-national tour diary of the records narrator-protagonist. Each song corresponds to a particular region of the good ol USA (which, shell tell you isnt always good).
Its unclear whether the elusive character of Scarlet is another persona belonging to the cryptic storyteller, or whether the name represents a more universal theme. Whats certain however, is that Amos is less interested in recording raw, gut wrenching tracks like crucify and more concerned with showcasing her velvety voice. With silky smooth tracks full of subtle effects and multiple musical layers, the album is a polished, 18-song set thats more radio friendly and lavish than her usual fare.
The comparatively homogenous and accessible collection of tunes is bound to win tori Amos new followers. If her eclectic career of songwriting is any evidence, longtime fans can rest assured that its merely a temporary departure from her stormier endeavors.
Four out of five stars (recommended)
Written by Erin Anderson.
Can be found at requestmagazine.com.
A fan delves deeper into Tori Amos Scarlets Walk.
She may spend most of her time across the pond at her home in Cornwall, England, but Tori Amos has crafted a uniquely American work of art that celebrates our countrys spirit and character without defaulting to rote patriotism. Scarlets Walk presents the American Experience via a musical travel log, with each song corresponding to a particular region of the country, offering poetic snapshots of porn stars, lost souls, and the open road.
Unlike the material of quintessential Americana artists such as John Mellencamp and Bruce Springsteen, however, Amos shies away from stories about working-class stiffs down on their luck. In typical Tori fashion, Amos spins a more shadowy, feminine yarn that leaves much to the imagination and stands wide open to interpretation in terms of lyrical content.
Throughout the album, Native American melodies and tribal rhythms turn up in guitar and keyboard tracks, even underscoring songs about New York City. This infusion appears to be a clear statement of Amos affinity for her (fairly distant) Cherokee heritage (she references it in earlier albums as well), and the fact that America owes deep artistic and cultural debts to its indigenous peoples. In particular, "Wampum Prayer" stands out as the lone a cappella track on the album. The stark lyrics ("Greed is the gift for the sons of suns") take on special significance in light of Amos earlier a cappella piece "Me and a Gun," a heart-wrenching autobiographical tale of rape.
On the whole, Scarlets Walk takes less musical risks than close followers of Amos career are accustomed to. Despite a few standout tracks that should be embraced by radio programmers, the album is oddly homogenous, even for a set of songs with strong thematic threads. Either Amos is holding back artistically to honor the themes of the record, or shes in a creative rut. Nearly every one of Scarlets 18 tracks ends with a major tempo drop and a single instrument or vocal trailing off into the distance. Still, even when a song doesnt dazzle as a complete package, Amos never fails to craft at least one overwhelmingly stunning passage for each track, a fact that attests to her undeniable songwriting ability. The music may not draw the listener back immediately, but the songs do get better with subsequent listens, allowing the fascinating characters and stories begin to unfold. In this respect, Amos has done an admirable job of providing a musical point of entry for her oft-impenetrable poetry.
Tori Amos may not be pushing the singer-songwriter envelope, so consider these musically creative trailblazers.
Classically trained coffeehouse music explorer, dance student and poet Mia Doi Todd has built strong followings in her native Los Angeles, and her adopted home in New England, where she pursued Asian Studies at Yale. On her major-label debut The Golden State (Columbia) Noted experimental producer Mitchell Froom (Suzanne Vega, Los Lobos) aims to give Todds glacial-paced music a broader backdrop, without damaging its minimalist intensity. Shes currently performing solo residency small band gigs, and solo appearance residencies around major East Coast cities.
Shannon Wright formerly fronted the Jacksonville, Fla., indie-rock trio Crowsdell, but after it disbanded she focused on a much more introspective, intensely personal solo career. With melodies that twist and turn into the realm of the decidedly macabre, and clunky piano parts that accentuate her bizarre poetry, Wrights music is nothing if not risky and experimental.
Nina Nastasia writes dark, haunting music in the same spirit as Wright, but she uses guitars and employs the talents of string-playing friends both onstage and in the studio. Her songs tend toward an Americana vibe, giving her a Gillian Welch sort of appeal at times, albeit with more teeth and sharper claws.
Undoubtedly the most exuberant of this bunch, Rufus Wainwright enjoyed the success of a radio single in the late 90s with "April Fools" (from his self-titled 1998 release) that unfortunately failed to gain the album the recognition it deserved from the masses. He gained similar critical acclaim for 2001s Poses, but he remains a cult artist. Wainwrights cabaret-style piano and vocal tunes are as technically brilliant as they are emotionally evocative, and every bit as infectious as the pop music you hear on any radio station.