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The Star-Ledger
November 10, 2002

Added November 22, 2002

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A 3-star review of Scarlet's Walk was printed in the November 10, 2002 edition of The Star-Ledger newspaper in New Jersey. You can read the review below or at Thanks to Vitor Saleh for sending it to The Dent.

For Tori Amos, an ambitious 'Walk'

"Scarlet's Walk" Tori Amos

(Epic)*** (3 stars)

No one can fault Tori Amos for lacking ambition. On last year's "Strange Little Girls," the ivory-tickling songstress explored rock gender roles with versions of vintage tunes by the Beatles, Slayer, Neil Young and others from a female viewpoint.

Amos' new album, "Scarlet's Walk" offers more strange little girls, along with aging porn stars, Latino firebrands, rambling cowboys, Messiahs and an assortment of self-destructive characters. Her aim is to conquer no less a topic than America itself, framed within the tale of a female protagonist on a coast-to-coast sojourn. There's even a map of Scarlet's travels inside the CD book and a limited edition bonus CD-Rom with additional backstory.

Described by Amos as a "sonic novel," the album is dense with subplots about Sept. 11, Native American folklore, homophobia, radical politics and romantic disillusionment. It's a "Mason & Dixon"-scale project that may exhaust listeners with its barrage of themes, metaphors and oblique wordplay. Plus, if Amos is going to capture the national essence in song, there should be dynamic changes in musical scenery rather than her single-flavored ethereal style.

That said, "Scarlet" does feature some of Amos' loveliest compositions to date. "I Can't See New York" offers a haunting vision of the terrorist attacks, capturing the day's unreal quality in a way that has eluded more traditional-minded songwriters. Lush and other-worldly but catchy nevertheless, the first single "A Sorta Fairytale" may just supplant Vanessa Carlton on the pop charts. "Wednesday" rocks and roils like an alien showtune while "Don't Make Me Go to Vegas" is boosted with chewy bass lines and a much needed infusion of funk.

For all the tunes that get the pretty-spooky formula right -- "Carbon," "Mr. Jesus," -- there are aimless cuts that may lull listeners into a nap -- "In Your Cloud," "Crazy." As a storyteller, Amos never follows a straight narrative path, veering off into Faulkner-esque realms of tangled language. Heads are bound to be scratched with lines like, "Behind crystalline irises loons can dive, where the world bleeds white" or "If the rain has to separate from itself, does it say 'Pick out your cloud.'"Even if "Scarlet's" trek is dotted with dead air and pretentious poetry, Amos should be commended for mounting a concept album that challenges record buyers with big ideas rather than feeding them easy slogans to croon in traffic.

-- Lisa Rose

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