Stereo Review Magazine
July 1998

Added June 30, 1998

The July 1998 issue of Stereo Review magazine contains a favorable review of "from the choirgirl hotel." Special thanks to Lee Chaix and Kyle for being the first to tell me. The album was their Best of the Month pick. It includes a cute picture of Tori peeking out of what seems to be a wicker basket.

"Welcome to the Hotel Amos" -- Brett Milano

Tori Amos gets so much attention for the sexual and religious psychodramas in her lyics that it's easy to forget she has a classic pop voice and a graceful way with a melody. On her fourth solo album, she makes sure you don't forget. While it's less high concept than her last couple of albums (and that's not necessarily a bad thing), "From the Choirgirl Hotel" suggests that she's fallen back in love with pop music, and it sports the most shimmering hooks she's ever come up with.

The music here is being widely hyped as a return to the loud guitar-rock style Amos ditched after her debut on 1988's notorious and long-unavailable group effort, "Y Kant Tori Read," but that's nonsense. For one thing, that record wasn't really the hair-metal period piece it's rumored to be; it just sounded like Kate Bus with too many drum machines. And although "Choirgirl Hotel" goes for a fuller band sound than usual - and pulls back from the art- rock ledge of Amos's last album, the overambitious "Boys for Pele" - it isn't that startling a departure. The arrangements have just gotten richer, using guitars and drums in a manner more textural than rock-and-roll.

Amos explores keyboards other than her trademark piano, most surprisingly in "Hotel," whose synthesizer flourishes are positively ELP-ish. Her secret weapon remains the great Meters bassist George Porter, Jr., who sneaks in touches of fuzz and funk. And Amos flexes her vocals to match the album's diversity. She can still deliver an effective ballad, but when she gets a little nasty - notably in "Raspberry Swirl," where her voice is distorted a la P J Harvery - the results are thrilling.

Her lyrics, it should be noted, are getting more oblique with each album. I miss the frankness and daring of songs like "Silent All These Years" and "Me and a Gun" (from "Little Earthquakes"), both about the aftermath of rape. On the other hand, the blending of love and obsession in "Spark" and "She's Your Cocaine" is the sort of thing she has always specialized in. And when she gets uncharacteristically direct in "Playboy Mommy," as a wayward mother confronts daughter in gorgeous torch-ballad fashion, she proves that the fully grown Tori Amos can be as grabbing as the young and impulsive one.

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