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October 2002

Added Nov 5, 2002

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Many thanks to Alisha Parker and Justin for telling me about this very positive review of Scarlet's Walk from

Tori Amos - "Scarlet's Walk" (Epic Records, 2002)

Subsonix Rating 4.5 stars:

Tori Amos returns with her 7th and most impressive CD to date, the magnificent "Scarlet's Walk." The album, her first on the Epic Records label, is a sort of abstract travelogue, or a sonic novel, as it were. At first glance the concept seems a bit overblown - the character Scarlet travels from place to place, exploring post-9/11 America and meeting different people in various situations, exploring and discovering herself in the process. "Scarlet is walking in my shoes," according to Tori. "You could say she's based on me. Or perhaps I am based on her." As heady as the concept sounds, Amos executes it beautifully. The threads of the album's "story" are loosely interwoven, and each track could stand alone from the theme of the album without a problem, but as a whole it's a glorious journey.

On "Scarlet's Walk", Tori rejoins longtime collaborators Matt Chamberlain (Soundgarden) and Jon Evans on drums and bass, respectively, along with Robbie McIntosh (The Pretenders) on guitar. Longtime Beck collaborator Justin Meldal-Johnsen also contributes some bass tracks to the album, as he did on Tori's final Atlantic Records production, last year's "Strange Little Girls". The production on "Scarlet's Walk" is crystal clear, and the band tends to stay out of the limelight, letting Amos's piano, Wurlitzer and amazing voice run the show.

And what a fantastic show it is. With its beautiful, lilting melody, the first single "A Sorta Fairytale" comes on as an uplifting song of new love, until the lucky couple in question gets to know each other better and things start to disintegrate. Scarlet tries to pull a friend out of a bad situation in the Latin-flavored "Don't Make Me Come to Vegas", which features some of the most memorable lyrics on the record. "Sweet Sangria" is a dark, groovy track that laments the suffering of people on both sides of a conflict, no matter how worthy the cause. There are of course the requisite and delicious Tori ballads, such as the gentle and poignant "Your Cloud" and the epic album closer "Gold Dust." "Scarlet's" finest moment may be "Taxi Ride", where Scarlet travels to Baton Rouge for the death of a gay friend, and realizes that many so-called friends aren't always there when they're needed most. Amos sounds exhausted, bitter and angry, but also filled with regret - utterly believable and real and completely captivating.

"Scarlet Walk" is a LONG album, and a deep one, with far too many levels of meaning to catch in a few listenings, and too many subplots to mention in a short review. The lyrics are heavily metaphoric and sometimes frustratingly inscrutable, but they can be wonderfully poetic as well. The album does seem to drag from time to time, but only because repeated playings are required to absorb everything Amos has to offer in this work. She has long been known to have some of the most dedicated fans in the business, and there is much within "Scarlet's Walk" to thrill them. It's ambitious enough to satisfy fans who love to delve into the lyrics for deeper meaning, yet there are enough great, accessible tunes that one can play "Scarlet's Walk" and sing along untroubled by the harrowing account of 9/11 on "I Can't See New York" or the darkly beautiful "Carbon". In many ways "Scarlet's Walk" is a surprise, given that it's her first album of original material since 1999's commercially disappointing "To Venus and Back." There's no letdown to "Scarlet's Walk", and it should bring Tori Amos some of the mainstream attention that has eluded her for so long.

- Chris Gerard

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