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TOAL review in the Malaysian newspaper The Star
January 2004

Updated Wed, Jan 21, 2004 - 5:19pm ET

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A review of Tales Of A Librarian appeared in the Malaysian newspaper The Star sometime in January 2004. (I do not have an exact date...) The review suffers from some inaccurate facts and assumptions, and has some other problems. But you may still wish to read it, as it is largely positive.

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Thanks to Woj for bringing this to my attention. You can read the article online at or below:

Tales of a Librarian
Artist: Tori Amos


TORI Amos well and truly embodies that onerous, slightly amorphous confrontational-cum-confessional aesthetic that millions of earnest singer-songwriters the world over perpetually aspire to.

Over the course of her seven studio albums so far, Amos has granted the record-buying public intriguing (and oftentimes highly disturbing) peeks into her askew world of religious doubt, sexual abuse, emotional breakdowns and chronic psychosis, not exactly regular lyrical matter for the usual chart countdown.

Her elliptical, sometimes brutally descriptive observations are highly perceptive and incisive, almost to a fault, making her one of the most discrete and astute artists operating today. And thanks to that singular, quirky musical acumen (similar to that of her obvious artistic godmother Kate Bush), Amos has found herself in the role of the queen (unwanted or otherwise) of a fiercely devoted cult whose members are rabidly fanatical, almost to the point of willing to commit bloody murder to protect the flame-maned goddess's good name. How's that for perverse yet ardent devoutness?

So how will those devotees react to the appearance of this compilation, featuring a staggering 20 tracks crammed into a single disc (no doubt done to max out the storage space of a standard audio CD)?

Will they be incensed at what appears at first to be a purely commercial, filthy lucre-concerned exercise to cash in on the everlasting loyalty of these Toriphiles? Or will they brush aside whatever's left of their common sense and plump for it anyway, trying to convince themselves that their consecrated Tori altar will not be complete without this latest inclusion?

Well, noting the reactions of Toriphiles everywhere so far, the undisputed consensus seems to be that Tales of a Librarian is the veritable icing on the cake of a wholly fascinating back catalogue, and one album that should be gotten by any means possible, with some even happily giving their eye-tooth in exchange for this.

A sizeable majority will even get the regular edition, play it to death, and then get the costly imported limited edition with the DVD containing more remixes and live tunes, just the thing for them to put themselves in a trance in while performing their daily Tori worship rituals.

The faithful devotion of Toriphiles knows no boundaries, indeed. Meanwhile, the rest of us will consider this a handy primer to Amos' rich body of work, although like all retrospectives, Tales of a Librarian isn't completely faultless.

The usual bait of two previously unreleased songs is sneakily included here to entice any hesitating Amos diehard, although the "remixing and reconstruction" that the other 18 songs have been subjected to makes this a different sort of career re-examination, almost to the point that this can be regarded as a kind of "new" studio album. Trust the ever-mercurial Amos to do things differently.

However, even with this uniquely fresh approach, nitpickers will spot a few microscopic, if not so glaring faults. For one, there is an over-reliance on debut album Little Earthquakes, with an abundant six tracks included here.

While that album remains her most rounded and accessible work, the purpose of a real retrospective is to provide a comprehensive picture of a particular career, and the selection of merely two or three tracks from other albums does not do this compilation any justice at all.

There is also the puzzling exclusion of key singles like Pretty Good Year, Caught a Lite Sneeze and A Thousand Oceans, plus the complete omissions of any songs from Amos' last two impressive albums, the all-covers Strange Little Girls and the widescreen travelogue Scarlet's Walk. Funny sense of priorities on the compilers' part, one might say.

But anyway, it is worth having a cursory look at what's on this deceptively generous collection. The resonant Precious Things provides for a great start, with its measured piano tinklings and a thumping, echoing drum undertow.

The certified standard Cornflake Girl is also here, a whimsical gem marked by capering piano lines and a whistling synth figure, along with the fervent Crucify, a more conventional mid-tempo rocker where Amos does one of her most impressive vocal performances.

The other vital hits covered here are the ethereal Spark, all reverberating guitar twangs and lurching drum underpinning, the lavish string-enhanced Winter, carried along on Amos' tranquil Bosendorfer-piano chords; the gentle but lyrically cutting Silent All These Years ("Boy you best pray that I bleed real soon"); and the absorbing, instrumentally fertile God, with its infamous, slightly irreverent line "God, sometimes you just don't come through, do you need a woman to look after you?".

Elsewhere, there is the gospel choir-enhanced meditation Way Down; the stately, stop-start Bliss (with its startling opening line "Father, I killed my monkey, I let it out to taste the sweet of spring"); the inflective atmospherics of Playboy Mommy, sweetened by some tasty pedal-steel guitar riffs; and the veritable highlight here, the harrowing Me and a Gun, a brutally frank a-cappella account of Amos' true-life rape experience, one of the most chilling numbers ever written by any rock-era artist.

There are also a few curiosities that should pique the interest of even the most hardcore Amos disciple, most notably the out-of-character street-level house reworking of the otherwise musically complex Professional Widow, which completely excises the intricate musical structure of the original for a basic club-beat framework, making for a number that remains one of the unlikeliest anomalies in Amos' oeuvre.

Updated re-recordings of the 1992 B-sides Mary and Sweet Dreams are also tacked on here. The two new ditties are archetypal Amos: Angels, a flowing, if somewhat obtuse piece enriched by some wah-wah guitar; and Snow Cherries from France, a waltz-timed ballad that provides for an apt ending to the collection.

If you overlook the minor foibles that Tales of a Librarian has, this prcis does make for a convenient, if not exactly thorough summary of Amos' remarkable works thus far. The songs here might not possess the innate commercial clout that the majority of today's chart fodder has, but they are consistently intelligent (and kooky enough) to engage the more discerning modern-rock listener's attention.

The constantly profound subject matter on display here also confirms Amos' place within that fine community of present-day intellectual female singer-songwriters, which also includes luminaries like Suzanne Vega and Sarah McLachlan. And if anything, this might even have the effect of converting a mildly curious neophyte into a full-blown, card-carrying, lyric-quoting Toriphile, ferociously defending her resplendent honour against the infidel unbelievers (i.e. the rest of the world). Long live Tori, death to the heretics.

Posted by: Mikewhy

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