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Review of The Beekeeper from the Orange County Register
February 18, 2005

Updated Sun, Feb 20, 2005 - 5:39pm ET

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Kevin first told me about a review of The Beekeeper from the February 18, 2005 edition of the Orange County Register. Reviewer Ben Wener is rather humorous in his male-minded attempt to understand Tori's lyrical style. In the end he decides to give up on understanding her words and just enjoy her music, which he gives a grade of B .

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Understandable? No. Enjoyable? Yes

Review: Lyrically inscrutable as ever, Tori Amos nonetheless has returned with the most musically assured and approachable album of her career, "The Beekeeper."


Tori Amos, "The Beekeeper" (Epic, in stores Tuesday) - Toriphiles will find this sacrilege, but I rarely listen to Amos' albums for their lyrical content, which in a decade has grown from merely oblique to positively inscrutable, despite her penchant for vivid description.

Apart from those rare times when she has turned concrete (the harrowing autobiography of her debut, parts of 1998's "From the Choirgirl Hotel" and half of 2002's "Scarlet's Walk"), the flighty fire-haired siren excels at disappearing into vague reflections of vaguer relationships and pondering all manner of otherworldly desires and creatures that, steeped as they often are in mythology and the ancient mysteries of women (the primary influences on "The Beekeeper"), bear little resemblance to everyday life.

Her staunchest devotees delight at the opportunity to parse her convoluted, cryptic thoughts, and Tori feeds into their fascination by providing schematics; "Scarlet's Walk" came with a map of her zigzagging cross-country trek, "The Beekeeper" groups its 19 songs under six subheadings - "Roses and Thorns," "Elixirs and Herbs," "The Orchard," "The Greenhouse," you get the idea. (Causing further confusion, these groupings don't match up to the track listing, meaning listeners must reprogram the running order.)

Lacking the appropriate degree in women's studies required to fully understand her, I've given up trying; the frustration that comes always detracts from my enjoyment of her music. And that's just the thing: Tori's music keeps getting better and better. Here, I thought "Scarlet's Walk" had some of her snazziest, loveliest melodies and arrangements. "The Beekeeper" shames it with subtle stylistic detours she's never dared take before.

Smooth though it is, it's also the most expansive work of her career - yet, surprisingly, boasting her most direct melodies since 1992's "Little Earthquakes." You can tune out the "coming storm" her protagonist sets out to weather in the opening "Parasol." You can glide past allusions to Christianity (the throwback "Original Sinsuality," for starters) or the healing practices of bee masters, and take or leave her peaceful political dissent and theories of biblical censorship - though they merit study by anyone who learns better via pop hooks than textbooks.

Dig in deep if you wish, or just pick up pieces as you're carried along by tunes of beguiling allure, each featuring as much organ as piano (Tori seeks harmony between them, though they're muted compared to her voice and reliable rhythm section). "Witness" and "Ireland" are sublime bits of Al Green-ish gospel; "Sweet the Sting" the sort of sultriness Alicia Keys might indulge; "General Joy" and "Hoochie Woman" revivals of the soul of "Cornflake Girl"; "The Power of Orange Knickers" a lively revisit of the feel of "Past the Mission," with Damien Rice intoning deeply like Trent Reznor before him.

When it isn't breaking Tori's own boundaries, it's more approachable than any music she has made in years. Maybe if she tours and I hear it live, I could tell you what it all signifies. For now, enjoyable as it is, I really don't care. Grade: B

Posted by: Mikewhy

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