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Review of The Beekeeper from the Chicago Sun-Times
February 23, 2005

Updated Sun, Feb 27, 2005 - 4:16pm ET

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Read a 2.5 star review of The Beekeeper from the February 23, 2005 edition of the Chicago Sun-Times.

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Thanks to Maria and menju56 for alerting me to this review, which is not all that positive really. You can read this online at or below:

Tori Amos
The Beekeeper
2.5 stars

Tori Amos: better mad


Verbose, prolific and wildly eccentric, singer-songwriter Tori Amos has always been at her best when she's at her angriest.

Driven by her tinkling grand piano and soaring soprano vocals, her stunning debut "Little Earthquakes" (1992) and the follow-ups "Under the Pink" (1994) and "Boys for Pele" (1996) were worlds away stylistically from the then-dominant alternative-rock sound. But Amos' furious excoriating of both the men who'd done her wrong and the plague of sexism in general marked her as a definite peer of the alt-rock riot grrrls.

Amos grew progressively happier after those introductory explosions -- good for her personal life, but bad for slight and wispy albums such as "Scarlet's Walk" (2002) and "Tales of a Librarian" (2003) -- and the flighty New Age philosophizing that was always a part of her mix came further to the fore. Now, as a happily married 41-year-old mom, she is looking back and taking stock with a new album and an autobiography. Unfortunately, the mystical mumbo-jumbo and meandering flights of fancy overpower the righteous rage in both.

"The Beekeeper," Amos' ninth album, is more successful than Tori Amos Piece by Piece; A Portrait of the Artist: Her Thoughts, Her Conversations (Broadway Books, $23.95), her messy pseudo-autobiography with former New York Times critic Ann Powers. But then Amos has always made more sense and been easier to embrace when she's sitting at a piano or organ (she plays both simultaneously at points on the new disc) instead of when she's free-associating or pontificating in interviews.

The new album's 19 songs, plus a bonus track, are divided into subgroups with titles such as "Elixirs and Herbs" and "Desert Garden." This apparently has something to do with Amos' concept of "the six gardens of life" mirroring the "six sides to the cell in the beehive." But there's too much fluttering and buzzing and not nearly enough stinging.

Flashes of Amos' old fire are heard in "Hoochie Woman" when she snarls at an unfaithful partner: "He called me up/And said, 'She has needs'/I said, 'You'll find 'em/On Barney's fourth floor." Similar sentiments can be found in the break-up song "Goodbye Pisces": "I don't know why/In your boys life you become/Like a bull in a china shop/Smash it up into smithereens." But she still isn't smashing the keyboard the way she used to, and the overall lilt and lull of this disc make Kate Bush sound like Courtney Love.

The single "Sleeps With Butterflies" is more indicative of the album as a whole. A pretty, sweet and rosy-hued adult-alternative ballad, it's vastly superior to, say, Norah Jones. But Amos used to give us a whole lot more.

Too many pieces

By contrast, the problem with Piece by Piece is that it gives us way too much. A sprawling jumble of a book, its 368 pages erratically trace the star's life and career via long, tangled monologues by Amos, snippets of quotes from other players in her story, a sprinkling of poems and artsy photos, explorations of great philosophical debates ("Is there a way to reach orgasm and keep your spirituality intact?" Amos asks), verbose advertisements for her new album and the stray explanatory note by Powers.

These connective passages are entirely too few in number and too spare of facts -- whatever happened to real reporting and chronological storytelling in a music biography? -- and they're infected by the same florid prose that plagues Amos' speeches. The songwriter's daughter wasn't just born in 2000, "she left her mother's womb and said hello to the world," Powers writes. Ugh.

"When I was younger I looked for lighthouses -- as one of those wild ships on the sea in my 20s," Amos writes at the end of the book. "I found a lot of other wild ships out there just like me. Some of us were trying to board one another's ships. But there weren't a lot of lighthouses."

As sea-faring entities go, "The Beekeeper" treads water, but Piece by Piece sinks faster than the Titanic.

Posted by: Mikewhy

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