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Review of The Beekeeper from
February 28, 2005

Updated Mon, Mar 07, 2005 - 2:06am ET

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Tori Amos - The Beekeeper
Written by Rachel Mercurio

Okay let's get this out of the way right now-I am a huge Tori Amos fan. She is one of the most creative solo artists ever to grace the music industry and I am always intrigued by her versatility and the way she has composed her works during her 14-year career.

Since 2001 when Amos released her covers album, Strange Little Girls, her music has taken a different turn-the deep breathing, quirky melodies and high-octave vocals have for the most part subsided. Amos is married and has a child-many say she's calmed down, and has no reason to be manic like she used to be (listen to the 1996 release Boys for Pele to hear what I'm talking about).

This mellowness was particularly evident on 2002's Scarlet's Walk, where tracks like "A Sorta Fairytale," "Taxi Ride" and "Crazy" graced mainstream radio, which was particularly rare, aside from the fact that Amos is a major-label recording artist.

Because Scarlet's Walk was her most accessible work, I thought that her eighth album, The Beekeeper, would continue on the same path of layered vocals and traditional piano pop melodies. I was half-right, and I should have expected that, because Amos has never made the same album twice. This time, Amos left her Wurlitzer behind from Scarlet's Walk and worked with the B3 Hammond organ on The Beekeeper.

What's interesting about The Beekeeper is that it is very uneven. There are your radio-friendly tracks; the jazz/pop ballad "Sleeps with Butterflies," "Jamaica Inn," a song saturated with soprano vocals and crescendos with her Bosendorfer piano, and the Sheryl Crow-like "Cars and Guitars." "General Joy," "Martha's Foolish Ginger" and "Ribbons Undone" are also contenders for her more comprehensible tracks on this album.

Then there are a few songs where the Hammond comes to the forefront. I for one have never thought of Amos in gospel music, but as a daughter of the Christian Church, it makes perfect sense, and it works. "Sweet the Sting" takes you in the middle of the South on a humid sweaty day with the sultry organ, humming gospel choir and Amos' cooing vocals. "Witness" is another highlight with Amos' sultry voice melding gorgeously with the gospel choir and a '70s funky vibe. Another highlight is "Barons of Suburbia," with its thumping drums, rolling piano and the whirling organ making a quiet but poignant appearance.

There's yet another part: somewhat darker tracks that trace a bit from her previous works. "Original Sinsuality" goes back to the girl-with-piano simplicity found on Little Earthquakes, while the title track (the best song on the album) is laden with electronic beats, much of which you'd find on her 1998 album, From the Choirgirl Hotel. "Mother Revolution" has slow bluesy beats and the bizarre and funky "Hoochie Woman" could easily have been B-sides on Boys for Pele.

Because this album is so asymmetrical compared to her other albums, there are some songs that are outstanding ("The Beekeeper," "Barons of Suburbia," "Marys of the Sea") some enjoyable ("Parasol," "Martha's Foolish Ginger,"), and some that are just plain dull, monotone and repetitive ("The Power of Orange Knickers"-not even vocals from Damien Rice will help this one-"Ireland," "Cars and Guitars"). Upon first listen you would think these songs were from three different albums.

Although there's no coherent theme to The Beekeeper (the album is divided into six "gardens" but I'm still not getting how the songs have anything to do with this structure), this record is very ambitious with some tracks that could definitely make her Best Of list. The album is a bit long (running at 80 minutes!), but once you get through it-even if you're not a fan-you'll find something endearing with this record.

Posted by: Mikewhy

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