Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Tori Amos: Beekeeper

After a brief (and somewhat unfortunate) foray into a heavier, electrified sound, during which she toured with an actual band, Tori Amos seemed to go into a holding pattern. She released a cover album, the occasionally interesting Strange Little Girls, changed record labels, released Scarlet's Walk (an album that never grabbed me personally though it has its moments) and then a greatest hits album.

But with Beekeeper, Amos seems to have taken a big step toward the intimate music that's all about her sultry voice, her charisma and her connection with the audience.

Beginning with the first track, "Parasol", Beekeeper is all about nuance. The song is well-crafted and Amos' beautiful voice draws you in to listen closer, when you begin to pick out the piano floating in and out of the strings you're hooked.

Track 6, "Sleeps with Butterflies" is the single released from Beekeeper and is a fine example of Amos' soulful (some would say melancholy) song stylings. This track does a good job with Amos singing multiple vocal tracks, as well as playing piano, making the most of her virtuosity on two instruments.

Track 10, "Cars and Guitars" is a subdued rock number that uses a four-piece arrangement of acoustic guitar, bass, drums and piano and is one of the best Tori Amos tracks in years. Its this kind of track, which basically uses the instruments of the standard rock band that perhaps convinced Amos to take a shot at "arena stardom" by plugging in.

"Cars and Guitars" shows why that experiment was destined to fail, with the strongest elements of the song being Amos' voice and piano soaring over subdued accompaniment. Those little gems she delivers, in the studio but even more often live are lost with a bunch of electric guitars and synths behind her.

Amos can wail with the best of them, but her music loses something essential that makes her great, rather than very good when she does so.


Beekeeper shows Amos back at the top of her game, doing the intimate club music that made her famous and even gave her some crossover success. It's a much longer CD than the tracks I reviewed coming in at 19 tracks. This isnt a slight against the album. Amos isnt a singles spinner and her albums are best appreciated in full. Not many songwriters can take you out of yourself for two solid hours over 19 tracks but Amos can and its worth it.

Grade: A-

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