Amos, Tori - Strange Little Girl

Year of Release: 2001
Label: Warner Bros.
Catalog Number: 7567-83486-2
Format: CD
Total Time: 62:09:00

Ever since that very first single "Baltimore" way back in 1980, released under the moniker of Myra Ellen Amos, our Tori Amos has been one hell of a productive lady. Not counting the Y Kant Tori Read period, Tori began recording and releasing uniquely interpreted cover versions as soon as her Little Earthquakes album was released. From Bill Withers' "Ain't No Sunshine" to "You Make Me Feel Brand New" by the Stylistics; from Elton John's "Daniel" to Steely Dan's "Do It Again" and "Angie" by the Rolling Stones -- Tori tackled them all. Even before the current US' patriotic spirit she already released her own interpretations of "Amazing Grace" and Don McLean's "American Pie." Yet this time around it kind of looks like Mrs. Amos is running dry of inspiration.

In keeping up with the tradition of releasing a new album every two years it looks like Strange Little Girl is far away from Tori's original compositions. She has tried to re-arrange these tracks, yet in doing so, she changed most of them so drastically that it becomes difficult to perceive anything from the original! Often this is a good sign, but whilst most of us have received Tori as "the new Kate Bush," [Well? -ed.] not only because of her singing but also because of her writing skills, it does indeed look very bland, almost like the "contractual obligation album." The choice of covers certainly wasn't an easy task, and it wouldn't surprise me if, in some cases, the choice of song were based more on the lyrical content than on the musicality of the song itself! Take the opening section of this album where she approaches the genuine Lou Reed voice in her very own way, mainly backed by the warm sound of a Fender Rhodes. OK as a song I guess, but certainly not the "in your face' music one would expect from an opening track. The power of Eminem's "97 Bonnie & Clyde" has been changed into a more intimate version, often sung in a near-whisper, which simply doesn't work here. The orchestral arrangement is nicely done, enhancing the mood of the song where necessary, but as a whole it nevertheless remains uninspired.

A much better effort is noted when she tackles the Stranglers classic "Strange Little Girl." The percussive bits, especially, spice up the song, resulting in probably the best track on the album. Dark in nature in its original form, "Enjoy The Silence" stays emotionless throughout. The "older" the original, the more difficult it becomes to cover them. Take 10CC's 'I'm Not In Love," for example; a track that many of us must have heard a million times before. With the way Tori performs the song, it is like she's warming up her voice in one of the cosy rooms of her mansion, backed by a rhythm composer. There's no emotion in her voice whatsoever and it really sounds like she has no fun in doing what she is doing. That way the "classic" sound just filters away, resulting in one of the poorest renditions of the song I have ever heard. Is it possible that a crystal clear voice like Tori's can replace the drunken voice of Tom Waits? In "Time," at least, she kind of mumbles half of the song, making sure her voice sounds darker and moodier than normal. Neil Young's "Heart Of Gold" has become true cacophony, such that it is no longer possible to hear the original melody. In fact, this version gets closer to sounding like PJ Harvey, than doing justice to the great talent of Neil Young. More Fender Rhodes is introduced for "I Don't Like Mondays," performed here as if it was part of a Sunday service in church, so it has lost all the energy of the Boomtown Rats classic. Once again Tori's version doesn't work very well, leaving behind a big question as to why she just had to pick this song for her collection. I'm sure Bob Geldof won't mind the extra royalties, but it certainly won't be at the top of his list of favourite covers, I can assure you.

One of the most original moves on this album certainly has to be Tori's version of the immortal "Happiness Is A Warm Gun," as written and performed by The Beatles. Interspersed with news fragments and something akin to Frippertronics, the basic beat leads us towards the actual chorus, which Amos approaches from an original angle indeed! At last the original angel has broken free (although the song lasts a bit too long to remain fresh throughout)! Strange as it might seem, I can't stop thinking about Steve Hogarth here. After some furious parts, the song ends almost in an ambient way.

The choice of covers certainly is interesting and illustrates my presumption that the lyrics were far more important to Tori than the actual music. Hence the fact that certain songs sound almost mutilated. Written by Slayer, "Raining Blood" is such an example, with the piano as the only musical shield to protect her against the strength of the lyrics. The album closes with "Real Men," as made immortal by Joe Jackson. Because in Joe's arrangements, the piano also played an important role, it won't surprise you when I say this version gets close to the original, maybe becoming more intimate.

Sure, our Tori can re-arrange well-known tunes into something completely different. And, and as a bonus track on a single, one can always welcome these approaches. Yet as a whole collection scattered over a full album, the strength isn't there in the same way as it is on her own material. Maybe Tori is only at her very best when the lyrics are purely autobiographical. So instead of quickly turning towards tunes that have already been written, next time Mrs. Amos, take your time, pour yourself a nice cup of tea, put your feet up and have that pencil balanced loosely between your lips. Then and only then will you be at your very best and will the album be the right balance and the result of the true you. Strange little girl, indeed.

original songs by: New Age - Lou Reed; '97 Bonnie And Clyde - Eminem; Strange Little Girl - Stranglers; Enjoy The Silence - Depeche Mode; I'm Not In Love - 10CC; Rattlesnakes - Lloyd Cole & Commotions; Time - Tom Waits; Heart Of Gold - Neil Young; I Don't Like Mondays - Boomtown Rats; Happiness Is A Warm Gun - The Beatles; Raining Blood - Slayer; Real Men - Joe Jackson

New Age / '97 Bonnie & Clyde / Strange Little Girl / Enjoy The Silence / I'm Not In Love / Rattlesnakes / Time / Heart Of Gold / I Don't Ike Mondays / Happiness Is A Warm God / Raining Blood / Real Men

Tori Amos - voice, charisma, Wurlitzer, B?sendorfer, Rhodes, ARP
Matt Chamberlain - drums
Justin Meldal-Johnson - bass
Adrian Belew - guitar
Jon Evans - bass
John Philip Shenale - strings, synths
M&M - additional guitars & string pads

Little Earthquakes (1991)
Crucify (1992)
Under The Pink (1994)
More Pink: The B-Sides (1994)
Boys For Pele (1996)
From The Choirgirl Hotel (1998)
To Venus And Back (1999)
Strange Little Girl (2001)
Scarlet's Walk (2002)
Tales Of A Librarian (2003) The Beekeeper (2005)
A Piano: The Collection (2006) American Doll Posse (2007)
Live At Montreux (2008)

Genre: Rock

Origin US

Added: October 13th 2001
Reviewer: John "Bobo" Bollenberg

Artist website:
Hits: 1004
Language: english


[ Back to Reviews Index | Post Comment ]