December 4, 2003

Test Spin: Tori Amos

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On a new album of greatest hits and a few b-sides, Tori Amos is back in full force with Tales of a Librarian. Long time fans will adore the studio versions of rare songs Tori has played live and included on various singles, and new listeners will have a sampling of some of Tori’s best work.

Opening with “Precious Things,” a track that seems both airy and gothic, Tori opens a door into her own mind and memories. Some of Tori’s favorite themes are brought up here: sex, Christianity, and family. Her voice lilts in despair at her own shortcomings before rising in indignation at the things kept secret from her. Finally, it settles into a growl to wind up a chorus that calls out to wash away a past love. A piano playing extraordinarily high notes in the back puts you on edge, and single guitar lines snap with each word Tori wails. With an explosion of drums, Tori gets to the “little fascist panties tucked inside the heart of every nice girl.” Wow.

Smack in the middle of the album is the stark “Me and a Gun,” hitting you like a brick in the face. With no instrumentation, using just the power of her voice, Tori recounts her own rape. We get the visceral details of bodily hurt, the thoughts of survival that kept Tori alive, and the contemplations that haunted her after the experience. Once you hear it, you can never forget the song. I still get goosebumps every time I listen.

Archived article by Sue Karp