Tori Amos: “From the Choirgirl Hotel”
New Reissued Double Vinyl Album
Original Release Date: 1998 Atlantic Recording Corporation
My Rating: (5 Stars)
She’s Your Cocaine
To begin, I’d first like to admit that this review is probably going to be chock full of bias praise for the musician Tori Amos. To state it simply, “I love this woman.” I think her talent and demeanor is absolutely magical and I would argue that she, herself ,might be some type of mythical creature that's too good to be true. However, I was lucky enough to see Tori Amos in concert during her, “Strange Little Girls,” tour in 2001 and I can assure anyone who may be skeptical of her existence that she, and her enormous talent, are both very real.
For those of you who are not familiar with her music, Tori Amos is a classically trained pianist and composer who ultimately rebelled against a conservative genre that threatened to restrict her prodigy. It is said Tori received a full scholarship to the Peabody Conservatory of Music at the incredible age of five. This scholarship was then discontinued by the time she turned eleven, due to her unrelenting interest in rock music. It’s this blogger’s opinion that Tori’s educational misfortune was quite possibly one of the best things that’s ever happened in female rock history. Please allow me to metaphorically compare this event to the realization that a beautiful prize horse is actually a Unicorn!
Throughout Tori Amos’s illustrious career her passionate music has focused heavily on the often controversial subjects of sexuality, feminism, and religion. The album, “From the Choirgirl Hotel,” is certainly no exception. However, at the time of its’ release it was viewed as somewhat of a departure from her otherwise piano driven discography. During this record Amos decided to rest the keys of her signature solo Bosendorfer and opted to focus her songs around an electronica sound. Basically after the first listen of, “From the Choirgirl Hotel,” an audience begins to realize their previously discussed Unicorn actually has wings too, transforming it into the even more rare Pegacorn!
The most explicit example of Tori’s, “techno,” transformation can be found during the song, “Raspberry Swirl.” In my opinion this is definitely the most fun piece on the album. This song begins with electronic sounds that subtly fade in like a boomerang until suddenly a listener is in full swing of it's rhythm and finds themselves wanting to, “Jersey Shore,” fist pump to Tori’s masterfully suggestive lyrics. The audience hears, “I am not your senorita. I am not from your tribe. If you want inside her well, boy you better make her raspberry swirl.” It’s hard for this blogger not to smirk at the irony of rocking out to what sounds like machismo club music while singing purely feminist lyrics. I have a strong feeling Tori was probably also smiling when writing this piece.
Other notable moments on the album, “From the Choirgirl Hotel,” include the song, “Cruel,” where this listener was absolutely mesmerized by the sludgy bass line that combined beautifully with Tori’s signature breathy howls. Here she confesses, “I can be cruel. I don’t know why. Why can’t my balloon stay up in a perfectly windy sky?” It’s songs like this that exemplify Tori’s undeniable ability to, “turn over rocks,” and show the slimy side of life. All of a sudden I found myself nodding in agreement. I thought, “Hey, I too can be cruel and don’t know why.” In this bloggers opinion it’s not uncommon for a listener to instantly feel a conspiratorial bond with Tori Amos’s music. It’s like we all know we’re doing this really unsavory stuff, but don’t feel too bad about it because Tori makes it somehow sound so enticing.
While most songs on this record are dominated by the sounds of ominous dance accompanied by Amos’s often desperate sounding soprano, there are moments where a listener is reminded of this artist’s classical roots. The beautiful song, “Northern Lad,” is a perfect example of this. Not only does this piece exhibit the incredible range of Tori Amos’s voice, it also reminds her audience that she has not forgotten her favored instrument of choice, the piano. During this song she proves, yet again, to be a master at juxtaposition through mixing classical composition with provocative prose. Again, I found myself smiling at the idea of a casual listener humming along to this admittedly beautiful and romantic sounding song. Tori sings, “Girls you’ve got to know when it’s time to turn the page. When you’re only wet because of the rain.” “Wait…what? What does she mean by that?” the casual listener thinks. That’s the beauty of an artist like Tori, she’s a master of innuendo and is the only one who truly knows what her songs are about.
Lastly, my favorite song on the album, “From the Choirgirl Hotel,” is well…"Hotel.” I suppose it’s not a coincidence that I don't have the foggiest idea of what this song is truly about. By the cryptic lyrics presented here I assume it’s about one woman’s struggle to survive a dysfunctional relationship but really, who the heck knows? What I do know is that, “Hotel,” is by far the most musically interesting song on, “From the Choirgirl Hotel.” It incorporates the large sound of electronica with softer, almost delicate, classical interludes. Of course, all of this is happening while Tori shrieks about what I assume to be some ungodly relationship. In my opinion, “Hotel,” provides a perfect retrospective portraying Amos’s career up to this point. It’s also an awesome glimpse into the dark abyss that Tori’s music makes so inviting. Think of it like finding out your beautiful Pegacorn is the color black instead of traditional white. It just makes it so much more bad ass.