TORI AMOS: to venus and back (Atlantic)

Tori Amos' new double CD, to venus and back, was originally intended to be a collection of B-sides. What fans got instead, is a CD of new studio material and a second disc of live material from her 1998 tour. In the past, many of her songs lacked the intensity of the studio versions. When Tori decided to 'plug in' and go out on the road with a full band, the potential was tremendous.

"Precious Things" was the perfect song to try out with a live band; but here it lacks the power and the 'in your face' intensity of the studio version. Of the 13 new live tracks; "Girl" and "Little Earthquakes" are both highlights. The new arrangement of "Sugar" adds a whole new aspect to the song, leaving the innocence of the studio version in the dust. "Space Dog" and "The Waitress" are outstanding. The latter is one of her most intense works, and the band really gets a chance to stretch out on this one, especially Steve Caton on guitar.

As for the studio album, Tori doesn't seem to playing as much piano, instead taking a much more experimental approach. "Lust" starts off like an early 80's Genesis tune, with just piano & a drum machine. With all the nuances buzzing around, this tune is a prime candidate for headphone listening. On "Riot Poof," Tori dives headfirst into the experimental realm; and "Dãtura" finds her dabbling in electronica. While most people probably won't feel the need to hear these two songs more than once, it's good to see her trying different things.

With a melody reminiscent of "Hey Jupiter," the studio disc comes to a close with the beautiful "1000 Oceans." This song is probably closest to what her core fan base expects from her, and it's a beautiful way to end the CD. to venus and back isn't going to win Tori any new fans; but for the existing ones, it's a must-have.

© 1999 Steve Marshall

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