3:40 min • Mercury Classics • March 28, 2014
Andrew Darley reviews
“Trouble needs a home”. And on that note Tori Amos opens the first preview song from her fourteenth album, Unrepentant Geraldines. The past seven years have seen the unstoppable singer-composer take on some of the greatest challenges and creative leaps in her career. She conjured up a seasonal album, Midwinter Graces, containing centuries-old Christmas songs, as well as creating some of her own. She bravely dove head-first into the world of classical music on 2011’s Night Of Hunters, creating a 21st century song cycle in which she reimagines the works of Debussy, Bach and Chopin. She also reworked a selection of her own discography with an orchestra to celebrate the 20th anniversary of her hugely-revered debut, Little Earthquakes. Arguably the biggest test she committed herself to was the musical The Light Princess for London’s National Theatre. It took her right of her comfort zone in order to create an entire musical score as well as lyrics fit for theatre performance.
Now that she has explored her own creative potential, she is ready to step back into the contemporary world, bringing back with her a new awareness. Amos admits that she had been writing the collection of new songs in secret, whilst working on these past projects. Discussing their effect on her writing, she explained “There’s a freedom I had writing this record. But I could only have that freedom because of the other three projects and doing The Light Princess – writing for other voices, other people, other artists”. She explains that the new body of work contains “snapshots” of her life, with each song designed with an individual sound and style.
‘Trouble’s Lament’ is the first taste of Unrepentant Geraldines. It is a song on which, in true Tori fashion, meanings are plentiful. She sings of being tangled up with the Devil and personifies Trouble as she gets evicted from hell and feels that the “flames from Satan’s tongue are charged and licking at her heels“. The song tips its hat to her homeland of North Carolina, with a welcome surprise of Southern Blues – and it’s deeply ingrained, almost as if it’s calling her back.
Her vocals have an organic quality, particularly compared to recent album production, which has made it sound compressed at times, lacking the tones and warmth of her live voice. Here the piano dances with an acoustic guitar, and frolics with a sense of adventure, with the soft brush of drums. It’s fun and fresh, capturing her charismatic personality, wit and unmatched ability to whisk you away with a story. No doubt this will be inevitably labeled a “return to form”. Make no mistake – Tori never left.