When Tori Amos appeared in the early 1990s with Crucify and the subsequent album Little Earthquakes, she reawakened an interest in the art of the female singer / songwriter. Indeed it’s doubtful the likes of Alanis Morissette would have enjoyed quite so much exposure without the pioneering efforts of the Newtonian ice-maiden.
That’s not to say that everything touched by Tori has turned to gold – some of her lyrics still raise many a quizzical eyebrow, and the infamous suckling pig shot that adorns Boys For Pele wasn’t exactly a great piece of animal rights publicity. The overall impact though is one of the last decade’s most important solo artists, which is caught in this handsome collection of 20 songs, four of them new.
Little Earthquakes is the album most plundered, and rightly so – for emotion there’s little to beat the rape song Me And A Gun, which is still shocking in its intensity. Crucify and Silent All These Years are still sounding as vital as ever, with Amos right up close to the mic and bursting into the listener’s world.
Cornflake Girl is still the most immediately commercial of her untampered single releases, even if “hanging with the raisin girls” and “peel out the watchword” weren’t the most catchy of refrains. Part of the appeal I guess!
After the gospel choir brings 1995’s Way Down to a reverential close it comes as a shock when Professional Widow shatters the calm, one of Armand Van Helden‘s finest mixing moments, culminating in a devilish bassline and giving us one of the most distinctive dance records of the 1990s. On this collection it sticks out like a sore thumb due to Tori’s other dance collaborations with the likes of BT not being included, but that only serves to double the impact. Dr Zebra pales by comparison but is still a rollicking good track with support from The Black Dyke Mills Band.
There are four new songs which demonstrate the same lyrical kookiness and musical attention to detail as her earlier work, although Angels shows signs that married life is beginning to mellow her anger and intensity.
If you plump for the accompanying DVD release of Librarian, you get the excellent Pretty Good Year, a strange omission from the CD, plus Honey and Northern Land – proof that when it comes to making a Tori Amos collection there’s an abundance of good songs to choose from.