Review Summary: A headfirst lunge toward classical music inspires Tori to her best effort since Choirgirl.
To say that Night of Hunters
is highly conceptual is no great shock; that's what Tori Amos does these days, be it the cross-country tour of Scarlet's Walk
, the gender-twisting Strange Little Girls
, or the split-personailty conceit of American Doll Posse
. It was more of a shock that Abnormally Attracted to Sin
didn't have a concept, if anything.
Yet for the first time since Scarlet's Walk
, the more you read about the concept and the recording process, the more interesting it becomes. It's the first time she's recorded everything acoustically? Couldn't care less. It's inspired by classical music? Okay, not too surprising - she's classically trained, after all. Her daughter appears on a couple of songs? Could be interesting. It's a set of variations on themes by composers including Chopin, Bach, Satie, Debussy, and Mendelssohn? Definitely
interesting. It's being released on Deutsche Grammophon, an honest-to-goodness classical label? Whoa, really
? They've given her access to world-renowned orchestras, producers, soloists, and conductors from the classical world? Nice!
If that all sounds fascinating and exciting to you (and it certainly did to me), you'll be glad to know that Night of Hunters
sounds almost exactly like you've just imagined it, and it's her best album since From the Choirgirl Hotel
The first thing you'll notice about Night of Hunters
is that it sounds beautiful. The experience of the producers and instrumentalists working here is immediately evident, because everything played with great sensitivity and put together in the mix in a way that allows each instrument its own space. Were it not for Tori's voice, it could easily pass for the kind of chamber music Deutsche Grammophon normally trades in. Tori responds to this in kind, with some of the most subtle, tender playing and singing of her career. It's a palpably 'warm' album, in more ways than one.
Similarly impressive is the way Tori treats her source material. The range of it alone is worth applauding - there are famous works by household names like Bach's Prelude in C minor
(""Seven Sisters"), Debussy's The Girl with the Flaxen Hair
("Carry") and Chopin's Nocturne no. 9
("Cactus Practice") rubbing shoulders with more obscure works by Charles-Valentin Alkan and Enrique Granados (who appears twice). Similarly, the list ranges from the Baroque era (Domenico Scarlatti's Sonata in F minor
) to late Romanticism (Erik Satie's Gnossienne no. 1
). Yet, for all the variety, Tori has carved out an album that feels like a self-contained work, and that arguably flows more naturally as an album than anything she's ever recorded - and she's done it while respecting her source material, leaving each piece recognisable as a variation, but also making them recognisably Tori.
Perhaps the success of this album is to be expected. She's always been a great interpreter of song, with several of her covers of songs by acts as disparate as Nirvana, Eminem, Bill Withers, and Slayer remaining firm fan favourites. That she has been so successful in transferring that ability from the world of popular music to the world of classical music is certainly to be applauded, but she'd given us plenty of clues that she'd be able to pull it off. Still, Night of Hunters
feels refreshing, unique, and utterly lovely; it's another great success in a career that has quite a few of them.