Review Summary: A truely classic album that will remain as one of the best that you will hear.
To begin my reviews on an album of such a high calibre is difficult, but sitting reading that no-one had yet assessed the work quelled a passionate response to be used on arguably the best Tori Amos album released to date. The incorporation of synthesised melodies into her otherwise somewhat simplistic line up adds to the accessibility of the work and builds upon Amos’ development as an artist, making this album, perhaps the best of her career.
The album begins with the single ‘Spark’, one of Tori’s most personal. The song deals with her feelings of shame and disgust as she ‘couldn’t keep baby alive’, referring obviously to her first of two miscarriages between 1996 and 1999. The song, and the accompanying video clip, is possibly some of Amos’ most gut wrenching work to date. Listening to the strained phrases, somewhat mimicking her pain, does nothing except induce a state of reflection on life.
Moving through the album more melodic brilliance is achieved with the tracks ‘Cruel’ and its electronically enhanced effects on Amos’ vocals and ‘Black Dove (January)’ with its heavily pedalled keyboarded effect, ‘From The Choirgirl Hotel’ comes to an abrupt change when the heavily driven ‘Raspberry Swirl’ takes to the speakers. The song, speaking of Amos’ lesbian experiences, is perhaps the most radio accessible with its high energy piano rock filling the airways. The highly electronic sounds surrounding the otherwise simplistic accompaniment create a sound and façade of a complexity otherwise alien to music at this time.
Following the high energy of track four, is ‘Jackie’s Strength’ a piano ballad with the accompaniment and fulfilment of strings. Listening to the album’s shades of white and black, made example of with ‘Raspberry Swirl’ contrasting with ‘Jackie’s Strength’ allow the listener to hear how Atlantic Records wanted the album to come across. The original track listing sees ‘Jackie’s Strength’ following ‘Black Dove’. Although making the album somewhat more accessible to the public, one can’t help but wonder if the album had been perfect with the original track listing.
The epic ‘i i e e e’ with its Enya like echo floating around the introduction through to the chorus with lulled strings and powerful lyrics, ‘we’re screaming in cathedrals, why can’t I be beautiful"’ the track is plain and simply, appealing to the listener. With the introduction of an electrically charged bridge with guitar and distortion over the sound, the song never seems to lose flow, and is an obvious stand out on the album.
The final half of the album remains as strong as the first with tracks such as ‘Liquid Diamonds’ singing a song of pain which echoes throughout the body, to ‘She’s Your Cocaine’ which follows with it’s hard rock edge and vocals which really demonstrate Amos’ prowess as an artist, moving from amazing highs to sexually charged lows, its obvious that the artist has learnt a thing or two. It can be said, that in my opinion that ‘Northern Lad’ and ‘Pandora’s Aquarium’ are the weakest two songs on the album, but that’s with a hand tied behind the back and a dagger to the neck. The two tracks separating those two however, ‘Hotel’ and ‘Playboy Mommy’ are simply said, two more works of Amos brilliance.
To make something clear, Tori Amos is, and always will be, an idol of mine, so it can be said that there would be a bit of bias from my perspective when it comes to reviewing an album of hers, nevertheless, ‘From The Choirgirl Hotel’ is obviously one of her best works, and arguably the most accessible. Amos herself has said ‘this album is the most personal and my favourite of all my works’ and it is for good reason. Dare I say, it’s not perfect, but it is about as close as an album is going to come in my lifetime. Dare i say it, there are no similar albums. ZR