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by Jon Young
photo by Colin Bell
"Billboard called me a bimbo!" laughs Tori Amos, recalling the less than rapturous reception accorded her 1988 LP Y Kant Tori Read. "From a child prodigy to a bimbo, that's pretty hard to swallow -- but it was the jolt I needed."
The resounding failure of that undistinguished work, which she cheerfully dismisses as an attempt to play "rockchick," was the last straw in a checkered career marked mostly by disappointments. The daughter of a North Carolina minister, Amos took up the piano as a mere tot. At age five, she enrolled in a Baltimore music conservatory; by her early teens, she'd abandoned serious study and was content to play standards for the drinking set in D.C. bars. Ten years ago, Amos found herself doing the same thing in Los Angeles, a creative burnout at age 18.
However, Y Kant Tori Read proved to be a blessing in disguise. "Everyone has a turning point, when you lose your job or someone leaves you," she notes. "After that trauma, I crumbled. I was very confused about why I was doing music. I went to a friend's house and asked to play her piano -- I didn't even own one anymore -- and ended up playing for five hours, just writing things on the spot."
Voicing long-suppressed feelings for the first time, Amos laid the foundation for her fine new LP in this impromptu therapy session. With an intense emotionalism reminiscent of Kate Bush, Little Earthquakes (Atlantic) plunges into turbulent spiritual waters in tunes like "Crucify" and "Silent All These Years," not to mention offering a painfully blunt a capella account of rape in "Me and a Gun."
"I'm finally comfortable wearing my heart on my sleeve," Amos noted proudly, adding that she feels a bit like The Little Engine That Could, conquering daunting obstacles through sheer persistence. "I hope I give encouragement to everybody who writes songs in the bathtub and thinks they suck. There is hope."
[scan by Sakre Heinze]
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