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Billboard (US)
January 13, 1996

Amos Bares Soul on Atlantic Set

Dominic Pride and Chuck Taylor

London -- The deeper Tori Amos delves into the depths of her psyche, the higher the sales figures mount, or so it would appear. With her third album, Boys for Pele, the singer has dared to venture even further into the more obscure realms of her already complicated consciousness. So EastWest Records U.K. to which she is signed outside the U.S., is confident that this soul-baring album will outperform her previous works.

Boys for Pele will be released Jan 22 in the UK with a simultaneous release through EastWest in Europe. Atlantic will release the album Jan 23 in the U.S.

Amos describes the album as "a descent," and the first track, "Horses," hints at this metaphor. Says Amos, "It's as if the horses have come to take us back, to descend, to find the dark side. By dark I mean what's hidden, not necessarily satanic."

Most of Boys for Pele was written on her last tour, "not because I didn't have anything better to do," she says, "but because of what was going on in my personal life."

In many ways, the album has proved to be a cathartic process for Amos, and writing the songs helped to purge many of the feelings she had over her separation from her longtime creative and personal partner Eric Rosse, who produced much of Little Earthquakes and Under the Pink, her first two albums for EastWest.

Says Amos, "I was separated from my soul mate. Just feeling that shock when half of you walks out-the songs just started coming to me."

As well as fueling her lyrically, the breakup had a profound effect on the sound of the album, with support and encouragement from her live backing band.

"This time I didn't have anyone looking over my shoulder. When I don't have to answer to anybody, I feel I'm more ruthless. When I was doing the sound check, I would play songs that would be more passionate than what we were playing on the night. I'd be hesitant, but my live guys would say to me, 'Just do it.' The songs that started the shows begin to dictate the sound."

A combination of new-found freedom and encouragement led her away from her piano to different instruments and timbres. The album features the rather aggressive sound of a harpsichord played through a Bosendorfer piano, recorded in a church in County Wicklow, Ireland, and at the other extreme is the warmth of the Black Dyke Mills Brass Band from Yorkshire, England. The song "Talula" was written on the harpsichord.

Sources at Warner Music say it was former Warner Music U.S. chief Doug Morris who suggested that Amos use London as her creative home, as he felt that the U.K. company could best capture the essence of her distinctive brand of singing and songwriting. As a result, she is signed to Atlantic for the U.S. and EastWest for all territories outside the U.S.

The U.K. is probably her strongest market outside the U.S., with her second album, Under the Pink, debuting at No. 1 in 1994. Both albums have achieved gold status with sales of 200,000 and are expected to go platinum (300,000) as a result of the impact of the new album. (EastWest estimates total worldwide sales of her first two albums at 2 million each.)

Giving Amos creative freedom was vital to making the record, says Max Hole, managing director of EastWest. "She's not someone to whom you have to say, 'I'm not sure about that middle eight,' She does what she wants to do. We had an influence on mixing, as did Ian Stanley, the A&R executive, but really she made the kind of record she wanted to. We allow her the space to do what she wants to."

Amos' unconventional lyrics-ranging from incest and rape to obsessive love-and her singing style are anything but mainstream they appeal to a discerning audience. Touring, good press, and an almost obsessive fan base have helped her broaden her appeal. Her last tour was in 1994 and covered the U.S., the U.K., Europe, Australia, and Japan.

To support Boys for Pele, Amos will begin a headlining tour across the U.K. Feb 23, including three dates at the Royal Albert Hall, where she will be joined by the Black Dyke band. After that she will play European dates in March. An eight-week, 40-city U.S. tour is scheduled to begin April 9, and in the summer she returns to Europe.

Atlantic and Amos are also planning a July acoustic concert in New York to benefit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, which Amos founded in '94. According to Arthur Spivak, Amos' manager active discussions are under way with Hootie & the Blowfish, among other artists, to participate. Atlantic hopes to tie in documentary footage and air the event nationwide on cable stations.

The tours are for the most part an intimate experience and have done much to spread the word. Amos says, "I hope people come to the show with their cage and they are willing to open it."

But not all shows have such co-operative audiences. "I feel the audience is giving me a place to dive. There are audiences who won't let you do that, and that's not a place to bare your soul," Amos says.

The audiences at her concerts are usually split 50/50 males to females, she says. On the Internet, her fans appear to be predominately male. There are some 40 Amos sites on the Net, ranging from the helpful and informative-such as Splashed in Red or the Tori Amos Picture Archive - to the obsessive, such as Zeigen's Tori Amos Confessions. Most of the pages appear to be produced by male students. Amos has written several pieces and allowed photos to be taken especially for some of the sites.

In the U.S., Atlantic is hoping to get the word out be targeting specific demographics within Amos' fan base.

The first worldwide single, Caught A Lite Sneeze, was posted on Atlantic Records' World Wide Web site Dec. 11, marking one of the first times Internet browsers could play back an entire audio track from a major-label artist before its release. In addition, Amos has her own section on Atlantic's Web site, and in the coming weeks it will offer photos, album artwork, lyrics, TV/radio/online appearance information, videoclips and tour dates.

Such hardcore, almost obsessive interest can also be seen in the buying patterns of Amos' fans. According to EastWest, Amos has become a very collectible artist, mainly by putting out CDs and singles in different formats with bonus trakcs. Says Hole, "Any record we put out is in incredibly high demand."

Peter Doggett, editor of British magazine Record Collector, says, "There's a breed of female singer/songwriters who have an incredible loyal fan base. Kate Bush is another of them, although (Bush and Amos) don't actually have as much in common. It's that combination of writing the songs, looking good in the photos, and being slightly off the wall which tends to do it. It tends to be the same people who are inspired to draw pictures of the artist and write poems who buy the records."

Doggett says these fans appear to be mostly male, although "the attraction is not purely based on physical appeal. There's the feeling of being in tune with her persona."

The one promotional plank that has largely been missing with Amos' previous albums is radio. With this album, EastWest will try to tempt radio with her music. Says Hole, "With the exception of Cornflake girl, which got a lot of airplay, radio in the U.K. did not take to her." "Caught a Lite Sneeze" is already getting airplay on some U.K. stations."

Says Hole, "At first sight, the record can seem demanding, but Caught A Lite Sneeze is already in the programming of some stations." EastWest plans to release four singles from the album this year.

In the U.S. attempts are also being made to fill the radio gap. Despite SoundScan-reported sales of just under a million each for 1991's Little Earthquakes and 1994's Under the Pink, Amos' only Hot 100 Singles chart appearance was with God, which peaked at No. 72 in April '94. (The song did reach No. 1 on the Modern Rock Tracks chart.)

Val Azzoli, president of the Atlantic group, acknowledges that the Tori Amos experience is tough to capture in four minutes over radio, which, by its nature, is a tough draw for concentrated listening.

"This is a very intense record. Tori is hitting new levels of the inner soul, dealing with relationships, hurt, and rejection-the big three," Azzoli says.

"You just can't listen to this while reading a book. You have to sit down and listen to every word, which is difficult for people to do. Most of the music we listen to we must listen to we use for background. Tori Amos' music is not background; it's not wallpaper."

Azzoli cautiously terms Caught A Lite Sneeze "radio-accessible, but Tori Amos-accessible." It began its radio push Jan. 2, aimed at modern rock, college, and triple-A stations.

"The mandate I've given to the promotion department is, 'I want the record played in every city. let's not find a format. Let's find a radio station; let's find disciples.' It's like carrying the torch," he says.

Among the first to ignite the fires on radio is WMMS Cleveland. "We're already getting tremendous reaction across the board," says VP of programming John Gorman, who added Caught A Lite Sneeze before year's end. "A lot of programmers write off Tori Amos as being a cult artist. I think she's outgrown that. We've definitely had a lot of anticipation for this."

The song will be complemented by Amos' traditionally heady brand of video, which has been a key element in demonstrating the artist's very direct intensity. Azzoli refers to it as "complicated, complex" video. "She's trying to create an out-of-body experience," he says. Atlantic pitches it to MTV and VH1 Monday the 9th.

Atlantic has planned an aggressive first-quarter print, television, and retail advertising blitz, focusing on 13 major markets that have traditionally been Amos-friendly, including Seattle, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C./Baltimore, Cleveland, New York, and Atlanta.

She will appear as the musical guest on Saturday Night Live Jan. 20 and The Tonight Show Feb. 8 cashing in on NBC's potent Thursday night lineup. In additional, Amos on the cover of the March Spin magazine, which hits newsstands Feb 8.

Atlantic also has teamed with Out magazine to target gay fans. The magazine will sponsor release parties at various-sized gay and lesbian clubs and bars in 15 major U.S. cities. The effort will begin Jan. 22 in New York's Bar d'O and Barracuda.

"Our goal is to broaden Tori's gay fan base," says Atlantic VP of gay marketing Peter Galvin. "Since Out reaches hundreds of thousands of music-savvy gays and lesbians each month, it doesn't take a Rhodes scholar to see that Tori and Out are a perfect match."

Ultimately, Azzoli hopes the label's efforts will raise Amos to the status of many of the successful singer/songwriters whom she helped lay the groundwork for with her initial efforts.

"When I first heard this record, I was thinking that the mainstream has finally caught up to Tori Amos," Azzoli says.


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