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Bang magazine (UK)
December 2003

The Last Page: Tori Amos

by Dan Silver

What was the last record you bought?

"Sketches of Spain by Miles Davis, because I'd lost it. It's one of my personal favourites. We have a little beach house and I'd been listening to that there when I was pregnant."

When was the last time you had a Cornish cream tea?

"I like Cornwall a lot, but I usually drink Japanese tea when I'm down there - I get FedEx to fly it in from L.A. I don't feel bad about anything I do in Cornwall because Husband said, 'If you love me, come live here'. I am a city girl living on a dirt road in Cornwall, and I am completely happy about it."

When was the last time you were surprised?

"A couple weeks ago, Husband and I were having a bit of a... difference of opinion. We pulled into a motorway service station and he told me he'd got me something that he thought I'd like. I pulled it out, and he'd picked me out an incredible car magazine. I needed to buy a car, and he said, 'Before you make a decision, I want you to make sure you get something you want, not something everybody else think you should get'. That was a nice surprise. And because of that magazine I got a Saab convertible. It's more practical than the Land Rover - those Cornish walls kept biting my tires!"

What was the last movie you saw?

"We watch a new DVD every day. I'd love to say a groovy one, but honestly, the last one was Thumbelina, which was yesterday morning with my daughter [Tash, aged 3]."

What was the last joke you heard?

"My daughter told me one. Her sock was hanging on her toes, and she looked at me and said, 'Look Mom: my sock has a hangover... Like my nanny did the other day!' I thought that was really good. She has a great rock'n'roll nanny for the road who can outdo all the guys in the crew. She's from England..."

When was the last time you were drunk?

"On tour a couple of months ago with the band: we had a two-hour drive back from the show to the hotel so we had a party on the bus. A good wine with dinner is where it usually ends, though. I'm 40 now. I like remembering making love these days. There was a time when I didn't want to remember, but I do now."

When was the last time you felt your age?

"A couple weeks ago when I had to go to the dentist. You begin to realise that you just have more maintenance than you used to..."

When did you last cry?

"I cry about once a month. It's a hormonal thing. It could be because I dropped a pencil or something."

When was the last time you went to church?

"A while ago - I can't remember. But I did go four time a week until I was 21, so I've gone to church enough for many lifetimes."

When was the last time you checked your bank balance?

"Which bank? [Laughs] Every week, I guess. It's in a healthy state."

When was the last time you listened to Slayer's 'Raining Blood'?

"A long time ago. I listened to it so much on our Strange Little Tour, I think I OD'ed on it. When Justin Meldal-Johnsen [of Ima Robot, a long-time Tori collaborator] first played it for me, I thought about this giant vagina raining all over the Taliban, and I thought it that was pretty hardcore. This was before the Twins went down in New York in September of that year, and there were dreams of bloody vaginas all over the place. I really like Slayer. They sent me a T-shirt: 'God Hates Us All'."

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Tori Amos
Tales of a Librarian: A Tori Amos Collection
(EastWest)

Review by Jenny Gilbert

Inspirations: Joni Mitchell, Miss Jones, Joan of Arc

There's always been something of the celestial being about Tori Amos. In the thick of the plaid-shirted-bloke early '90s, Tori appeared like Tinkerbell-meets-Germaine Greer to chronicle a woman's experience, using the piano as her weapon. The raw emotion driving 1992's Little Earthquakes - confessional tales wrapped in odd, quasi-religious metaphors - caused some write her off as a fairy-chasing feminist. However, its authenticity of feeling marked it out to many more as a future classic. 'Me And A Gun', an account of Amos' own experience of rape, carried as much emotional weight as anything Kurt Cobain was writing. Eleven years on, it's easy to see how Amos has sparked a generation of piano-playing princesses, but not one can hold a candle to her ingenuity.

Such inventiveness raises Tales of a Librarian beyond predictable 'greatest hits' outing and transforms it into a technicoloured storybook. Although this 20-track album aims to give an overview of Amos' career, it's also a detailed and intimate personal history. The early songs - from the tentative charm of 'Winter' to the darker 'Crucify' - paint a picture of a real woman with genuine fears about her future in an unforgiving world. Her favourite themes may since have been trivialised by Ally McBeal, but there's nothing trivial about the intensely documented 'Playboy Mommy' and 'Spark', both dealing with Amos' miscarriages. When she sings "I swore that I could survive any storm" on 'Snow Cherries From France', one of the new songs here, you don't doubt her for a second.

Yet Tales of a Librarian doesn't just have value as a personal document. Amos' ability to command her own space makes this album of intense political value. Many of these songs throw up strange mythological figures --mermaids in blue jeans, fallen angels - that reinforce Amos' enduring sense of otherness. Even early lyrics retain their power to shock and unsettle: "Boy you'd best pray that I bleed real soon/How's that thought for ya?" she intones, sweet and menacing, on 'Silent All This Years'. While recent material such as the soothing, gentle 'Angels' conjures up more measured emotions, it's a credit to Amos that so much here still sounds fresh and inspired. When you consider that Liz Phair now finds herself relying on Avril Lavigne puppeteers The Matrix for her latest album, Tori Amos' continued determination to be the author of her own destiny is truly something to wonder at.

Tales of a Librarian then: essential reading for girls. And boys, actually.

4/5 stars

Standout Tracks:

3 Silent All This Years
7 Winter
17 Tear In Your Hand
20 Snow Cherries From France

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NOW THAT'S WHAT BANG CALLS MUSIC: VOL 5

8. TORI AMOS 'Snow Cherries From France' from Tales Of A Librarian (EastWest)

A lilting piano lullaby in which the scarlet-haired songstress recalls a summer spent with a boy who refuses to let her have his cherry but offers to taker her on an epic journey... straight to Dumpsville.


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