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The Commerical Appeal (US)
Memphis, Tennessee, newspaper
October 3, 1998


by Jody Callahan, The Commerical Appeal

Tori Amos stops the conversation in mid-sentence with the words, "Just a minute, honey." She follows that with, "I'm just writing down my Starbucks order."

This snippet is vintage Tori Amos: The singer-songwriter is a stream of consciousness brought to life.

You listen to her records, you watch her shows, you chat with her on the phone, this is the Tori Amos you see: a woman completely uninhibited by normal conversation, a woman who could be talking about author and friend Neil Gaiman one moment and Christianity's failings the next. And in between, maybe she'll tell you she's painting her nails and that Texas, where's she's calling from, is particularly dry this time of year which accounts for her somewhat scratchy voice.

When listening to her, or watching her, you also see a woman who invites-- no begs strangers to visit her in her most private places. She has no closed doors, no taboos.

This is one of the most shocking things about Amos, this ability to dissect herself for her audience, to open up for the world to see and hear moments and experiences most of us would hide away forever.

"It's a beautiful connection you can have with strangers. You don't have to sit down with them and have spaghetti on a holiday like you do with your family. There are things you can't say to family and friends that you might offend them that you can say to strangers," she said.

That intimacy is not always easy, though. Her latest record, "from the choirgirl hotel," has its genesis in the singer's miscarriage around Christmas 1996.

The baby-conceived with Mark Hawley, then her sound engineer and now her husband-was three months along, doctors believed the pregnancy would proceed as expected. They were wrong, and Amos was devastated.

When asked, she hesitates, just for a moment, then opens this door as she does all others, as she did in many of the lyrics on the new record.

"When it happened we were shocked because we thought we were out of the woods. And so it was heartbreaking for us," Amos, who married Hawley in February in a church in England, where she now lives.

"I was very connected to this little girl. I stay connected with her as I'm still connected with her. I felt like she taught me more than almost anyone in physical form has taught me. She taught me a lot and the situation taught me a lot," she added.

Amos has always love-hate relationship with religion. Her father is Rev. Edison Amos, a Methodist from Mother Carolina, and Amos was raised within the Christian religion. But she's always rebelled against that, in life and song. The loss of her baby only intensified that rebellion.

"Losing my baby was a very confrontational experience with the Christian God. In that moment, I really understood that no deity was on my altar anymore," she said.

"There are no guarantees, I was kind of misled in the Christian church, that if you do XYZ, certain things will happen to you. The angel will take care of you," she add. "But the angels sometimes they're at a rave."

If you've listened to her new record, you've probably noted that it's a bit different from her earliest efforts (partically the faux-metal record "Y Kant Tori Read," which now sells for $500 at record shows. When asked her thoughts on that record, Amos said, "I don't play it in the live show, let's put it that way.")

Her first solo record, "Little Earthquakes" was an acoustic, piano-driven record spawned the melancholy single Silent all these Years.

Her second was "Under the Pink" a fuller-sounding record she has since called her version of an "Impressionistic painting." The third, "Boys for Pele" was something of a confused, almost indulgent, record.

The new one, however, is the first that's been recorded with a full band, unlike "Pink's"sparse instrumentation here and there. That has created a different sound, one that's thick and rich,one that longtime fans may have to adjust to.

"When we were in the studio and Matt (Chamberlain), the drummer, and Andy (Gray, the programmer: were just groovin' with Cruel, I realized that the piano was just not working. It just, too many chiefs. I said, you know, I need to be a good Indian," said Amos, whose mother is half Cherokee. "Anyway, with Cruel, I took my hands off the piano and that's how we cut it."

Since Amos is also touring with a full band-guitar, bass, drums-for the first time, will this affect the intimacy with the audience she has long enjoyed? Will fans respond to the full sound as much as they do to her whisper of a voice behind the piano? She hopes so.

"This is the thing. This is the plugged tour. I haven't hidden it or kept it secret," she said."We might be trading a bit of intimacy for a bit of butt."


"Butt, you know, low-end bottom. There is a kind of rhythm thing going on that you can only get from a rhythm section. You can't trade, for instance, snow and rain. They're different elements. They just are."

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