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Tea with the Waitress
1993-11 (UK) / 1994-02 (US)
EastWest Records promo bio
"I don't see myself as weird," says Tori Amos. "I just see myself as honest. That's just the way I am. I find the truth endlessly interesting."
At the start of the Nineties, music journalists were besieged on all sides by the onset of a whole new crowd of female singer-songwriters, each offering their introspective slant on things. Tori Amos emerged in the winter of 1991 and immediately distinguished herself a good few furlongs apart from and ahead of the rest of the pack with a slew of songs that forged a successful marriage between melodic invention and lyrical extremity. For once, critics and public were in accord; this was a unique talent, the kind that happens along perhaps once every decade or so. If we're lucky. Her debut solo album, Little Earthquakes, was greeted with the kind of superlatives reserved for records of rare quality. Meanwhile, at home and abroad, it sold by the proverbial truckload. An offspring of singles ("Silent All These Years", "China", "Winter" and "Crucify") pole-vaulted into a chart for too long starved of soul laid bare. A video anthology, also entitled Little Earthquakes, wrapped up the whole shebang in a visual feast that left tongues dangling from here to Timbuktu.
But Tori's success has been no humdrum overnight affair. Born in North Carolina, the daughter of a Methodist preacher, she grew up with the music of Fats Waller, Nat King Cole, Jimi Hendrix and John Lennon. A gifted child prodigy, she could play the piano by the age of two and a half and was composing musical scores by the age of four. "I was a freak child who had really good rhythm," she rememberss. "I'd be invited to parties simply because I played the piano. It took me some time to come to terms with this, but I grew to realise that I had some kind of calling."
Between the ages of five and eleven, she was trained at the prestigious Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore, before being dismissed for "irreconcilable differences". In her teens, she could be found playing Gershwin standards and the like in bars and hotels across Washington and Baltimore. Following the ill-fated "Y Kant Tori Read?" project in the mid-eighties, Tori Amos began composing the songs that would grow into the highly acclaimed Little Earthquakes album.
"I went into Little Earthquakes with all this stuff in my life that I hadn't acknowledged and that I needed to talk about," she says. "With that album, a lot of people came to the party and said, 'I can identify with what you're saying'. Then the party ended and everyone went home. But that wasn't the end of it. I had to wake up six months later and realise that there was all this new stuff that I had to acknowledge, that there was a whole lot more to say."
The first fruit of Tori's latest creative binge is "Cornflake Girl", the first single to be culled from her upcoming album. Inspired by Alice Walker's novel, "Possessing the Secret of Joy", "Cornflake Girl" finds Tori at her compelling best, wringing emotional complexity from the most sensually appealing and aesthetically pleasing of melodies. "It's about how women betray each other," Tori explains. "There's the Cornflake Girls and the Raisin Girls and they represent two different ways of thinking: narrow-mindedness and open-mindedness. It's about the disillusionment that comes from the realisation that someone has gone from one way of thinking to another. It's also about this idea that women are the good guys and men the bad guys, which just isn't true all the time."
Under the Pink, Tori Amos' new album, was recorded in New Mexico, in a 150 year-old hacienda. All twelve songs were self-penned, and produced by Tori and Eric Rosse. Tori has taken the stark, candid emotional elements of her previous work and applied them to a much broader canvas, achieving results that will both delight and surprise admirers of Little Earthquakes. From the Brechtian bliss of "The Wrong Band", through the evocatively low-key "Bells for Her", to the frankly epic "Yes, Anastasia", her latest songs explore a rich pattern of experience from emotional dependency to sexual disgust, from female masturbation to the breakdown of the patriarchal society in God. Emerging, "from the womb rather than the head," her latest songs go deeper and wider than before, still maintaining the fraught elegance that has become her trademark. Once again, the listener can expect to be swept into emotional territories that are both discomforting and enlightening, harrowing and rewarding.
As ever, the nerve-ends are wholly explosed and the hum of sexuality is never far away from the surface. "If there's a theme on this album," she says, "it's one of self-empowerment, whether it's women acknowledging the violence in themselves or people coming to terms with the loss of hope. It's about the refusal to see yourself as a victim and how to have passion in your life without equating it with violence. It's just as personal and just as involved as before. There might be other characters in these songs that we haven't met before but it's still me."
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