tori amos - to venus and back

.:: Complicated is a word for Tori Amos; she might even use it to describe herself. Her sixth recording, the double disc To Venus and Back, testifies to just how wide and deep her river runs. The two CDs -- Venus Orbiting, an unplanned studio effort that Amos recorded suddenly this summer, and Venus Live, Still Orbiting, a set of thirteen live songs from her recent world tour -- are not exactly opposites, but they are far from twins. Venus Orbiting is Amos at her most surreal, dreaming of her past, her pain and her desires in supersaturated musical and lyrical color.

Tori Amos is one of those impossible figures in the music world who, for various reasons, arouse so much hype that one continually has to wonder if there is any substance behind the public image. Tori Amos’s latest release, To Venus and Back, silences any such doubts. It is also an amazing testament to a passionate and talented singer, songwriter, musician, and producer. The 2-CD album combines a live disc with a studio album, and highlights the fascinating musical language that this multi-talented performer continues to develop as she explores the elements of a song: subject matter, lyrics, melody, harmony, and structure.

The only real complaint about the live half of To Venus and Back is that it isn’t three times as long. The disc features live performances from Tori’s 1998 Plugged tour. In contrast to her previous three tours in which it was just a woman, her piano, and a microphone on the stage of a theater filled with a silent entranced audience, the Plugged tour traded intimacy for a more raucous show. It added a fantastic supportive band, Tori’s first for a tour, consisting of Steve Caton on guitars, Jon Evans on upright and electric bass, and Matt Chamberlain on drums.

Perhaps for balance, or simply for the sake of completeness, Venus Live, Still Orbiting spotlights Amos' more acoustic material, most of it performed with her crackerjack touring band. It's Amos' first live recording, long overdue, and it works equally well as a greatest-hits collection. Crowd faves like "Cornflake Girl," "Waitress" and "Cooling" -- which has never before surfaced on an album -- make showstopping appearances. With To Venus and Back, Amos pays herself the ultimate compliment: She's good and complicated.

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