on 1 August 2004
I love Tori, yet whenever she has a new album out it takes me a few goes to get what she's doing. This album was no exception. Some tracks caught me imediately (1000 Oceans), but after coming back to it again and again I finally 'got it'. I love music when it's easy to hear, automatically pleasing, but the best music is when it takes a while to get under your skin and permeate the layers of your consciousness. To Venus and Back is the work of a true genius. The piano hook on 'Lust' is so simple yet tremendous, the song written from the POV of Napoleon (strange but true folks) - Josephine - is a lyrical delight and heartbreaking with it. All of the songs are little pieces of the ever expanding universe that is Tori Amos.
The live cd is great listening, Cooling being my fave track and Sugar a close second. Tori's voice sounds slightly tired, but that adds an edge for me. The little spoken-to-the-crowd inserts are cool - she isn't an ordinary girl, is she?
To Venus and Back is an album that holds hidden treaures, and they are available for those brave enough to wade thru the miasma of 'quirky Tori' preconceptions and mourning for the days of Little Earthquakes to come back (it's never happening, dear). It will take you to places (venus perhaps?) you've long needed to go.. and who knows, you may never want to come back.
on 2 February 2002
CD1 is definitely Tori Amos' most electronic-driven albums, but don't let that common fear of great-artists-turning-silly-to-go-with-the-times get in the way, because there are still magic Tori moments to be found. 1000 Oceans and Josephine are two beautiful ballads and Concertina has that pretty Amos chorus. Bliss, Datura, Juarez and Glory Of The 80s have a new sound than other Tori albums but just let it work on you and you'll see how effective the electronics are. Truly amazing.
CD2 is the live album. This would get ten out of five stars alone because it is just fantastic! The live versions of Precious Things, Cruel, Mr Zebra and The Waitress are brilliant and she breathes new life into Cornflake Girl and Bells For Her. Also on the live album are the excellent vocal moments of Sugar and the beautiful piano hook of Cooling. A must!
on 26 December 2001
tori never fails to amaze me. although all her albums have a similar style, they are all incredibly varied. at the time of writing this, i own "from the choirgirl hotel" and "boys for pele" both which are great albums. i prefer FTCH more because it has the electronic sound, which "to venus and back" has. the piano is still there, but it is contrasted wonderfully with the electronics and drums in the background.
standout tracks for me include "bliss" which is my favourite song on the album, "juarez" for it's plain originality and "1000 oceans" because it is a truly beautiful song, both lyrically and musically. all the songs on this album are brilliant and not to be missed.
disc 2, the live album blew me away. i have never seen (or heard) tori live before listening to this cd. now i am determined to see her someday. starting off with "precious things" the darkness of the piano and backing band set the scene for this cd. i loved the live versions of "cruel" and "bells for her" - they were so amazing. how one person can be so talented is beyond me. totally brilliant.
buy this now. don't think twice. just get it.
on 8 April 2002
This album is a first for Tori Amos and a rare thing for the music industry; it is an album of entirely new material coupled with another CD of live material, which is essentially something of a greatest hits package. When I first saw this I wondered whether the new material was too weak to release on its own and had to be buoyed up with some of her previous glories. Upon a few listenings to the album I found my supposition was wrong, not only is the album strong, but thankfully, it treads where none of her previous albums go.
On ‘From the Choirgirl hotel’, she had dabbled with electronica; on ‘To Venus and back’ she uses it continually to startling effect throughout the album. When one hears the word ‘electronica’ one pictures up images of a horrific 80’s new romantic band (especially when one of the songs is called ‘Glory of the 80’s’). Luckily you can dispel these thoughts; the layers of synthesisers are dense and slinky and give the album atmosphere. Not only is the music of high quality (written and produced by Tori Amos), but also the vocals have been given considerable attention. Tori must have been in good form when recording this album as she hits some incredible highs while maintaining a good deal of emotion.
The songs themselves aren’t perhaps as strong as those on ‘Choirgirl hotel’, lacking the vast emotional clout of that album and songs like ‘Playboy Mommy’ and ‘Black Dove’. Instead we get brooding and sulky vocals. Only one song hits the same chord as ‘Choirgirl hotel’ and that is ‘1000 oceans’, a heartbreaking song about a girl who loves her partner so much that although he is leaving her, she would cry 1000 oceans to get him home safely. To many fans of her older stuff this may be their favourite song since it wouldn’t be out of place on ‘Little Earthquakes’. Of her newer style, the first three songs are the best, ‘Bliss’, ‘Juarez’ and ‘Concertina’. Each song is sweeping and dramatic and it makes you wonder why she didn’t release one of them as a single. True to Tori Amos, she puts in one song that is typically hard to get into, in this albums case it is ‘Riot Poof’. Its not that it’s a particularly bad song, but it is so of kilter with the rest of the album that it just doesn’t fit. The song that follows it, ‘Datura’ more than makes up for it though. It is a wonderful song with abstract lyrics mostly naming plants in a garden from which the perpetrator must leave (Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden?). The music is quite staggering, a true landscape of sound which turns wonderfully gothic in the songs second part. Another notable song is ‘Suede’, nothing about the British band, but about a black hole devouring its companion star. This may be a metaphor for domestic violence where the continual battering of a wife robs her of her self-confidence and will to live.
It may be said that ‘To Venus and Back’ is not Tori Amos’ most accessible album and that is true. For those wanting an introduction to her would be better to look at ‘Little Earthquakes’ or ‘From the Choirgirl Hotel’. This album is fascinating and a brave attempt to add synthesisers to her traditionally piano led songs. For those wanting value for money this album is damn good, since it comes with a live CD of some of her best work and some new songs. The production is generally good, a few songs go on for a little too long, but when they include some truly inspired piano solos, one really can’t complain.
on 23 December 2006
I've found out that most people love, or simply don't like this album compared to her others. 1998-99 showcased my favourite Tori Amos `era' - the electronica Tori.
This is a masterpiece - Tori's best album.
`To Venus and Back', begins with the lead single in the US, Bliss. This is Tori's most accessible lead single so-far, but this isn't a bad thing. The song only peaked at #91 in the US, and was not released in the UK. "Juarez" is one of my favourites. It is a very dark electronic Tori and is about the place where two girls were repeatedly raped, in New Mexico. It's quite a spooky song, actually. "Concertina" is the fan favourite, but to be honest, this is not one of my favourites, but it is defiantly single-worthy, and in my opinion should have been released as lead single in the UK, instead of "Glory of the 80's", which is a great song and I like it more than Concertina, but it is just not very accessible, and most of the time you can not understand what Tori is saying. The single peaked at #46 in the UK.
"Lust" is another of my favourites. This song is what makes this album better than Scarlet's Walk and Little Earthquakes, which are said to be among Tori's best works. It is such a beautiful ballad, and probably my favourite Tori ballad ever, and one of my favourite ballads ever. It is not electronica, but fits in perfectly nonetheless. "Suede" was one of my early favourites. It is a very dark song and very atmospheric and sooooo weird! "Josephine" is a great song and another of my favourites. It is not electronica, but like "Lust", is an excellent song. "Riot Poof" reminded me of Tori's previous album because it is just so out-of-control and very crazy. You cannot understand what she is saying most of the time, and even though the song is very inaccessible, it is still a fun song. The melodic `Blossom... riot poof' is sung great and this is my second favourite song from this album.
"Datura" is the longest, strangest, and best song from this masterpiece. I cannot even begin to explain this song, but I will try. It is named after a very strong hallucinogen, which Tori probably took during recording this album. A funny (okay, not funny, but quite strange) story: In 2003, a German student known just as "Andreas W", from Halle cut off his own penis and tongue with a pair of garden shears while under the influence of datura. Neither organ was re-attached successfully. Back to the review, towards the end Tori sings `Dividing Canaan..." so may times that you will feel really strange. "Spring Haze" is another standout and fan favourite. The chorus is just so uplifting and the verses are great also, and this song really brings back some good memories. "1000 Oceans" is a beautfil song and an excellent closer.
10 / 10
on 4 June 2000
It doesn't seem that long ago since Tori Amos's last album FROM THE CHOIR GIRL HOTEL was a permanent fixture in my CD player, but now here we are again with her new album.
Anyone who has ever sat and listened to Tori Amos will know that she isn't an easy artist to pigeonhole - part angst queen, part rock chick, part pop babe. Amos is all these things and more and this album shows all these quality and then some. As well as not being easy to pigeonhole, Amos also isn't always that easy to understand, like the poems of Sylvia Plath and the riddles at the end of 3-2-1, Amos could be accused of being overtly illusive, even pretentious. Many times the songs seem to be just a load of nonsense and it is only when you actually sit down and listen properly (having the written lyrics in front of you also helps) do you begin to understand perhaps what she is trying to get at. That said her songs are deep and yet addictive without the need for catchy simplicity that so much pop seems to rely on these days. Stand-out tracks for me are Concertina, Spring Haze, 1000 Oceans, Lust, Glory of the 80's and, the track which seems to sum up my feelings about this album - Bliss.
(The second CD is a live one featuring some of her earlier songs.)
on 21 May 2009
Could I be the only Tori fan that had a problem with `To Venus and Back`? From the voluble praise of the other reviews it might be so. Don't get me wrong here, the album is brimful of ideas, perhaps so much so that it ultimately suffers.
Amos' 5th studio album (sixth if we're counting "Y Kant Tori Read" fact fans) sees her on wildly different territory. Well ok maybe not wildly different. Lets face it, the emotionally frank ingenue label that seems to follow her around was basically shed after Under The Pink and the complex arrangements and electronics were around in both Boys for Pele and From the Choirgirl Hotel so `To venus and Back` is maybe less of a departure than some people have claimed and more of a natural progression into new territory. Having said that, it's still quite a shock to the system of the average Tori Fan, and by no means and out and out success.
But let's start with the good stuff, and there's plenty. The first six tracks in fact are absolute gems. The insidious beauty of `Bliss` stands out particularly, with its ambient crackle rumbling under Amos' dramatically rolling minor chords. The question "maybe she's bliss of another kind?" could quite accurately summarise the entire appeal of her music. `Glory of the 80's` too is whipsmart. A sonic strut through Amos' past life as a rock chick complete with obligatory acid references, it's enormous fun but also, like all her best songs, lyrically and melodically multivalent. Quite how Concertina managed not to bother the top 40 is beyond me as it remains one of the most perfect slices of dreamy pop music I've ever heard and the lyric "I know the truth lies in between the 1st and the 40th drink" may just end up on my headstone. But enough of the frivolity, there are some seriously dark forces at work here too. "Juarez", a masterstroke of gothic electronica refigures the unexplained tragedy of the Mexican bordertown - the site of scores of unsolved rapes and murders - as some kind of terrifying fable. When Amos sings "Just 'cause the desert likes young girls flesh" she's hinting at that strain on the fulcrum of the relationship between the American people and the landscape that would come to dazzling fruition in her masterpiece Scarlet's Walk, the effect is chilling and exciting. The dry sultry throb of "Suede" utterly convinces as the kind of dark sexual narrative that underpins the identity of Amos' later alter ego Pip of American Doll Posse. The lyrics are at once sleekly playful and submissive "call me evil call me `tide is on you side` anything that you want" and also strident, provocative and downright dirty "boy and if you keep your silence silencer on you'll talk yourself right into a job out of a hole into my bayou". I'm sure there are quite a few boys out there who fancied a trip to Tori's bayou after hearing "Suede".
Sadly this is where the magic ends and the rest of the album veers from drab to downright unlistenable. Even "1000 Oceans" frequently hailed as a Grade A Tori ballad seems lyrically trite in comparison to complex heartbreakers like "Cooling" or "China" and the less we say about the rambling "Datura" and Riot Poof" the better other than to point out that they are both spectacularly dull and difficult to listen to; such messes the pair of them that they sound and feel half finished. The flimsy whimsy (hey that rhymes!) of "Spring Haze" is nice enough but any Tori Amos fan who regards this as one of her best tunes needs a speedy rerun through the back catalogue.
The live disc is a better proposition and provides some seriously interesting reworks of classics such as "Precious Things" as well as an opportunity to get to grips with some lesser known compositions like the fantastically dark "Purple People" but here too there are problems. Maybe it's just me but I feel as though it was around this time that Amos' delivery of vowel sounds went totally out of control. Some of the words here are so distorted they're barely recognisable. Some may say that this is a unique facet of her vocal style but at times it comes off as downright contrived, and, as satisfying as the live album is, it couldn't capture even an iota of the experience of actually seeing Amos perform. My advice is, if you're looking for the live experience, catch her on the Abnormally attracted to Sin Tour, you won't regret it.
Somewhere along the line I think that Amos' fanbase, - of which I'm a proud member - decided that it's not ok to discuss her work in any critical way. Toriphiles don't like to admit that her output has peaks and troughs like any other artist; but it does. `To venus and Back` is very much a record of 2 halves. The first half ranks among the best and most provocative of her work. Moving briskly from refeshing, euphoric electro pop to stark sexual violence and frank introspection. The second half is a mess and only rivalled by Strange Little Girls for the biggest miss of her career so far. This in the final analysis is still a four star review and really, there's so much to enjoy on this record but don't be fooled, it ain't no "Little Earthquakes"
Tori Amos is an amazing artist, full stop. While she will probably never be mainstream (that is not a bad thing) she undoubtedly is one of the most talented artists of our time. Of course, as an EWF, I am biased!
TO VENUS AND BACK, Tori offers us a different sound to her previous albums. Here, the music could be described more as electronica in parts, yet she is still able to make it her very own style and sound. As with many, if not all of her albums, you will probably have to listen to this offering a few times before you are able to fully appreciate the complexity and the sense of it. For me, the one track that did instantly stand out from the others was "1000 oceans". It is a truly beautiful ballad and perhaps the most accessible song from the entire collection. Other favourites of mine include "Suede", which has some of the most strange music I have ever heard - it is hard to describe this song. I also like "Lust", which again is another beautiful ballad. "Datura" is also another song to make my favourite list. Datura is a plant which has hallucinatory properties, but the wrong amount can be fatal. In the most recent biography on Tori, she is quoted as saying that the song compares this plant to men, that they can "sometimes [...] bring you gold and sometimes they can be the bearer of poison. . . If you get the right amount, you'll walk into the garden and become a woman, but if too much seeps in the wrong way and at the wrong time, it'll kill you" ("Pretty Good Years: A Biography of Tori Amos" by Jay S. Jacobs).
Next, I have to also comment on the live disc which is included. This is a great asset to have. When I first bought this album, I had never seen Tori perform live so it was a cherished item. She is great to see, if you get the chance you really should see her. The live disc has songs from her solo debut, LITTLE EARTHQUAKES. What you will discover is that she does not simply recreate these previous songs; rather she revisits them, making changes here and there, maybe emphasizing a different word or sound, maybe leaving some sections out. To me, this shows her creativity, making her music a more fluid experience than something that is merely set in stone and turned out to a particular recipe. I recently saw her on tour for her AMAERICAN DOLL POSSE album where she performed "Precious Things". This appears on the live album here, but it sounds very different to how she performed it recently.
As others have said, the performance of "Cooling" is brilliant. Almost worth all the money just for that. For this song, all the other band members do not make an appearance, it is just Tori and her piano. Absolute heaven - "...is your place in heaven worth giving up these kisses" (Tori Amos, Cooling).
An amazing release. Two discs for the price of one. What are you waiting for?
on 8 February 2001
OK so not strictly a dalliance with 'dance' but certainly the new electronica sound that is eeking its way into almost every new album is here. That's not to say this is a tired restyling technique, because Tori has succesfully managed to bring an original new style of her own to the genre. The piano is certainly still there, playing loud in the foreground, but it's almost as if she's decided to record the sounds of the songs' atmospheric gases along with it. The album begins with the sound of a fierce storm, whistling through the gaps in the windows of her spacecraft, then the dolorous chiming of her piano initiates the rhythm that is continuous throughout the record. During 'Riot Poof' vocals are shredded, in 'Juarez' pianos are mutilated, and on 'Glory of the 80's' the harpsichord is dredged through a kurzwiel. And finally the soothing swell of 1,000 oceans brings you back to earth; this song has been described as 'like snowflakes falling onto hot coals', I couldn't have thought of a better expression.
on 29 November 1999
This album represents something slightly more rounded than anything we have had from Tori Amos previously. To Venus and Back contains some wonderful new material complimented by successful experimentation in the studio which combine to completely engulf the listener like no other. The live album on the limited edition set is absolutely wonderful and there is no escaping the absolute beauty of the intro to 'Precious Things'! Overall, a must for the discerning Tori Amos fan, offering a selection of both the best new material, and that which has made us love her so over the years.