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4.4 out of 5 stars42
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on 15 April 2004
It would be churlish, perhaps, to criticise a woman, who in twelve years has produced at least three of the best albums of that period ('Little Earthquakes', 'Under the Pink', 'Boys for Pele'). True, commercial success is more elusive these days (this album charted at a lowly #74 in the UK), and many fans have jumped ship after three releases that divide opinion ('To Venus and Back', 'Strange Little Girls', 'Scarlet's Walk'). But to her legions of fans, Amos's abstract musings will always be songs of the goddess.

Should this best of be regarded as a contractual obligation? Well, certainly it is unlikely to win Amos any new fans. Most likely, the people who will buy it will be those who already own her studio output. The new tracks are worthwhile - one good ('Angels'), one fantastic ('Snow Cherries from France'), and the 'rare' bee sides, though less fun than the jaunty originals, provide extra punch. The choice of tracks for inclusion has provided topic for debate, but as Amos has herself said, someone's favourite song would always have been left off. Still, it is difficult to understand how the pretty but unassuming 'Baker Baker' is worthy of a place here, over the actual hits 'Caught a Lite Sneeze' and 'Hey Jupiter' or even the lovely '1000 Oceans'.

Still, what is here is uniformly very, very good. And for the most part the remastering/remixing is well done. The slightly sludgey sound of the earlier material is made fresh and crisp, and the rejigging of 'Winter', 'Tear in Your Hand', 'God' and 'Cornflake Girl' breathe new life into these songs. However, the more recent material fares less well, with the heady atmospherics of 'Spark' strangely muted. And, frankly, the single remix of 'Crucify' is far better than any that has been commited to a long player. The most contentious inclusion - Armand Van Helden's remix of 'Professional Widow' - isn't as jarring as some have made out. It's framed nicely between two of the short songs from 'Pele', and as Amos's biggest hit and a joyously irreverant gesture to those who take her music too seriously, is welcome.

We look forward to May 2004's live DVD release with enthusiasm.
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on 22 October 2003
For anyone who knows of Tori Amos, you will already know that she is one of the most innovative, mature and creative female artists of our time, and this collection is the proof. Along with two new songs, Angels and Snow Cherries From France, there are some of Tori's most loved tracks from her Atlantic recording period. The real highlights are the dark and theatrical Spark...perhaps one of Tori's most beautiful and emotionally charged songs to date, Bliss...showing a beautiful affair with electronica, Cornflake Girl...a classic upbeat track and Professional Widow...a raw, almost scary track. Tori has also revisited B-sides Mary and Sweet Dreams, and they sound the better for it, which is no easy task. Mary is a definate stand out and Sweet dreams showing that Tori can handle uplifting, upbeat songs as well as her slower, thoughtful ones.
The new tracks are more reminicent of her newer works, which is no bad thing by a long way, as they capture yet another side to this incredibly talented artists work, both of them are as beautiful and sensitive as one would expect from Tori, Angels being a new masterpiece and will surely be hailed as a classic before long.
Tori has so many important and poignant songs, that it is virtually impossible to narrow them down to a twenty track collection, there are certain tracks that perhaps should have been included here that are not present, but the selected tracks all stand their own ground, and this collection out shines most other contemporary artists 'best ofs'.
An excellent collection, that should be a must for any serious record collector.
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on 6 December 2003
Championed when she came to prominence in the early 1990s but seemingly forgotten by critics by the decade's end, Tori Amos is undoubtedly the best living singer/songwriter making music today (bar none) and her 'TALES OF A LIBRARIAN' easily proves it.
A collection of some of her key compositions written between 1990 and 2003, the package is superb and Amos obviously had a lot of input into the "greatest hits" formula. Instead of throwing together 15 of her biggest hits, Amos has handpicked 20 songs from her extensive catalogue that represent her autobiography the best (the only concession to commerciality is the 1996 chart-topping remix of "Professional Widow," which is now driven by dance beats instead of medieval harpsichord).
On paper, the way Amos has "revisited" and "reconditioned" the songs may sound like a ploy to entice die-hard fans to re-buy songs they've already held dear to their hearts for some 12+ years. But in reality, it is because of Amos' dedication to her music and she enhances some of the classics.
Backing vocals are brought out on "Cornflake Girl", "Spark", and "God," while she enhances the string sections on "Winter," "Jackie's Strength," and "Baker Baker." Amos' piano has always been the central force to her songs, and the instrument plays an important role all the way through - but because of the reconditioning of some of the older tracks, they all sit together much better than they would have and a narrative thread seems to run through.
As far as an autobiography goes, this sonic one is very attractive. Her childhood is remembered on "Precious Things," her rape on the harrowing a cappella "Me and a Gun," and her devastating miscarriages on "Spark" and "Playboy Mommy." There are also two re-recorded 'LITTLE EARTHQUAKES'-era b-sides ("Mary" and the political "Sweet Dreams"), and two new compositions, "Angels" and the delightful "Snow Cherries from France."
Now with eight solo albums to her name, the material here concentrates on the first five (with 1996's 'BOYS FOR PELE' sadly under-represented), and 2002's wonderful 'SCARLET'S WALK' is not represented at all due to contractual reasons (it was released on Epic, not Atlantic).
The package itself is dazzling, with a Dewey Decimal System classification for each of the 20 songs (continuing the librarian theme) and a bonus DVD containing three songs recorded live at a sound check in September 2003, as well as two remixed songs from 'BOYS FOR PELE' and a photo gallery.
All in all, 'TALES OF A LIBRARIAN' is a must for any fan of music and newcomers will definitely want to check her back catalogue, because - as with most great artists - Tori Amos, the finest female singer/songwriter of the last 15 years, is not a "hits" kind of woman.
Buy this, and you will not be disappointed.
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on 17 November 2003
Always being compared to Kate Bush is very unfair on Tori. This collection should go a fair way to dispelling that myth. This focuses us on Tori Amos songwriting skills hence there are no tracks included from the 'Strange Little Girls' CD and also none from the recent Scarlet's Walk album.
Shame that Pretty Good Year was left off also but the accompanying DVD has a version on. The new recordings are all very good and will no doubt tempt the fans who own the original 1st 5 albums to buy this also.
This would make a sensible buy for anyone intrigued by Tori but so far still hesitant about buying any of her back catalogue.
My advice is buy this for a good compilation of the early tracks but also to buy Little Earthquakes and Under The Pink aswell as they deserve to be heard in full.
10 years on and we are still awaiting a Kate Bush follow up to the Red Shoes. In this time Tori has released 6 albums and now a compilation. We also had a live album on Venus aswell.
You cannot fault her on that at least.
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on 22 November 2003
The problem for me with best of's is that it is often just one persons interpretation (generally not even the artist) and much as i appreciate the difficulty of choosing a best of from tori amos, the non-appearance of tracks like 'caught a lite sneeze', 'pretty good year', 'raspberry swirl' and 'marrianne' is a slight disappointment.

This collection generally portrays the softer side of tori and despite my disapointments, this is tori amos and therefore with tracks included like 'tear in your hand', 'playboy mommy' and of course 'cornflake girl' it deserves 4 stars at least.
Tori has reworked most of the songs to good effect which is a brave move when altering some classics. The two new songs and two b-sides are all worthy good songs though it would have been nice to see her magnificant version of 'teen spirit' on there.
When hearing the remixed version of 'professional widow' you get a sense that maybe this is selling out to the crimbo market but its still a good collection. Perhaps not a good representation of all her work, my personal favourite tori stuff is of the experimental 'boys for pele' and 'choirgirl hotel' period which is showcased in bits on this album.
All in all it is a good album and anyone looking to get into her stuff would have a good starting point. However, those listening to it and thinking all her stuff is like this would be pleasently surprised when digging into her back catalogue. From the 7 studio albums done there are vast ranges in sounds. For me tori is one of the most under rated artists of our generation and this album is a good indication of why i believe that!
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on 30 May 2007
I've known about Tori Amos for years as we all have but have only just got round to buying an album. I thought this would be a good intro to her music on the whole and it probably is.

Ther are a couple of contentious points with this album, though. The first is the remixing. I wanted to hear the original "Professional Widow" not the Van Helden remix. It isn't labelled as this which peeved me a bit (but only a bit) Also "Spark" and "Cornflake Girl" have been messed with, mainly towards the middle/end of the songs, and they lose a bit of their impact (the different piano solo on "Cornflake Girl" is a bit too "different")

All in all this is a good indication of the sometimes anarchic, sometimes emotional quality of Amos' work. There are very few talents like hers in music currently and I'm probably going to buy a couple more of her albums (i.e. "Boys For Pele" and "From The Choirgirl Hotel") just to be sure of that.
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on 19 November 2003
With a wealth of material from the period with Atlantic/East West it was always deemed virtually impossible to select tracks for a retrospective that would please Toriphiles.
It was Tori's intention to release a compilation after Choirgirl Hotel which would include hard-to-find b-sides along with a smattering of live tracks plus a couple of new songs. That album ended up becoming To Venus And Back, as the new material kept on coming.
It is possible that had that original retrospective seen the light of day, that Tales Of a Librarian may not have ended up in the way it has done.
I for one am pleased that instead of allowing Atlantic to cobble their own 'best of' which would have undoubtedly revolved around the standards 'Silent', 'Spark', 'Cornflake' and 'Lite Sneeze' we get something that has obviously been deconstructed very carefully and given some considerable thought. Tori Amos obviously cares enough about her 'girls' to ensure that any 'best of' compilation truly bears a collection of songs that sum up her journey, as opposed to a collection of songs that earn their place on the record because of chart positions.
I'm pleased that this collection gives us so much more than the singles. Even down to the beautiful artwork and packaging, this is a record that the artist is undoubtedly proud of. As a fan, I am also proud to own it.
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on 25 February 2004
Tori Amos really is out on her own. Bursting onto the scene in '92 with one of the most ground-breaking and compelling debut albums of all time , she brought sex to the piano and gun point rape to the charts. The following album included her biggest radio and chart hit, Cornflake Girl, which had the masses huming along to daytime radio and asking themselves "what on earth is she singing about". Tori's fanbase is wide and extremely loyal, the numerous website message boards are an ultimate shrine, her live shows display her followers writhing around like they are in the presence of actual religious revelation! I've been a fan from the start!
We are now seven albums into her career when "Tales Of A Librarian" comes along. She's had a record label change in the last couple of years and you can't help but wonder if this new arrival screams of contractual obligations rather than art! Although does true art ever really exist in corporate companies?
There is a good chunk or material to the CD, although it isn't a straight forward "hits" or "singles" collection, a lot of the obvious singles are not here. However, it's stunning body of work is nothing short of moving and is a true testimond to the lady's outstanding talent. Some songs have been given a new injection of juts, others stand alone as timeless mini masterpieces.
I really enjoyed it but somehow wonder if a real Tori fan would be better off compiling their own "Tales" - like i did a few years ago! If you're new to Tori i recommend you buy "Little Earthquakes" instead.
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on 9 April 2010
Not being a Tori Amos fan until about 4 years ago I brought this on a wim as I had heard the track Cornflake Girl and liked it.
This being a best of type album I thought it would be a good way of finding out if what I had heard was true that she was a American Kate Bush. To be honest she is very good and I am glad I brought this CD, but American Kate bush I don't think so.
But any way this a good ablum to get into Tori the tracks God and Precious things are fantastic.
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on 20 November 2003
These 20 songs encompass the best moments from all her previous albums and this collection is a wise choice for those interested in Tori's music without being out & out fans. For those that are fans you'll be pleased to know 2 new songs and 2 re-recorded B sides are included here.
All in all a really good package!
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