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53 of 56 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a winter treasure
Finally, Tori seems to be back to something like her old self after a pretty lacklustre seven years since the magnificent Scarlet's Walk. Her past three albums - The Beekeeper, American Doll Posse and the recent Abnormally Attracted To Sin - suffered from mediocre pop-rock arrangements trying too hard to sound like other artists, and far too many substandard songs crammed...
Published on 21 Oct 2009 by eve winter

versus
4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Only if you love Christmas
I'm a huge [early] Tori fan but she seems to be getting blander, less intimate and more charmless by the album. I am truly saddened that I can't even get through this album in one sitting. If you want to hear Tori Amos sing Christmas songs then this will suit you fine, if you want something more substantial from her, go back to the beginning of her career. [Weep]
Published on 14 Nov 2011 by Ben


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53 of 56 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a winter treasure, 21 Oct 2009
This review is from: Midwinter Graces (Audio CD)
Finally, Tori seems to be back to something like her old self after a pretty lacklustre seven years since the magnificent Scarlet's Walk. Her past three albums - The Beekeeper, American Doll Posse and the recent Abnormally Attracted To Sin - suffered from mediocre pop-rock arrangements trying too hard to sound like other artists, and far too many substandard songs crammed onto the disc.

This winter album sees a return to the classical side of Tori's musicianship, with largely orchestral arrangements throughout - only three of the twelve tracks here feature her band prominently, but sparingly. Elsewhere, gorgeous string arrangements, brass and harpsichord are the order of the day, and the result is heavenly for those of us who have longed to hear this side of Tori again. Songs are well-written, beautifully arranged and performed, and the sound is allowed to breathe for the first time in years.

She's done a remarkable job of re-interpreting several well-known carols, going back to the pagan roots of both words and music, and blending them seamlessly with her own additional lyrics on occasion. Don't expect straightforward renditions of such well-loved standards as We Three Kings, The Holly and The Ivy, Coventry Carol, Veni Veni Emanuel etc. Under Tori's scholarly and imaginative direction these old carols are reworked in a quite magical way; she manages to bring the pagan roots forth in a way that makes you hear these songs anew.

The album also contains several new Tori originals, among them 'Snow Angel', a song written for her daughter Natashya (who also sings briefly on the record - don't worry, it works!), the stunning 'Our New Year' and a thoroughly enjoyable big-band number called Pink and Glitter. The best new track though is 'Winter's Carol', which must be one of the best things she's ever done.

This is the loveliest, most affecting Tori Amos record in years. If you're a fan, you'll be delighted. If you're just looking for a winter album that isn't about Frosty the Snowman and Santa kissing mommy under the mistletoe, this might just be your thing.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Christmas Medley, 15 Nov 2009
By 
Fantasy Lore - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
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This review is from: Midwinter Graces (Audio CD)
What struck me especially when I listened to this CD for the first time was how immediately accessible it was and that may in part be due to the familiarity of the Christmas content, but the marriage of Amos with this niche musical genre works surprisingly well. Some critics of Amos describe her music as pretentious, I think it's more that her voice carries a righteous quality to it, which can be mistaken for pretension, but that's the beauty of this unlikely collaboration...the best Christmas record is all about embellishment and grandeur as well as degrees of subtlety, and requires a special kind of vocalist to triumph in the delivery of such big themes. Tori Amos is one of those singer-songwriters and consequently `Midwinter Graces' feels like a natural and effortless union. It also harkens back to an instrumental-style that I thought Amos had all but abandoned on recent albums.

The challenge of re-working traditional Christmas carols has produced magical results for Amos. There are few other artists who could change the lyrical content to put their own unique stamp on the material, while still maintaining the integrity and unique appeal of the original work. Had Amos simply covered the songs without changing a single lyric this album would not be half as entertaining, but what she's managed to achieve by often re-working the verses while retaining the original chorus, is to create something totally modern that nonetheless captures in entirety, the essence of these long-time established classics.

Piano work drives this album. Personally I think the piano is one of the best instruments at conveying a wintry-quality and Amos is a goddess in that area, as we all know, so the result is a collection of songs that sparkle with wintry appeal. But there are many more examples of instruments utilized to perfect effect, evoking a mood that is perfectly suited to the subject matter.

My favourite tracks on the album-

Track 2- `Star of Wonder' - So traditional and yet so Amos. Genius. (9/10)
Track 4- `Candle: Coventry Carol' - This song completely transports the listener into another era- it bespeaks of all the immortal associations we have with Christmas- tradition, reflection, a certain sadness. The best song on the album in my opinion. (10/10)
Track 5- `Holy, Ivy and Rose' - Felt I had to mention this track for the inclusion of Amos' daughter Natashya Hawley on answering vocals. The counterpoint of their voices works perfectly. Very festive. (8/10)
Track 11- `Winter's Carol' - Lots of piano work, hauntingly Kate Bush esque. This stood out for me in the story-telling stakes, I felt like I was being taken on a journey. Which is what Christmas is all about I reckon. (9/10)

I don't know whether `Pink and Glitter' and `Our New Year', which Amazon mention in the description, are the only tracks that represent completely new material by Amos for this album, but these were two of my least favourite tracks- `Pink and Glitter' is the album's big-band showpiece, but it doesn't quite deliver the knockout chorus you feel it deserves. Where as I found `Our New Year' to be a weak closing song- despite the up-tempo strings section, it doesn't manage to distinguish itself among the other classics on the album, so not a spectacular note to end on, but oh well, without any doubt it's still a gem of an album.
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Christmas Spirit Redefined, 11 Nov 2009
By 
The Wolf (uk) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Midwinter Graces (Audio CD)
Now here's a curious confection to be sure!
Carol-along-a-Tori. I had to stretch my mind
into an unfamiliar shape to even begin to meet
her half-way on this one. It is a strange affair.

Strangely beautiful in fact.

I've always considered Ms Amos to be more a
sinner than a saint (the very nicest kind of
sinner I hasten to add!).
Her Holy Night is, therefore, a revelation.

'Midwinter Graces' is about as far away from
the usual obligatory celebrity Christmas album
as it is possible to be. Her heart is clearly in it.

Even some of the most familiar songs are given
reworkings so startlingly original that we hear
them as though for the first time.

'Candle : Coventry Carol' with its warm piano
and brass arrangement is jarringly beautiful.

My own favorite seasonal melody, 'Emmanuel', is
given a stately and mesmerising performance.
The subtle use of strings, bells and percussion
is magical.

The self-penned 'Our New Year' brings a welcome
touch of doubt and darkness to the project.

'Snow Angel' is simply and starkly delightful.

Ms Amos really has created something quite
extraordinary here for believers and unbelievers alike.

This is as close a realisation of something
approximating the notion of "Christmas Spirit"
that we will ever again be likely to encounter.

Essential.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not the same old Christmas!, 15 Dec 2009
An interesting, different point of view on Christmas carols' tradition. The interview explains clearly the concept idea of the album, tracing back to the "pagan" origin of most of the chants.
An unusual selection of pieces, amazing arrangements, and beautiful new songs by Tori as "Pink and glitter", a real homage to the big bands' swing! Really grace...ful!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Bringing us a gift of old / wrapped in ribbons of gold", 6 Dec 2009
By 
Brida "izumi" (United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
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This review is from: Midwinter Graces (Audio CD)
MIDWINTER GRACES is the first seasonal album by Amos. The standard edition consists of 12 songs; traditional and some new ones penned by Amos herself, but even the traditional ones have been arranged by her and maybe tweaked here and there in order to give them her own personal touch. What has resulted is one of the most successful albums she has created since THE BEEKEEPER, in my opinion. This is a seasonal album which you could easily fall into listening to at any time of the year.

What I think Tori has managed to do which makes this selection so successful, is to mix the traditional Christmas references (the Baby Jesus, etc.) with a flavour of the pagan, so going back to the roots of our religion and beginnings.
Also, she has done an amazing job at the arrangements of the songs. The music is just fantastic. This sounds, to me, just as Tori should - with piano, orchestra and bells. It is the sort of sound which made me fall in love with her music all those years ago.
So, now onto some of my favourites:-
"Snow Angel" - an original song for this album. This is simply beautiful. As soon as the intro began I knew I would love it. It is simply about an angel who brings the snow each midwinter, but it is gorgeous.
"A Silent Night with You" - another original song. As you may have guessed from the title, it takes the idea of a silent night, but in Tori's hands it becomes a song about remembering a love affair at Christmas.
"Holly, Ivy and Rose" - this song has the voice of Tori's little girl, Natashya. Although it sounds very corny hearing that, do not worry, it does work having her.
"Winter's Carol" - this is another original. It is taken from "The Light Princess", which I think is a play based on George Macdonald's fairytale in which Tori has assisted. This is perhaps one of the strongest songs. The lyrics are fantastic; this is where the pagan flavour seems strongest. But the music is also brilliant. There are different tempos, and Tori makes use of her voice to the full in this one. Utterly brilliant.
"Our New Year" - the end song, another original. Slightly different in tone, as this one is about the melancholy which can also accompany the time of year; hoping that the New Year will bring you the one that you are longing for.

This is simply a seasonal album like no other you have heard before. Instead of cheesy songs which may make you sing along, but also make you cringe slightly, this album brings an element of sophistication to the genre.
Already, I have been playing this album almost constantly since I recieved it. And I'm sure I will be still be playing it as Christmas gets nearer.
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bonus features?, 20 Nov 2009
By 
flyinghyphen "flyinghyphen" (UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This contains a bonus DVD with exclusive interview content, two bonus tracks and an expanded booklet.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Tori doing it Tori way as always, 22 Nov 2009
A fab addition to the music Tori has released throughout her career. Not the typical Christmas album, but would you expect anything less from Tori!?

Some classics revisited and done in Tori's unmistakeable style and then some self penned festive tunes. Unique Tori style again and from me continues on the great music Tori is in the habit of releasing. Like she says on the bonus DVD she had to put her twist on it to make this album worth doing, and it works.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential, 17 Nov 2009
By 
Diziet "I Like Toast" (Netherlands) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Midwinter Graces (Audio CD)
Previously, the only Tori Amos I had heard was 'American Doll Posse' and 'The Beekeeper'. Perfectly presentable albums, but not really that special. On top of that, I'm not a big fan of 'carols' and the whole Crimbo thing. But after reading the reviews, I thought I'd try it. Turns out: smart move.

This is simply a beautiful collection. Tori Amos manages to stamp her own style, her own meaning on what mainly start out as carols.

'What Child, Nowell' is close to it's namesake, but other tracks take more liberties. The stunning, eastern feel to 'Star of Wonder' reminds you of Middle Eastern origins, before lifting to a major chord for the traditional chorus, which lifts your feelings with it. Some beautiful, simple electric piano, backing the eastern strings.

'A Silent Night With You' - well, the title gives a pretty big clue. Lush strings and a tubular bell back a very pretty love song. Yes, it's almost a Bing Crosby season.

'Harps of Gold' - with a chorus of 'In Excelis Deo', initially sounds remarkably like 'Solsbury Hill', with similar uplifting chords, before breaking into a warm and joyful chorus.

Ah, The Wolf has pretty much done a track by track review, making mine redundant. But what I love about this album is how, by taking the basic feel, the basic premise of songs we all know and have known since childhood, Tori Amos has managed to imbue them with a twist, different meanings that make you stop, and think.

The arrangements are, by and large, wonderful. The horns on Pink and Glitter are gorgeous, crystal clear (arranged and conducted by John Philip Shenale). The brass over the top, then the saxs slipping in under, audio velvet, glitter ball turning on the ceiling, slow and mocha moochy.

The lush strings on other tracks; just about impeccable, the piano clear, bell-like and beautifully expressive. And, over all that, Tori Amos' distinctive and evocative vocals - there is a touching fragility and a phrasing that is quite unique - pure Tori Amos.

To quote The Wolf - 'essential'. :-)
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5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful, 20 Jun 2014
As a longtime Tori Amos fan who understands her twist and turn choices of making albums in the 2000s I have to admit I was a bit suspicious of this. Seasonal records more often than not are a bit cheesy but she made this completely her own and being Tori, of course there had to be a certain conceptual approach to this record. The music is beautiful and lush, emotional, intimate, melancholic and riveting. She re-arranged traditional themes so that they're more faithful to their historical origins and her original songs blend perfectly with them. Apart from the cheesy front and back cover artwork (too much Photoshop for my taste) the music is brilliant!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great re-interpretation of some festive favs, 18 Dec 2013
By 
Anthony Corkery (Salisbury UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Midwinter Graces (Audio CD)
I love to listen to festive songs to get me in the mood but the usual list of favourites can become a bit repetitive. Here Tori has put her own unique spin on some excellent songs where the original is weaved into a refreshing and perfectly executed Tori interpretation. I'm only a passing fan of Tori but this shows her unique creative powers.
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Midwinter Graces by Tori Amos (Audio CD - 2009)
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