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A constant Tori fan's review,
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This review is from: Gold Dust (Deluxe) (Audio CD)
Bear with me please - my review really starts in the last paragraph, but after reading some reviews here and elsewhere I thought it would help to give some context as to where I stand before I give my review. Note that I bought the deluxe CD, which has a bonus DVD with videos for Flavor and Gold Dust and is designed like a small book, but the reviews seem to be pooled together so I'll stick to the CD review.
There is often a big gulf between various groups of people who review Tori Amos albums. There is the group who may not have heard or liked anything since Little Earthquakes and Under The Pink, and always seem surprised that Tori's style of music has changed as she's aged. There is the group who love everything without being critical. And there is the group who keep resurfacing to criticise Tori for not being as good as she used to be, whilst nevertheless continuing to buy every one of her albums. There are the haters who like to pose as outraged fans to elicit a reaction (don't say there aren't any, I actually know someone like that). And, of course, there is every shade in-between.
It's people's choice whether or not to buy an album of songs that have been reworked in a certain way, be it orchestral, remix or acoustic - or even a best of - so people who use the words "rip-off" I feel have already undermined their own arguments. I think a small part of this currently comes from people who are understandably annoyed that two bonus tracks are only available if you buy the whole album again from different sources. Record companies should feel ashamed by that sort of tactic.
As for me, I've loved all of Tori's albums and always listen to new work with an open mind. There have been songs I've not been as keen on as others, but overall there have been more songs I've loved than been lukewarm about. I believe that artists should be able to change their style and reinvent themselves and we can't try and pin them down to eternally write the kind of songs they were writing at a particular point in their lives. I believe that I can still write a review as a fan and be critical in a constructive way. Here goes.
This album contains 14 songs that Tori has recorded before in a studio context, reworked to have a full orchestral backing. The choice of songs to be reworked in this way is something that fans could argue about all day, as Tori has such a large back catalogue. I personally was a bit sceptical when I saw the line-up - Flavor as an opening track for example - but I listened with an open mind and I really heard the difference in all of the tracks. The lyrics are the same - there's none of the chopping and changing Tori may do in live shows - and some of the inflections in these versions are on different words or lines - but the main change really is in the vibrancy and lushness of the soundscape an orchestra brings. Some of the songs really benefit from this, and you suddenly realise that they should always have been treated this way - a great example of this being Yes, Anastasia. Winter and Silent All These Years also really benefit. If you prefer the originals, you can go back and listen to them any time, but I love having the choice of hearing these songs in a new light. A couple of other songs that I was lukewarm about before, I actually like now because of the new versions. I said above that I'd be critical, and again this must be taken in the context that today's Tori is older and in a happier place than she was during her earliest albums, but some of the rawness of emotion that haunts the original songs is notably lacking. This is most apparent on Precious Things and Silent All These Years, the originals of which tear at your soul, but with the addition of an orchestra the stark intimacy is gone, and subconsciously I think that this must have influenced Tori during the recordings because although her voice is beautiful, the raw edges she put into emphasising some of the lines in the originals have been blunted down a bit. That doesn't put me off the songs - I've already said that Silent All These Years benefits from the orchestra, but I say that in terms of the music, not necessarily the vocal. In my opinion, only two or three songs are weakened by this orchestral nature smoothing out, or rather soothing out, the raw emotional edges in Tori's singing. The majority of the songs are improved by the orchestra, and often also by the change of inflection Tori puts in the vocals. Flying Dutchman for example has never been better, and even a less popular track as Programmable Soda feels the benefit. That is the way that I see it.