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4.2 out of 5 stars
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4.2 out of 5 stars
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on 24 September 2011
I'll start by saying that I'm one of those people that thinks "Little Earthquakes", "Under The Pink" and "Boys For Pele" (her first three albums) are Tori's best albums. Even though the albums released after them are all beautiful in their own way, I don't believe any of them had the same level of passion, intensity, and beauty of those first three albums...

Many people are saying that this album is a "return to form" and comparing it to the first three albums, "Under The Pink" in particular. I've been listening to "Night of Hunters" for a few days now - I resisted the urge to write a review after the first listen, I think it's better to let the album sink in a bit first...

So, is this album the much anticipated "return to form"? My answer would be yes and no. The instrumentation, like the first three albums, is absolute perfection. Even though there are no guitars, drums, or percussive instruments (other than piano of course) the album is rich and full in sound (please don't let the acoustic label put you off). The atmosphere Tori has created is intense, moody, and very dark, which, I believe is a return to form in a way. The piano is finally back and she's playing it in a way I've been wanting to hear again for a long time. Just listen to 4:06 into "Star Whisperer", or 2:44 into "Edge of the Moon" and you'll see exactly why people are comparing this album to "Under The Pink". With this album, Tori has decided not to allow the vocals to suffocate the songs - we are frequently treated to a few minutes of no vocals, just the piano, strings and other instruments swirling around and creating a magical and enchanting atmosphere (which is also a characteristic shared with "Under The Pink"). It's nice to have an instrumental track, "Seven Sisters", while very short, really is quite beautiful... The strong classical influences mean that the structure of these songs is different to what we've been hearing from Tori for the past many years, and again more in common with the first three albums, and I believe this is a very good thing. I enjoy this album more than any of the albums Tori released after "Boys For Pele".

Where this album is not a return to form is the vocals... Over the years, Tori's voice has changed quite a lot, and so has the phrasing of her words. Many, myself included, have complained about THAT strange new accent she's been singing in for a while now. Her vocals also seem to have lost much of the passion and intensity that she used to have. This was the only initial disappointment I had when listening to this album. One thing we must remember though, is that Tori's life has obviously changed since the early days in her career. I think she was a very frustrated, possibly depressed, woman when she was making her best music - she has been in a relationship for a long time now, she has a daughter, and she seems very happy these days. After listening to the album a few times, and allowing myself to warm to the vocals, I realise that her voice is still very beautiful and there is much passion, just passion of a different kind. Her vocals on this album are actually in better form than they have been for the past 6 years or so. The choice to include her daughter's vocals is an interesting one, and I don't think it was bad idea. They provide an interesting contrast to Tori's vocals and I believe they work together quite well.

Overall, I think that, whether it's the anticipated "return to form" many have been waiting for or not, "Night of Hunters" is an original, complex, and immensely beautiful album that deserves to be heard without being compared to earlier albums. It may not be to everybody's liking, and certainly requires an open mind. It also may take a while to "sink in" (as many of the best albums do), but once it does it's worth the effort. For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, I think the change of seasons will help many to appreciate the album more. It's moody and dark atmosphere make this an album to listen to in the Autumn or Winter, preferably at night.
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on 22 September 2011
I seem to be in the minority here. I was really looking forward to a classically inspired release from Tori Amos, but while you can't argue with the ambition behind this album, like her last few it is a bit of a mixed bag.
On the plus side, Tori's wonderful piano playing, which seemed in the background on her last album, is back to the fore. I also think her voice sounds better than it has in years, and the classical arrangements and musicians work well. The opening and closing tracks are the standouts: Shattering Sea is wonderfully powerful and dramatic while Carry is simply beautiful. On repeated listens Edge of the Moon, Fearlessness and Night of Hunters really come into their own.
However in some songs the cryptic (to me anyway) lyrics of the "song cycle" don't match the beautiful music. Battle of Trees goes on for about 8 minutes without really going anywhere, and feels a lot longer. Cactus Practice is a sweet tune, but again the odd words seem to jar. As a long time Tori fan I am used to her unique and often beautiful lyrics, but while these seemed to fit and add to the atmosphere on an album like Boys for Pele, here sometimes they make it harder to really connect with the tracks. While Tori's daughter can clearly sing and has an interesting voice, the duets don't really work for me.
It is definitely an album that needs repeated listens to be fully appreciated. I admire the uniqueness and ambition but it doesn't always fulfil its potential. I believe there is a great classical album in Tori Amos, but this isn't quite it.
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on 19 September 2012
Wow, I nearly missed this one, and boy am I glad I didn't. I was chatting to a friend a couple of weeks ago about tori's earlier albums and realised I missed quite a few so I popped on to amazon and topped up my collection. The others haven't had a look in, I just can't get enough of this album. I'm not really into classical music but this is classical tori style, full of passion and beauty. The production is fantastic and the other musicians really compliment tori and her piano without detracting from it. It has a great flow. Even the tracks which should annoy me work in the greater scheme of things. I was very worried about having her daughter on the album as it usually is abit embarrassing when artists do it, but her voice is wonderful and has a maturity far beyond her (at the time) 11years. They work really well together and I'll be interested to hear her in a few years time. It is a brilliant album, give it a couple of listens and let it take over.
I do just have to get this off my chest. Why does every album have to be compared to little earthquakes. Don't get me wrong it is an amazing album and it was the voice for me 20 years ago and I know I'm not the only one, not by a long way. But for crying out loud, it was 20 years ago! I was a very different person then, 18 years old full of hopes and dreams and pain and despair and lust and all the other emotions that tori managed to voice for us all. But just as I am 20 years older, so is tori so why should every new album be the new little earthquakes! Please let it go, celebrate the past of course, but also embrace the present and the future.
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on 20 January 2012
Will all the rubbish you hear these days, I thought I'd revisit Tori Amos.
I was a fan a few years ago but kind of moved away, but decided to give this a listen as I was intrigued by the reviews and the unusual (at least in my opinion) approach that seemed to have been taken with this album.
It literally took me one listen and I was completely hooked.
I find this a total delight from the first note to the last. What a wonderful, uplifting piece of work this is.
Fabulous musicianship, tremendous melodies and structures. I actually got the Sin Palabras version too, but that's not to say the vocals from Tori and her niece and daughter aren't enchanting.
You probably guessed I completely love this :) If you like Tori Amos get it now, if you're not sure, get it anyway and prepare to become a fan!
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on 13 July 2015
If you are even slightly a fan of this artist, you must have this album.
It might be her best work.
It is so well produced that the only word I can use is stunning.
So good I played it again after the first listen because I couldn't quite believe what I had just heard.
I'm really sorry I shied away from this album for so long.
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on 19 September 2011
Tori has run the gamut of possible roles she can play, with limited success in the last few years. Her stints as rock chick (American Doll Posse), lead songwriter in a band (Abnormally Attracted to Sin) and kooky song revisionist (Strange Little Girls, Midwinter Graces) just didn't suit her all that well. But like a girl who thinks the dress looks great then changes her mind when she gets it home, it looks like Tori's quietly figured out where she was going wrong and taken some hints from the mediocre reviews for those albums. I am relieved to find she's finally back to what she does best - piano-led and unconventionally structured pieces with mostly classical instrumentation, which change tones and time signatures as they go stalking, waltzing and flying through a fairytale with a dark side. The classical themes of these songs take me right back to the world of Peter and the Wolf, the Carnival of the Animals and other classical records I used to love as a kid, but you don't need to know too much about classical music to sense the rich colours coming through this window onto Western musical history. For lifelong Tori fans, the string arrangements recall some of her earliest songs like 'Flying Dutchman', then the nine-minute 'Star Whisperer' and the lilting last song 'Carry' are nearer to 'Yes Anastasia' from Under The Pink. Having the classical themes coming through on the full range of wind instruments and some well-worked cello is the cherry on this very elaborate cake. The oboe is a particularly evocative instrument, conjuring up winter woodland scenes and the wilds of Ireland, and it trips lightly and stealthily behind the piano as Tori (playing herself on this album according to the lyric sheets) catches glimpses of a pixie-like character called Annabelle. The unexpected introduction of new girl Natashya Hawley to sing these parts may jolt you early on in 'Snowblind', but by 'Night of Hunters' it's all making that Tori type of sense. Her dense mythical symbolism of watchers, dream-keepers, sailors and shamanism ('Cactus Practice') reminds me of Yeats's poetry more than anything, and surely an avid reader like Tori didn't set off without him on this foray into the mythical past of Ireland. With so much going on it seems about to collapse under its own weight in the opening half a dozen songs; the veering back and forth between discordant stalking bass piano riffs and soaring high-octave Tori choruses sometimes threatens to bring on a sort of musical seasickness. But this time Tori manages to keep the album on course and she has made what may become known as her best album since Little Earthquakes.
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on 25 September 2011
I have read with interest the reviews for this album, indeed one of them influenced my decision to buy it. Like many Tori Amos fans, I felt she had lost something over the years and whilst experimenting musically is essential for an artist, her recent albums (with the exception of 'Scarlet's Walk', which is wonderful) were somewhat lack-lustre.

Reviewers used words and phrases such as "dark", "atmospheric", "moody" and "evocative". Hurrah, I thought, let's hit 'One-Click', she's back on form. Alas not.

After my first listen I felt let down, rather like when you open a Christmas gift convinced it's what you've been wishing for, only to find it's a cheese grater. Before I relegated it to the bottom of the CD pile however, I thought it deserved another chance.

It simply doesn't work. It lumbers along clumsily like a wounded animal, torturing you with it's cries, begging to be put out of it's misery. This I did by hitting the 'Stop' button. It's a cacophony... too many instruments, not enough structure. To quote another reviewer, albeit out of context for his review was favourable, it really does induce a sort of "musical seasickness". If you are new to Tori Amos and looking for a starting point, you'd do better to look elsewhere. 'Little Earthquakes', 'Under The Pink', 'From The Choirgirl Hotel', 'To Venus And Back' and the aforementioned 'Scarlet's Walk' are all infinitely more interesting and enjoyable. If, like me, you've been a fan but taken a break, give this one a miss too.

In short, extremely hard work. Back to the bottom of the pile forevermore.
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on 4 October 2011
At times intricately beautiful, sometimes rather musical theatre, musically beautiful throughout...... I've listened through several times and whilst to begin with I felt it important to listen from beginning to end - I now pick out my favourite tracks and skip those I find less effective. I don't care for the tale that might be told here, that is just my personal response. I prefer to listen and make my own stories.....

I find some of the lyrics fascinating - and some other songs just don't do it for me. An example of a song that I feel might work well in a musical theatre production is 'Edge of the Moon' - which to me could slot right into Les Mis or Chess! Yikes..... is that a good thing? Perhaps.

Night of Hunters has a beautifully produced feel, and the piano is the best I have heard from Tori. I would like to listen to an instrumental version, it would make for a very enjoyable listen I am sure. I am thinking of the composer/artist Hauschka - who knows how to put really interesting sounds and arrangements together. Can he do a remix for you Tori?

My favourite track is Seven Sisters. The wind instrument and piano and production on that is just lovely....

I enjoy ambiguity and a little rage now and then - perhaps that rocky edge is not for this album and I miss it. Tori's voice is a little 'nice' throughout this.... Her daughter's voice lends an earthy, fascinating contrast and I like it very much.

Mixed feelings then. But this is a fine album to listen to - I hesitate to say tackle - grapple with.....
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on 22 September 2011
When I first wrote this review, I said I was a bit disappointed and gave the album 3/5. I said it wasn't really my thing and I couldn't get into it. I also mentioned if I changed my mind I'd come back and edit this review. But I didn't think I would. Boy, was I wrong! This album has since grown on me and my liking for it has increased exponentially. It is just an amazing work of art by an artist who still has a lot of talent, and is not afraid to try new styles, always increasing her creative output, unafraid to take risks. Part of the reason I started to like the album more was I started to listen to it a lot at work ... powerful but also comforting, it was the perfect CD to accompany my work. Then I went to see Tori live in Dublin and hearing her perform tracks from this live, complete with accompanying classical musicians, continued to increase my love for this album. I still don't like it quite as much as earlier to mid Tori ("Boys For Pele" is my favourite) but I love it very much, and I highly recommend it. My favourite tracks include "Star Whisperer" and "Your Ghost". If you're anything like me, it might take you a while to get into this, but stick with it, as - trust me - it pays off, and really grows on you over time.

4.5/5
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on 25 September 2011
Fan since 1996. Funny how one feels the need to justify himself before saying (spoiler) something negative on Tori Amos' latest output. I won't go into the whole quaqmire of how she lost it after she got herself a family etc etc which you can read all over the place. I did, however, sell all the albums she brought out after Scarlet's Walk, keeping Midwinter Graces, which has some gems in it.
To those unsure of this latest effort, I will say the quality is superb, the classically-inspired music and piano playing beautiful, vocals (Amos') great. But while having her daughter sing on her seasonal album worked in that context, I'm not convinced by her more extensive presence in this work. I don't care that Miss Hawley's meant to embody some wise, shapeshifting spirit from a time when the Goddess ruled, an 11-year old singing about "grid(s) of disempowerment" and "harmonic defiance" just seems jarring. The lyrics are the weakest point of the album, I believe. Amos has always had a tendency to ramble, as interviews show, but lately that has treacled down in her lyrics. Too ornate, too many big words, and really there is no need to prove you have swallowed a dictionary to get a point across. Simplicity, if anything, does the job. Good old Alanis Morissette has been speeding down that road for some time now, alienating people by the thousands without producing a single memorable song.
So perhaps next time Amos will give us an album of few, gorgeous simple songs instead of another essay in Celtic mythology and femininity. I certainly hope so.
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