Tori Amos – Midwinter Graces

January 01, 1970

(Universal
Republic Recordings)

 

www.universalrepublic.com

 

It’s rare to encounter an artist aside from perhaps Marilyn
Manson or others in his shock/rock genre who elicits such strong pro and con
opinions as Tori Amos. Almost since the child prodigy turned passionate and
controversial adult singer/songwriter/piano player hit a commercial and
critical geyser with the 1992 album “Little Earthquakes,” have music fans hotly
debated the merits of her work.

 

Now married and the mother of a pre-teen daughter, Amos
seems to have evolved from the tell-all instigator to the confident yet
comfortable confidante. We saw some of that in her May release “Abnormally
Attracted To Sin,” and we hear it again in the just-released “Midwinter
Graces.”

 

This new CD/DVD album – which might best be described as a
secular holiday collection – has 12 tracks plus two bonus songs that ideally
highlight Amos’ strong, signature vocals with just the right touch of sparse
keyboards and other instrumentation. “What Child, Nowell,” has the new age
flourishes fans expect from Amos, but they’re toned way down so as to allow
Amos’ voice to almost float on top of the chords. Those who recall the Amos of
old who was certainly no fan of religion will realize why any references to
Jesus are removed from some of the more traditional songs such as “Star of Wonder”
and “Emmanuel.”

 

What’s refreshing is that Amos is true to her beliefs while
maintaining the integrity and beauty of the songs. The “Rejoice” choir in
“Emmanuel” is arguably among the loveliest in contemporary renditions of the
song. “Stille Nacht, Heilige Nache (Silent Night, Holy Night)” is another
classic tune that Amos makes her own, weaving the lyrics around her
contemporary yet sparse keyboard interpretation. Yet Amos isn’t above having
some fun with this collection, too, showcasing her inner torch singer backed by
a big band on such tracks as “Pink and Glitter,” in which she celebrates women.

 

Although it’s not original, I have to join the chorus of
music journalists who note this is some of Amos’ best work. Don’t be surprised
if this album even sways a few Amos detractors to sing different tunes about
her work.

 

Standout Tracks: “Emmanuel,”
“Pink and Glitter,” “What Child, Nowell” NANCY DUNHAM

 

 

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