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Album Review: Tori Amos – Gold Dust

Photo: Robert Maxwell

Re-recorded with the Metropole orchestra, ‘Gold Dust’ celebrates 20 years since Tori Amos broke onto the scene with her acclaimed, flawless debut ‘Little Earthquakes’. It’s a worthy celebration as Amos has proved to be worthy of every bit of that acclaim – her exceptional songwriting skills manage to take in vast themes and deliver them without, too often, being pretentious or confusing and it’s this skill that has seen her please a constantly growing circle of devoted fans. I can’t help but wonder; Is ‘Gold Dust’ all about widening that circle further, or merely an excuse for Amos to add her quirky and bizarre pronunciation skills to songs that had previously escaped the net?

The first thing that stands out about ‘Gold Dust’ is that the much-hyped orchestra, the very reason these songs are going to transform into new creatures, is rather secondary. ‘Winter’ and ‘Jackie’s Strength’ are, give and take, pretty much the same as their studio versions. Admittedly, there is an added warmth to them, as well as ‘Cloud On My Tongue’ and ‘Silent All These Years’ that both benefit in some ways from the clearer vocal work in their middle eights. And yes, Tori does take the opportunity to work those pronunciations in a way that only she can.

A few exceptions exist, namely the bombastic ‘Programmable Soda’ that sees the orchestra taking centre stage for a minute or two, as well as the stunning rehash of ‘Boys For Pele’s ‘Marianne’ – it’s honest and unique telling of a young girl’s death is given an extra kick thanks to the powerful bursts of orchestral drama that enhances the beauty of the original version. Team Tori evidently saw the real standout though, as lead-single ‘Flavor’ encompasses everything that is magical about ‘Gold Dust’ and runs with it – it’s the perfect example of how this project has brought the intimacy of Amos and the majesty of the Metropole and merged them into a glorious production.

Relegating something into the ‘fans-only’ brackets usually suggests a disappointing release and this is anything but. There are moments of pure delight, but had you not enjoyed the original versions enough, you may miss the charm that most fell in love with and struggle to appreciate the often subtle touches that the Metropole have added. It has a lot to offer and Tori fans will not be disappointed, but for the rest of you, ‘Tales of a Librarian’ is, though now a little out of date, a better retrospective and a more honest introduction to the career of the most respected musicians of the last few decades.

Photo: Robert Maxwell
Words: Simon McMurdo

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