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Tori Amos
A Piano
Five-Disc Box Set

Review By Steven Stone
Click here to e-mail reviewer

  Tori Amos makes a good musical litmus test. Common wisdom dictates that if you like her you are either a. female, b. gay, c. manic-depressive, d. or all of the above. I'm none of these and I still like her music. Well, perhaps not all of it, but certainly what I consider the "good" parts.

Throughout her career Amos has displayed a penchant for releasing not only standard full length albums, but also a constant stream of EPs, 45's, colored vinyl limited editions, special English pressings, and four-song remix CDs. I have at least a half dozen of these in my collection, covering the first several years of her career. Given this plethora of existing material what could a five-CD anthology possibly offer a hardcore fan that was not already available from one source or another? Plenty. The packaging alone sets a new level for artistic wit and compulsive fervor. Instead of a standard box or slipcase The Piano is just that a Piano. The top of the box has an exact representation fourteen white keys and ten black keys. You can't actually depress the keys, but they are nearly life-sized. When you open the top, which opens like a piano bench, you are confronted by a glossy hardcover book measuring 11.75" by 5.5" by 0.50". Inside you'll discover a 15-page essay on Amos by Lorraine Ali, followed by 31 pages of commentary by Amos herself on the songs included in the box, and finally a track listing with full credits. The booklet is lavishly produced with full color photographs, illustrations, and other visual ephemera. Beneath the book are the five discs, nestled in a black velveteen molded case.

The music chosen for The Piano displays the same level of thought and attention as the packaging. Disc A covers Amos' first release, Little Earthquakes, and includes four alternate versions and one unedited unreleased single. Disc B includes material from Under the Pink and Boys for Pele with four alternate versions, a live recording, and one previously unreleased studio track. Disc C has more Pele tracks along with songs from To Venus and Back and Tales of a Librarian. Here you'll discover four remixes, and two live tracks, one of which was recorded during a sound check. Disc D draws from Scarlet's Walk, The Beekeeper, and From the Choirgirl Hotel with three remixes and three unreleased studio tracks. Finally Disc E has nothing but bonus B-sides including several early demos and four previously unreleased tracks. Unlike many deluxe boxes, which offer little besides old wine in new bottles, The Piano delivers enough fresh brews to keep a fan high for a week.

Sound quality throughout The Piano is equal to Amos' original releases, which were audiophile ear candy of the first order. Even the demos and live cuts sound ravishing. If you are a Tori Amos fan you simply must have this box set. If you love beautifully produced box sets you, too, must also acquire The Piano. Unlike many anthologies, which give listeners a light buffet of offerings from an artist's career, The Piano serves up a full-course meal complete with sterling silver table settings, exotic seasonings, and solid gold napkin rings. Bon Appetite.

 

 

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