To Venus And Back
by Tori Amos, pop/alternative (1999)
WEA/Atlantic, ASIN B00001IVJS


This is a double-CD boxed set from Tori Amos. I'm positively jumping with joy when I first grabbed TVAB, although I'm somewhat disappointed that an original like Tori has to dipped into Cliche Valley by using Venus in an album title. The first CD is titled Venus Orbiting which has eleven new studio tracks. Venus Live. Still Orbiting is a live album recorded during the Plugged Tour of '98, and it has ten album tracks and three rare tracks performed live. A cursory listen to Venus Orbiting reveals that the Girl With The Piano that is Tori may as well be a fond memory: on almost half the tracks here, the piano doesn't figure. I would by lying if I say I don't miss the old angry Tori, but I also appreciate the fact that five piano-tinkling angry music albums may as well be pushing it too far. We can't spend our lives wallowing in misery, can we? Tori obviously has moved on, and by the look of things in Venus, I'd gladly stay on the bandwagon.

Track Review

Venus Orbiting

1. Bliss
This is a rollicking, amazing song with a heartpounding chorus. This is a back-to-basics heavy dance track, with Tori banging on the piano hard in the chorus. I love this track, a confusing hodge-podge tune about everythig from Electra Complex to sawing at the darned parent-children umbilical cord. Brilliant.

2. Juarez
This track sounds a little too muck like Cruel for comfort, the techno beats getting monotonous after a while. I have no idea what she is singing about, an increasingly frequent occurence with her newer music.

3. Concertina
One of my favorites, a haunting ballad about possibly everything (stage fright, adoration, tequila?). The music has an etheral out-of-this-world-and-into-space feel to it, and listening to it loud in the early hours of the morning is akin to being enveloped in a soothing black aura of utter bliss and absolute peace. This I swear, you're the fiercest Tori sings with almost fierce determination, and I can only agree. Tori, you're the fiercest. Brilliant, sheer genius, this track.

4. Glory Of The '80s
Definitely the most polished, slinkiest, and funniest song of the bunch as Tori reveals a mischievous side in her. She gets sucked back to the 80's, she sings, and attends a wild party of sex and drugs and rock-n-roll. This song captures the hedonistic feeling of being young and immortal, and there's a rib-tickling and absolutely inspired line where she wants to be cloned like Kim Carnes. I love Kim Carnes' Bette Davis Eyes, by the way. Who do I gotta shag to get out of here? makes Austin Powers blush to his root canals, baby.

5. Lust
A haunting ballad that, unfortunately, comes after Concertina and gets buried in the latter's shadow. Tori manages to evoke the confusion of tumultous passions using the vaguest, most confusing wordings ever. Now that's genius! :)

6. Suede
Tad monotonous and the unrelenting drum machine can drive me numb.

7. Josephine
Napoleon, upon the eve of the siege of Siene, couldn't sing this better than Tori. Yup, the Josephine in question is the Mrs Bonaparte, and this song is sung from Napoleon's point of eve. This track is a mesmerizing if brief evocation of the agony of loneliness, alienation, and one's mortality. It is heartbreaking to listen to the line Not tonight - the last thing Josephine said to Napoleon (or so Tori claims); this isn't the best thing a man can hold on to at nights, but it is all he has of her. Tori's storytelling ability shines brightest on this track, my favorite.

8. Riot Poof
Great swinging track, but it doesn't stand out, thanks to its rather samey-numbing dance machine. Really, Tori should find a new rhythm arrangement on that drum machine-synthesizer-band of hers.

9. Datura
Self-indulgence at its ugliest. Backed by a wailing dance track, she lists phrases unrelated and without any order. Brilliant? Not to me. And a very long repetition of Dividing Canaan towards the end is not only irritating, it smacks of self-pretentiousness carried overboard.

10. Spring Haze

Doesn't stick to my mind, this somewhat listenable track. Memo to Tori: new beats, please.

11. 10,000 Oceans
A perfect gentle finish, this disappointingly no-nonsense ballad has Tori crying for her lost love. I love it, yes, and the words are beautifully done (listen to her sing Sail you home... chills me to the bone), but it also drives home the fact that Tori is becoming more and more mainstreamy.

Yes, Tori's haunting banshee vocals can make a dance track work, but her production crew lacks the diversity in their backing tracks to make things interesting. When they are good, gems like Bliss glitter like pulsars. When they're bad, well, it's pure monotonous brain-numbing. The ballads, however, shine, and they more than make up for Tori's sometimes bumbling faltering in the more dancey tracks.


Venus Live. Still Orbiting

This album makes me so disappointed that Tori never come to Singapore for a concert. She's a consummate performer, and it shows: the supposedly familiar tracks are entirely a different incarnation. The "new" Precious Things is definitely the best, for I love the dancey instruments that add color to the whole violently turbulent track. Sugar sounds a lot like Bliss, but Cooling is beautiful. Tori, get over here and perform in Singapore. NOW.

Rating: 89


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