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Tori Amos: To Venus And Back

Tori Amos has consistently blurred, moved, or altogether erased the line separating absurdity and profundity, from her cryptic/silly lyrics to her daffy interviews, all the way down to liner notes thanking "the faeries." Thirty seconds into her fifth solo album, To Venus And Back—a two-disc, two-hour set split between short-notice studio recordings and a 75-minute greatest-hits-live package—she's already uttered the words, "Father, I killed my monkey." But her capacity for tremendous musical elegance, coupled with her tremendous capacity for cloying bullshit, is what makes her a unique star, and the former tendency overwhelms the latter on her fine new collection. The studio set is consistently as pleasantly accessible as the best stuff on 1998's fine From The Choirgirl Hotel, whether she's indulging in pretty, catchy, bleary pop ("Glory Of The 80's") or the ambitiously arranged, eight-and-a-half-minute "Datura." The studio disc (subtitled "Orbiting") would alone be worth the price of admission for most Amos fans, but the second disc ("Live, Still Orbiting") certainly won't disappoint, either. Often eschewing her biggest radio hits ("Cornflake Girl" is here; "God," "Silent All These Years," "Caught A Lite Sneeze," and "Jackie's Strength" aren't), Amos deftly shifts tone, smartly mixing lively pop songs ("Girl") and solo-with-a-piano ballads ("Cloud On My Tongue," the previously unavailable "Cooling"). For every brief moment of twee cutesiness ("Mr. Zebra"), there are four of five moments of lovely grace or brisk pop. There's more than enough of all of the above to appeal to virtually everyone in Amos' large, broad assortment of fans.


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