To Venus and Back
What was initially envisioned as a small-scale project turned into a big one when Tori Amos was struck by inspiration in the midst of assembling some b-sides and live tracks. In the process, this 24-track double CD ended up as the most ambitious album of the pianist's career.
For the first time, Amos used her full touring band in the studio, and for the most part, the chemistry here flows freely. The album starts strong with the band building steadily behind her on the album's captivating lead single “Bliss.” It's one of several cuts embellished with techno-flavors.
Sometimes, Amos gets smothered in the sonic rumble and roar of songs like “Juarez” and the beat-heavy “Riot Poof,” and she's better off when she lets the songs, as opposed to the production, do the talking. Venus includes at least two of the best tracks that the singer has ever penned in the richly evocative “Concertina” and the lovely, piano-based ballad “1,000 Oceans.”
The second CD was recorded live and shows how far Amos' onstage sound has developed in recent years. She gasps and wails against Matt Chamberlain's drums in a thundering “Precious Things”, gets too operatic for her own good in “Cruel,” but goes octave-hopping with style in “Sugar” and the hit “Cornflake Girl.”