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Tori Amos—American Doll Posse

Release info:

2007—Epic Records



Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Tori Amos—vocals, background vocals, Bösendorfer, Rhodes, Wurlitzer, electric piano, clavichord, meletron, upright piano

Guest artists:

Matt Chamberlain—drums and percussion
Jon Evans—bass
Mac Aladdin—electric and acoustic guitars, electric and acoustic 6- and 12-string guitars, mandolin, ukulele, ebo guitar
Edward Bale, Matthew Elston, Holly Butler, Rosmary Banks—strings
Nick Hitchens—tuba, euphonium
John Philip Shenale—string and brass arrangements and conducting

Produced by:

Tori Amos


I noted one or two interesting songs on first listen, and got hooked completely during the second and third listens. "Almost Rosey," "Secret Spell," and a few others took three or four listens for me to catch on, but once they did they soon became my favorites. Of course, all the songs are my favorites, save for the short ones ("Yo George," "Fat Slut," etc.) (

As notorious grouch, cynic and music fan who wrote off Tori after Little Earthquakes, I had no intention of getting American Doll Posse—I'd already, with every subsequent release, had my hopes raised that she'd get (in my opinion, natch) her groove back, only to be sorely disappointed.
     A kind and patient colleague sent me a copy, and I started to listen to it on the way into work this morning. And, so far, I love it. Yes, imagine my surprise. As far as I'm concerned, this is not only the best thing she's done since Little Earthquakes, but it's the progression I've spent the intervening years hoping for, and I'm almost tempted to say that it...yes, it's the BEST thing she's done. And I didn't ever think I'd say that again when it came to Tori. It feels like an old friend returned.
     My only cavil is that, as others have pointed out, it's too long—in my day, this would have been a double concept album complete with booklet, poster insert and artwork by Hipgnosis. (

It's vital, creative and fantastic.
     The only thing you should be aware of as a longtime fan is the album's heavily performative nature. Performed through five different characters all understood to be aspects of Tori's personality, it's a real exploration of notions of artifice, authenticity, femininity, marketing, fractured selves, has a very glam rock, cabaret feel at points...the critic at Pop Matters called Tori's ultimate drag queen version of herself and compared the sound to Hedwig and the Angry Itch, which isn't entirely off the mark. Some of my friends have felt alienated by the absence of the bare naked confessionals with which they've grown accustomed (which if we're honest, are their own form of artifice).
     But it's a super rich sonic text with tons to explore.
     The high concept aspect may not seem to hold together at first, but if you're willing to put in some effort, all five women will become more real to's a concept that you have to come won't come to you. Reading the dolls' blogs really fleshes it out.
     Start by approaching them more as dolls than as people, and you'll start to get the awesomeness. The five women are more like costumes we wear to perform particular emotions/stories/opinions, etc. than they are actual persons with distinct voices or languages. In no time, you'll perfect your own "Pip" strut while you lip sync to "Teenage Hustling." If you're willing to submit, it's a kind of experiential social commentary.
     I'm kind of obssessed. (

I was a bored-by-Beekeeper and am enjoying this, though not wowed like some. Unlike Beekeeper the songs are diverse, so it's likely you'll find enough to make the album worthwhile—even if you dislike half, that's still 11.5 songs you'll favor :)
     You can happily ignore the 5 characters if you want. From what I can tell the personas were developed after the songs were written and recorded, so they're something laid on top, a useful tool for getting into a huge varied album, but you can find your own route in. I'm concentrating on the first half so as not to feel swamped. (

I was pretty skeptical about American Doll Posse, so I went into it cautiously, and was rather put off by the album at first. But, being a big Tori fan for so many years, I felt obligated to buy the album when it came out. And am I ever glad I did. I've been playing it almost non-stop in my car since I purchased it.
     This isn't a perfect album, but I'll venture to say it has some of Tori's best-written songs on it. "Bouncing off Clouds", "Secret Spell", "Digital Ghost", "Beauty of Speed", "Father's Son" are all great candidates for that also features some embarrassing and nonsense songs that can almost feel like interruptions...these are "Yo George", "Teenage Hustling", "Programmable Soda", "Fat Slut" and "Posse Bonus"...I also have a hard time with "Code Red" and "Dark Side of the Sun", because her voice does that raspy thing that really grates on my nerves..
     So, it's not a perfect album. Actually, I might make my own mix of it and omit 6 or 7 tracks...but nestled amongst those 23 tracks are some REALLY great treasures that make this an easy album for me to recommend. Actually, I wouldn't only recommend it but would encourage people to check it out. (

There are a ton of great songs on the album, but I find myself skipping over a lot of the songs. I would say the ratio of good songs to bad songs is maybe 60/40 right now for me, though I'm told it will get better on repeat listens.
     I do think I need to spend more time with it. Part of my impressions is colored by what I think is a rather silly and pretentious concept and cover art and the really just embarrassing opener track "Yo George." I feel the same as Tori (or whichever doll she's being at the time) but the song feels sort of trite, like a 13-year-old scribbling in a notebook. Plus, I do feel it's about five years too late to really have much impact. It's an easy thing to say NOW.
     However, I do think there's a lot to like about the album. Maybe I just need some time away (and maybe a burned copy without the first track) to really appreciate it. (

American Doll Posse, for me, is the best disc since at least Boys for Pele, and I might even like it more than that. (My fave remains Under The Pink.) American Doll Posse has some great stuff on it, but she desperately needed someone with a red pencil to go through and cut about 20-30 minutes from it...the 80-minute album is just way too long. (

It's definitely not The Beekeeper II. I did like that album—and I still think "Ribbons Undone" may be the most perfect song Tori's released since "Silent All These Years"—but yeah, it was time for a course correction, and it's pretty clear to me from American Doll Posse that she knew it.
     Beekeeper struck me as a meditation. American Doll Posse strikes me as what happens when, rearmed by that meditation, one decides to resume rocking the f—— out. This is her noisiest album yet (at least in the first half), and it's right up there in terms of humor and charm, and her incomparable spirit just shines through every measure. (

I need to listen to Posse more. My impressions of it so far are that it has a few songs I really like, a couple I dislike, and a lot I can't make up my mind about.
     I doubt I'll ever like it as much as her pre-2005 albums though. Maybe I'm just overly critical because I love her old stuff so much... (

while there are a few moments I love on this album, most of it I just find irritating, and largely unmemorable. To me, Tori appears to becoming stranger and stranger, just for strangeness sake, sacrificing piano skills and melody in the process. (

I'd been resisting Tori for a long time, for all the usual reasons—"Oh, she's just too out there," etc. This album broke my resistance. I heard some of the songs on Pandora and had to buy it. It's in my top of 2007 list, even if it's uneven—some tracks I love, some I just can't stand. (lotterose @ gmail . com)

Tori Amos' other recordings:

The main Tori Amos page

Thanks to JoAnn Whetsell for work on this entry.

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