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Tori Amos—Scarlet's Walk

Release info:

2002—Epic Records—EK 86934



Ecto priority:


Group members:

Tori Amos—Bösendorfer, Rhodes, wurlitzer, Arp, vocals

Guest artists:

Matt Chamberlain—drums
Jon Evans—bass
Robbie McIntosh—electric guitar, acoustic guitar, dobro
Mac Aladdin—electric guitar, acoustic guitar
David Torn—electric guitar, acoustic guitar, electric loop guitar
John Philip Shenale—string arrangements, chamberlin flutes on "mrs. jesus"
David Firman—conducting
Scott Smalley—orchestration
Sinfonia of London—strings
Peter Willison—directing

Produced by:

Tori Amos


I'm liking Scarlet's Walk quite a bit more than I thought I would. The initial MP3 of "a sorta fairytale" that surfaced over the summer had me worried, but as expected the album version is far superior to the single edit, and even that is growing on me (though I'd die happy never seeing the video again—*way* too creepy for me!). I'm not too clear on how the backstory relates to the songs themselves (even after a session this morning with the lyrics and the road map that accompanied the special edition), but then Kate Bush's The Ninth Wave still leaves me bewildered in spots, so I'm going to give it some time.
     All in all, the album reminds me a lot of the studio disc of To Venus And Back, which I like quite a lot, so this isn't a bad thing. I like the use of acoustic guitar on several tracks (not a surprise, since "Honey" is one of my top 3 favorite songs of all time by anyone, ever), and Tori's in fine voice throughout. It's funny, though—for the first time when listening to a Tori album other people come to mind occasionally. There's a Happy Rhodes moment (you'll have to forgive me since I don't know the song titles yet, but I believe it's one of the songs on which David Torn plays electric guitar, which might explain it a bit), and even a couple of Emm Gryner moments.
     Right now I think the best song is "Crazy", but that will probably change tomorrow.
     I'm still absorbing this, and probably will be for a while. I do know that it's the best album she's put out since Boys for Pele. I'm still sussing out Scarlet's journey in these songs—the more I listen (and boy, do I ever listen—I think Tori dug up some of the fairy dust she sprinkled on Little Earthquakes that made it impossible to stop playing over and over), the more I see what she's getting at, but I don't know if I'll ever be able to put it into words to explain it to anyone else.
     Yes, it's long—it pretty much completely fills up the CD—but it only seemed long on first listen. It doesn't seem very long at all, now. I hear bits of previous songs and albums in this too, but not in a Tori-is-rehashing-herself sort of way, rather in the sense that she's taking bits of what she's done before and putting them together in a new and more powerful way. ( I've been surprised by the lack of commentary on the new Tori album too—but I figure that most people, like myself, are still trying to absorb it. The fact that I want to keep listening to it over and over is a good thing. I don't think I've liked a Tori album this much since Under the Pink. I was a bit worried when "A Sorta Fairytale" came out, because while Tori does play piano on it, it wasn't anything spectacular—but there are some great piano songs on this album.
     My favorites right now—probably "Wednesday", "I Can't See New York" and "Gold Dust", though "Crazy" has its moments too. I've yet to sit down with the lyrics and map, or even watch the DVD—but haven't heard an album like this in a long time—one that takes several listens to absorb and one that I actually want to spend the time with to fully appreciate it (Tori or otherwise).
     I haven't obsessively listened to an album on its release like I did to this one for a long time. I kept thinking it would somehow open up and reveal itself to me—but it mostly remained sort of obscure. It appears to be trying to be something bigger than it is, but I'm not sure it really is. Still, it's got some beautiful moments, and is one of my favorite Tori albums in years. (

"Scarlet's Walk" has some truly heartbreaking songs; Amos has remade herself into a racounteur songwriter, á la Randy Newman, while maintaining her Kate Bush qualities. Like Meredith said, I'm still absorbing it. God(dess) is in the details. (

Also good is the music! Yay! At first, I wasn't too sure and I still am not because, let's face it, I'll always prefer the girl-and-piano Tori from "Merman", "Mother", "Twinkle", etc. But I'm getting into what I'm hearing. The piano's there anyway, even if you definitely feel the bass, drums and guitar presence. There are also very few surprises for the Tori fan: no songs where she loses her head at (i.e. "Professional Widow", "Precious Things", "Hotel", "The Waitress", "Datura", "Heart of Gold"). I think it's gotta be her most homogenous record since Little Earthquakes and it also sounds more like that record than any of the others. Another good thing is that the album feels very juicy in terms of information and meaning, a lot more than, let's say Strange Little Girls which was much less of an adventure. I'm still processing Scarlet's Walk, but I can already say i love "A Sorta Fairytale", "Amber Waves", "Carbon", "I Can't See New York", "Virginia" and the breathtaking "Gold Dust". It literally takes my breath and replaces it with intense sadness. The second time I heard it I cried my ass off and every time now also. I haven't had this powerful emotional effect from a Tori song quite exactly since "Winter". Very amazing song, nostalgic. (

I like the limited edition set because you get the little extras, like the map detailing "Scarlet's walk" (which like Meredith, I still don't really get), the lyrics, the stickers, etc. The DVD is just OK, though. I was hoping for the actual promo videos. But instead, the DVD just has random filmed images and snapshots, which seem to be from the album photo shoot, accompanied by "A Sorta Fairytale," "Taxi Ride," and "Gold Dust." You can also listen to Tori's audio commentary on all three tracks. She talks about the genesis of the album, but it's not particularly illuminating. (

Is there anyone besides me who doesn't think Scarlet's Walk is that great?
     This is the first Tori Amos album that I would have to call disappointing (
Strange Little Girls doesn't count because I didn't expect to like it, and there are a few songs on there that I really like). Scarlet's Walk I find kind of lukewarm. This might have more to do with me and the changing nature of my relationship to Tori and her music than to the album itself, and I suspect the album will grow on me. Still, there's nothing on here I love, and only a few songs I really like ("Crazy," "Taxi Ride," "another girl's paradise," and "Virginia").
     Stylistically, I'm not sure which of her previous efforts it reminds me of. There are definite shades of the studio half of To Venus and Back, yet it seems a lot sparer than that album, the electronica gone. I also hear similarities to some of the short interludes of Boys for Pele. In some places, like the song "Sweet Sangria," the sound reminds me of her live-with-full-band concerts, and I wonder if I would like some of these songs better solo. "I Can't See New York" sounds like her live shows but also has intricate piano work. The piano is foregrounded in some songs and more mixed into the whole on others, and I like both. "Your cloud" has some wonderful piano on it. At first signature Tori moments—like when she ends songs on breathy notes or drawn out phrases that turn dissonant—surprised me. Like the curl at the end of "January" I just love, yet when she does it here, it seems jarring and out of place (I don't remember which song). But this is Tori, changing and doing something new, which I appreciate, even if I don't (yet) love it.
     On second listen, I'm really beginning to like the opening tracks "Amber Waves" and "a sorta fairytale" too, so I can tell the album will grow on me. It's an ambitious project in scope and vision, but musically and lyrically I don't think it's up there with her previous work.
     As for the packaging, I got the DVD edition. Like the stickers, like the pictures, but don't really know what to do with them, haven't looked at the dvd or the website yet. I like the map, and maybe people who don't really understand it are just trying to read too much into it. (Or maybe I'm missing something.) But I took it as the journey of the characters, and certain songs I could guess what state or region of the country they took place in. I figured the map also marked (although probably not literally) Tori's own journey across the country and about where she was when she was writing each song. (JoAnn Whetsell)

On my best of 2002 list. (

Tori is a great musician, and, on this album, a very good songwriter and lyricist, but she isn't a magician. She hasn't cast any songs that resonate like Little Earthquakes, her-diary-as-our-mirror, or that invite you to explore denser, more personal topics like Under the Pink, or entwine the listener as the tangled personal metaphors of tortured Pele did, or pull you into the separate worlds like those contained in each Choirgirl song. I'm not compelled by Scarlet. She walks along musical paths carved out of thousands of previous footprints.
     I've been listening to Scarlet's Walk every day but still haven't finished the album. It runs from the beginning to a few songs in, and when I get to know that section I add another song and return to the beginning. That is how I used to learn to play pieces (though badly, with a cat rrowling to get the noise to stop)—practice the first few bars, add another few, start again. This avoids being overwhelmed by a large number of new songs, as then songs blur and I become disappointed. Expectation is a bugger.
     On headphones my head isn't full of sounds in different places like usually with Tori—the production is two-dimensional, like a photograph with harsh even lighting. The trashy portable stereos at our place make the album sound even flatter.
     Not that I can play it at our house—one of my flatmates has a Tori/Datsuns (they're from his hometown) showdown planned; the guys did a mock air guitar vs. a wailing whispy girlie battle, and there is no need to encourage them.
     They like the map though. I love maps—you can be speeding down that road or exploring that canyon, just by peering at the lines. If I had a car, and it had a stereo, I'd drive to this album.
     Due to my listening pattern I know the beginning of the album very well.
     'Amber Waves' first reminded me of Meat Loaf, then piano cabaret, but despite those insults I couldn't dislike it, though no necessarily liking it. Porn actors are a thoroughly boring topic though (give me songs about gardeners and indexers). However, feeling lost, dreams shattered, that's interesting stuff for lyrics to work with, so hmm. The lyrics tell the story very well, a standard followed by the rest of the album.
     There are so many things I love about Scarlet's Walk, and then I dislike aspects of the same songs. Sometimes it's the struggle between the song and how it exists on this album, since like many I've strong opinions about what I love in Tori's music and the songs have an existence outside of the album version.
     'Strange' is lovely and simple (and predictable) but the subtle-as-a-falling-piano string section (wave your lighters), that John Williams approach to orchestration, is so trashy. I don't like the Rhodes, which makes sleazy 70s sounds in 'Crazy' and spoils bits of other songs for me. 'Carbon' has a complex structure and sometimes I want it to do the glorious pop thing that the musically similar 'Siren' does. 'Your Cloud' is a sleepy sunny song that is also lazy in the boring uninspired way—a languid jazzy piece with a melody that might have been made up on the spot. Reminds me of my humming when I get bored. Unfortunately I have to skip it, so I miss the Happy Rhodes-style backing vocals that have been mentioned here—I burst out laughing upon first hearing those :).
     'Pancake' was such a gorgeous fierce piece when she played it solo on radio shows, and here it has standard churning background guitars and drums, giving the song an even pace which fire can't burst out of. I'm not too impressed by her drummer, he sounds more like a drum machine than previously. I'm avoiding 'Virginia', the solo renditions sounded so perfect and it's haunted by 'Sister Janet', so Tori's sure to have layered the Rhodes on top and put a thunking drum track behind it.
     Originally humble songs like 'Wednesday,' 'Mrs Jesus' and 'a sorta fairytale' can slip by, and then you realise how wonderful the lyrics are, not flighty little jaunts after all.
     I can't sum up—I haven't finished listening yet! Much enjoyment, but no tears.
     I'm still listening to Scarlet's Walk non-stop—didn't expect it to be so lasting. Was talking to another toriphile about the length, which is my main problem with it, and led some friends to feel it was full of indistinguishable 'samey' songs until they'd heard it many many times. I can't decide which songs could be cut (to me 'strange' & 'crazy' are too similar and close together on the album, as are 'vegas' and 'sangria', though the latter belong together for geographic reasons, and other people love 'your cloud' so maybe it doesn't suck, hey I just don't like it). anyway, my problem is that I can't listen closely for that long, I wander off mentally or have to head out of the room to complete a task. It's too big in my head too—I can't hold it together or see it all at once, which is odd for a themed album. I still can't remember the tracklisting.
     Methinks Tori has embraced cd length, and not noticed that this is a technical expansion of storage space, nothing to do with the amount we can listen to and entirely grasp. (

I've made some comments about not being particularly thrilled with this album (and certainly not as thrilled as some of her other fans are), but I still like it. I think the problem for me is one that someone (I think it was Karen) mentioned a while ago, and that's that the album is just too long. I'm really into it through the first 8 songs or so, then it all starts to sort of blur, and my mind just drifts. If it was half the length I'd probably like it at least twice as much. (

Finally, a new Tori album was staying power. I haven't really cared for anything since Boys for Pele, and I didn't like that one nearly as much as Under the Pink. The last bunch of albums I would listen to for a few weeks and then would relegate them back to the CD rack where they'd languish a year or two between plays; I can't recall the last time I listened to either disc of To Venus and Back. But Scarlet's Walk has taken up a steady residence in my CD player and doesn't show any signs of relinquishing its position in there. (

Scarlet's Walk is pretty damn amazing in its own right. (

So what I really like about Scarlet's Walk is the rhythm section (especially the drumming. Very cool modern drumming and drum sound) and how Tori interacts with that rhythm section. If I recall correctly, she had just assembled that band at that point and she was experimenting with working within that framework. She plays a lot of Rhodes and Wurlitzer electric piano on this recording. I really like the slinky, sultry and sensual feel she gets on songs like "Strange", "Sweet Sangria" and "Pancake". However one man's slinky could be another man's crawl. ;-)
     On the songs for this CD, the essential elements seem to be her voice, the chosen piano (whether acoustic or electric) and the drums. They are all work together in a satisfying way for me.
     So for me I don't find it to be "the exact. Same. Pace" at all. However, I can see that point of view. The CD is not nearly as dynamic as some of her earlier material. (

I think it's a production issue for me. I'm down with mellow (Aerial might actually be my favorite Kate), but I can't stomach those organs or light electronics or whatever it is Tori uses on Scarlet's Walk that's definitely not the piano, that sort of flattens the whole thing out and gives it no dynamic range, to my ears.
     I'll put it on, and I'm like... Okay. This time I'm going to pay attention. And then before I know it, half the record has passed, I've heard almost none of it, and the pace of the thing is actually starting to grate on me.
     I keep going back and keep trying. I'm certain there must just be something wrong with me and me alone, since most everyone else I know loves it... And I find something to like about absolutely every other Tori album, even Strange Little Girls and Beekeeper. (

I love Scarlet's Walk because not only does it contain great individual songs but it flows along so nicely. Lots of people can swing passionate and angry songs and Tori is certainly great at that on her early albums but what I find pretty unique and like best about Tori is her ability to tell genuine intimate stories with her music. Scarlet's Walk is so full of those subtly powerful story ballads. It reminds me of Boys for Pele in this way and I have a similar love for both of those albums. The very aptly named "Scarlet's Hidden Treasures" EP is beautiful as well. (

Tori Amos' other recordings:

The main Tori Amos page

Thanks to JoAnn Whetsell for work on this entry.

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Entry last updated 2021-09-06 19:36:20.
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