Tori Amos in the recording studio

Tori Amos In the StudioI always enjoy reading about Tori and her music. Jake Brown’s Tori Amos In the Studio begins appropriately with biographical details from Tori’s youth. But the book’s real focus is on her songwriting and album recording processes. Brown quotes liberally from dozens of magazine interviews to weave a cohesive portrait of what went into creating Tori’s magical songs. You learn interesting tidbits, such as producer Eric Rosse’s use of plastic hoses and cardboard percussion to craft some of the unique sounds on Little Earthquakes—or how Tori’s tummy serves as a foolproof guide for evaluating whether a recording works or not.

When Little Earthquakes came out in 1992, the album immediately latched onto my ears and refused to let go. With its distinctive, pared-down arrangements and Tori’s uncommon piano style, nothing about the album seemed ordinary. Hard to imagine that Atlantic Records almost dismissed the album without releasing it. Label executives criticized it as unmarketable, as “the girl-with-a-piano thing is dead.” Fortunately for us, Atlantic launched an extraordinary artist whose music continues to charm.

The book makes for a rewarding, enlightening read, following Tori’s career from Y Kant Tori Read through Midwinter Graces (the book was published in 2011). I wish Brown had included some important revelations, such as Atlantic’s demand to replace certain songs on the original version of Little Earthquakes. That foolishness led to a magnificent song like “Flying Dutchman” being scrapped from the album and ending up as a B-side. (On the flip side, their recalcitrance gave us “Precious Things” and “Mother”—all in all, not a bad bargain.) A small quibble, though, that does not detract from enjoying the book.

Other books about Tori Amos

  • Comic Book Tattoo Tales Inspired by Tori Amos, by multiple cartoonists (2008). Over 50 stories illustrated as cartoons.
  • Sing Us a Song, Piano Woman: Female Fans and the Music of Tori Amos, by Adrienne Trier-Bienieck (2013). Explores the many-layered relationships between female fans and the music.
  • Piece by Piece, by Tori Amos and Ann Powers (2005). Explores Tori’s creative process. (Side note: I bought this book in 2005 with a ticket for a book signing in San Francisco. It still rankles me that Tori canceled the book signing so she could appear on “Ellen.” Oh, well…)
  • Tori Amos: All These Years, by Kalen Rogers (1996). An authorized biography.
    Tori Amos: Complete Recordings Illustrated, by Andrew P. Sparke (2018). Album artwork and track lists for most of Tori’s major releases, along with some biographies.
  • Tori Amos: Collectibles, by Omnibus Press (1990). A comprehensive guide to everything Tori: photos, recording output, promo items.
  • Tori Amos: Images and Insights, by Omnibus Press (1996). Photos accompanied by a treasury of quotes by Tori.
  • Tori Amos: The River Runs Strong, by Alexander van den Bosch (2018). Unsure what the book entails—no description available.
  • Tori Amos: Soul Searching and Uncensored, by Joe Jackson (2012). Interview texts and memoir about how the artist changed the author’s life.

There are also a number of lyric books, sheet music compilations, and album-associated folios, which I have not included here.

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