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. Continue reading →

Redhead with a piano: Tori Amos still commands

Tori Amos performing in concertLast night at Massey Hall in Toronto, Tori Amos gave a concert that proved she is one of the best performers around. Few people can command the stage like she can while seated all evening at a piano. Unlike some of her concerts throughout the years, no other musicians accompanied her: we got just pure, unadulterated Tori. She sang a host of well-known and lesser-known songs with intensity and finesse. I have heard Tori a dozen times or more over the decades. Most concerts have been exceptional. A couple have been decent or marred by muddy sound. Once I actually walked out of a concert. But the current Native Invader tour demonstrated she is at the top of her game, better than ever. Continue reading →

Songs that mention Prince

PrincePrince’s death leaves an unfillable hole in the musical firmament. He was more than a talented artist who will be missed, as we miss other icons who have passed away recently. No, Prince was altogether unique. One of the most brilliant musicians of the late 20th century, he influenced the sound of a generation along with countless artists. His awesome musicianship was an inspiration. Fluent in every genre, he could still get a party started with just the basics—a funky beat—unlike anyone else. Now that the big industry machine will greedily start cashing in on his passing, it’s helpful to take a moment to show our appreciation for his musical gift in other ways. My small offering is to recount songs that mentioned Prince and his music. Send me your additions and I’ll keep the list growing. Continue reading →

Unique greatest hits albums

My first forays into buying music as a kid were through greatest hits collections: The Guess Who, Three Dog Night, The Grass Roots. Record label contracts commonly require releasing a greatest hits album after a certain threshold of records, and they come out like clockwork if the artist or band is fortunate enough to have songs that chart from multiple albums and/or a large, devoted fan base. Such albums end up being obvious and predictable, released without much thought, sometimes sweetened with the bonus of a new song. But a few artists put their own unique twist on the “best of” concept, and those examples stand out from the crowd. Continue reading →