Saturday, September 16, 2017

Up the Creek with Tori Amos

Tori Amos' "Up the Creek" is the most striking song I've heard from her since the whirling dervish that is "Raspberry Swirl" from 1998. Springing from the fertile ground of resistance to today's asinine politics, it immediately takes hold with the unshakable refrain of "Good lord willing and the creek don't rise," a Southern expression that perfectly plays into the environmental theme and the struggle against "those climate blind." I haven't absorbed the full Native Invader album yet, but this is the clear standout, sounding both a tad folky and a tad electronic as her daughter joins in on vocals. It's a likely number one on my chart.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

George Michael's "Fantasy" reworked for new single

George Michael's first posthumous single isn't a new tune at all but instead a rework of a shelved track from the Listen Without Prejudice era. "Fantasy," which was previously released on the expanded reissue of Faith (and elsewhere), is transformed by Nile Rodgers into something that sounds current but also more of a piece with the smooth style of the song "Faith" than "Too Funky" and other later dance tracks. Michael's knack for killer hooks and beautifully layered vocals is evident here; it's a shame we didn't get another album full of this kind of exuberant pop music from him before much of his output became serious and stuffy. There's room for debate as to whether Rodgers has improved "Fantasy." The vocal distortions in the opening of the track and again about mid-way through are grating and nearly sink it right out of the gate, but the new rhythmic underpinnings are appealing.

Tori Amos' lost album gets release

I think the only time I ever heard a song by the one-and-done band Y Kant Tori Read during the campaign for their self-titled album in the late '80s (and until very recently) was on the old radio show "Future Hits." I distinctly remember hearing the odd name of this band, which featured a then-unknown Tori Amos. I had no memory of the song, though, which surely was the first single, "The Big Picture."

Timing is a funny thing sometimes. A couple of months ago, something got me thinking about Y Kant Tori Read and that long out-of-print album — might have been news of Tori's upcoming (now released) album — and the fact that I had no idea what it sounded like. Over to YouTube I went to check some of it out. Then, on Sept. 1, with little to no fanfare, it showed up as a digital release among the week's new music. Spotify failed to point me to it on my Release Radar playlist; I happened to come across a blog item about it. So, now I'm getting to absorb all of it.

The style is tough to label. It's had all kinds thrown at it — synthpop, hair metal, something like Pat Benatar — none of which are correct. It's really just pop rock with heavier themes that sounds very much of its time in terms of production; comparisons could be drawn to dozens of artists. One that crossed my mind is Jane Child. There is little foreshadowing of the piano-driven Little Earthquakes to come, but the closing title, "Etienne Trilogy: The Highlands, Etienne, Skyeboat Song," clearly signals the rather cryptic lyrical path Amos would choose.

The cover art is a hoot, with Amos done up like a weaponized dominatrix.

Released Jan. 6, 1988, the album Y Kant Tori Read saw its first two tracks, "The Big Picture" and "Cool on Your Island," become singles. My early impression is that these are the best tracks, perhaps followed by "Fayth" and "Floating City." So far, it seems like a 3 or 3.5 out of 5 stars album — a pleasant curiosity that Amos followed with a masterwork.