Tori Amos: Gold Dust

Tori gold

Performing since age 13, singer-songwriter-pianist Tori Amos’ prolific recording career bleeds into four decades and includes 13 studio albums, 33 official bootlegs, 40 singles, 65 B-sides, 27 music videos, and a five-disc box set. All of which have served to carve out her own unique musical niche as one of music’s most original and influential sonic architects. On her latest endeavor Gold Dust, Amos again returns to the classical music realm with her follow-up to 2011’s song cycle, Night of Hunters.

Each track of this majestic, career spanning collection (from the cryptic “Cloud on My Tongue” to the soul-baring “Maybe California”) was chosen by Amos herself and has been reinterpreted and framed anew within a classical setting. Accompanied by the Metropole Orchestra (conducted by Jules Buckley with new string arrangements by long-time Amos collaborator John Philip Shenale), the inimitable songstress breathes new life into each song as she dusts off the cobwebs of some of her most treasured tunes. Attempting to meld the past with the present, more times than not, Amos successfully improves upon many of the original versions (“Flavor” and “Flying Dutchman”), while simultaneously maintaining their true essence.

Titled after the closing track of Scarlet’s Walk, Gold Dust commemorates the 20-year anniversary of her solo debut breakthrough Little Earthquakes, and collects material from Amos’ earliest hits (“Silent All These Years”) and newer pieces of work (“Star of Wonder”). Offering up musical morsels for Amos fans of every era, Gold Dustserves as a musical memory box as opposed to merely a best of compilation.

Produced by Amos, this lushly orchestrated set is at times equally compelling and dynamic, plus effectively demonstrates Amos’ acumen as a musician, vocalist, and tunesmith (a scarce commodity these days). The album also underscores the classical methodologies often hinted at in her previous works. Gold Dust doesn’t merely look into the past of Amos’ musical legacy; it also displays flickering glimpses of what lies ahead, while reminding us Tori Amos has been anything but silent all these years.

© 2012 ForASong Media, LLC

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Carrie Underwood Blows Away Twang Town

Carrie live

(Photo by: Eric Allen)

I was completely blown away (pun intended) by Carrie Underwood’s most recent appearance at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena. Not only was her Blown Away Tour amid the best country concerts I’ve ever seen, but the country music sweetheart’s extraordinary gig was without a doubt the best vocal performance this eager music enthusiast has ever had the pleasure of hearing in my many years of attending live shows.

The show began with a video displaying a house swept up and swirling into the air and concluding with a replica on stage, which provided a red doorway Underwood used to make her grand entrance. Dressed to the hilt in a sparkling, flowing blue and black gown (analogous to the one which adorns the diva’s most recent platinum album), Underwood emerged with a radiant smile as she waved to admiring fans and tore into her recent number one single “Good Girl.” The evening’s nearly 2-hour concert was jammed pack with greatest hits from the Grand Ole Opry member’s entire catalog, along with a healthy dose of tracks from her latest album, Blown Away, as well as a surprisingly rocking cover version of Aerosmith’s “Sweet Emotion.”

The set list was loaded with enough hits to satisfy casual fans and die-hards alike, which laudably demonstrated Underwood’s diversified catalog and growth as both an artist and songwriter. The multiple Grammy-winning vocalist’s musical arsenal tackled some hard hitting subject matter including: cheating, abuse, murder, and of course, love during the evening, all of which had the enthusiastic crowd singing along.

Halfway through the set, a portion of the stage was converted into a makeshift hot air balloon, which rotated as it hurled Underwood and her band mates through the air and over the crowd, giving everyone in the venue a bird’s eye view of the country superstar as she belted out several numbers. Underwood was later joined on stage by a surprise guest appearance from country crooner and resident comedian Brad Paisley for a version of the duo’s hit duet “Remind Me,” which caused Underwood to tear up with emotion.

Throughout the performance, various rural images (akin to Underwood’s own hometown of Checotah, Oklahoma) filled the stage’s multi-angled screens, augmenting each number with a three dimensional effect, yet never overshadowing the music or Underwood’s dominant, pitch-perfect vocals. The evening’s encore was a gut-wrenching performance of latest hit single and album title track “Blown Away” (complete with video footage of a house being destroyed by a twister as smoke and debris blew across the stage, a la a virtual tornado), after which Underwood exited into what looked like a storm shelter, then the sexy siren disappeared from view.

Way to go Carrie, as you undoubtedly made an unforgettable impact on a legion of lifetime fans (including this one) in Music City.

© 2012 Popmartzoo