Amos, To Venus and Back (Atlantic 1999) - On her fifth
solo album, Tori Amos continues the breathy, piano-based style that has made her a cult favorite. A double disc,
with one album of new studio material and one album of live concert performances, To Venus and Back
finds Tori expanding her
As a follow-up to 1998's From the Choirgirl Hotel, Tori
intended to put together an odds-and-sods collection of B-sides and rarities. Instead, to her surprise, a bounty
of new songs began to flow. Says Tori of her muse, "When she does show
herself, she usually only shows me a glimpse, and then she demands that I become a hunter, a hunter of her frequency."
continues: "It became quite exciting, because we had no idea we were cutting a new record. It just grabbed
me by the throat, really. We ended up working round the clock and putting it together pretty quickly."
The studio album (subtitled "Venus Orbiting") was recorded with Tori's
"plugged" band, including drumming Matt Chamberlain, bassist Jon Evans,
guitarist Steve Caton, and Tori on piano, synths
to put a finger on Tori's style, which
depends heavily on images and Tori's evocative
vocal styles. For example, songs like "Glory of the 80s" and "Riot Poof" continue Tori's
sexual exploration. In discussing "Riot Poof," Tori
says, "The sun is warming, my man is moistening. 'Riot Poof' isn't about dry. It's wet. I'm puddles, that's
The second disc (subtitled "Venus Live/Still Orbiting") is a selection of songs recorded by Tori
during 1998 with her band. The live disc includes such tracks as "Cornflake Girl" and "Little Earthquakes."
I'm not as comfortable with the live album, on which Tori's
vocals tend to meander (Amos has a voice that you either like or don't).
Am I won over by Tori Amos? Not yet. But To Venus
and Back shows her strong points.
Payne, Jordan's Sister (Capitol 1999) - Malibu
native Kendall Payne delivers her debut album in Jordan's Sister. Drawing solidly on a rock
sound, the new album has winning moments.
Kendall wrote or co-wrote all 13 of the tracks
on Jordan's Sister. Explains Kendall, "I called this
album Jordan's Sister because the songs are like a snapshot of a particular time in my life when I felt somewhat
insignificant, when I felt like I was nothing more than Jordan's younger sister. She's two years older than me
and as with many siblings, there was some rivalry, some frustration and tension. We're much better now, and she's
thrilled that I named the album after her."
Jordan's Sister, Kendall worked closely with producer Ron Aniello, who also provides
guitars. Other musicians include Stewart Mathis on electric guitar, David Miner
on bass, and Matt Laug on drums.
Yet it's the songs that come through. "Supermodels" and "Modern Day Moses" are catchy pop numbers,
driven by Kendall's smart lyrics. And then there is
"Honest," produced by Glen
Ballard (who led Alanis Morissette
to massive fame). "Honest" has a similar, angry white girl sound, with a catchy melody.
Listen for newcomer Kendall Payne (who also performed in the 1998 Lilith
Brilliantine, My Life and The Beautiful Game
1999) - Ear candy and pleasant pop, in the vein of the best from Jules Shear. Who can argue with that?
Not me. Brilliantine is the brainchild of Dave Derby, who fronts the Dambuilders, and who has also played bass with Lloyd Cole. Recorded in Derby's home studio
during the 1998 World
Cup Soccer Tournament, My Life is English pop, with catchy riffs and polished production.
new album bears the same title as Pele's autobiography. Explains Derby, "I had the games on in the background when I was recording. Friends would come over
to do their tracks and the games would be on. Occasionally, when things got too crazy in the field, we'd have to
The friends who helped record My Life and The Beautiful Game include
Phoebe Summersquash on
vocals and percussion, Kevin March
and Robbie Adams on drums
and percussion, and Dominique Durand
and Rainy Orteca on vocals.
like "Better Life" to "U-Bahn Girl" to "Experimental Lifestyle," My Life and The Beautiful Game has an English
pop feel, with plenty of loops and smart backing vocals. Enjoy this easy slice of ear candy.
Tonio K., Yugoslavia (Gadfly
1999) - Studio rat Tonio K. (aka Steve Krikorian) dishes up a selection of studio recordings from the 90's on Yugoslavia (subtitled "Love Songs &
War Dances"). Ranging from polished Peter
Gabriel pop ("16 Tons of Monkeys") to Bob Seger-influenced rock ballads ("Life's Just Hard"), Tonio shows that he has the chops.
And those chops
date back to such albums as Life in The Food Chain (1978) and Amerika
(1980). Tonio remains a productive songwriter, penning hits for such artists as Vanessa Williams and Brian McKnight
("Love Is") and Al Green (from the "Michael" soundtrack).
Musicians on the album include David Raven
on drums, Charlie
Sexton on guitars, Susan Voelz on violin ("Practically
Invisible"), John Keller
on guitar and harmonica, and various other friends.
songs on Yugoslavia were
co-written with friend and guitar player Charlie Sexton: "Nothing Mysterious," "Dangerous Machine,"
and "Practically Invisible." Also included is "Indians and Aliens," co-written with Peter Case.
Yet the album is also laced with Graham
Parker's sense of irony and the bizarre, on tracks like "Student
Interview (with the Third Richest Man in the World)."
The 14 tracks
on Yugoslavia were penned at different times. Explains Tonio (who took his stage name from a Thomas Mann
short story), "Most of these songs were written over the last few years and recorded on the spot - some with
the hope that a 'commercial' artist would cover them, thereby making my co-writers and I rich, while adding a little
class and depth to my own repertoire."
Tonio continues: "'Murder My Heart' for instance, was written with Tina Turner in mind. 'Sure As Gravity'
was written with Malcolm Burn
for an Emmylou Harris project he was working on. The official demo (which Emmylou never heard for some reason)
was recorded in L.A. with Kate
Miner singing the lead. That's her singing the harmonies on this
Working in a classic Southside
Johnny vein, Tonio K. knows how to make his music (though maybe
his choice of art isn't as strong: Tonio found the cover photo in a Pasadena thrift shop in the 80's, and says that he "knew
the minute I saw it that I would always use it for an album someday."). A skilled hand, Yugoslavia is an earnest selection.
- Randy Krbechek © 1999
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