Tori Amos - Boys for PèlèIs it possible that the immensely talented Tori Amos stretched her stylistic envelope about as far as it could possibly go with her 1992 debut album? Or could it be that her subject matter is finally getting so “out there” that I’m losing track of her? Much of the lyrics of 1992’s Little Earthquakes seemed, at least on the surface, to deal with rape; the abusive element continued in 1994 on Under The Pink, which concerned itself with a number of vindictive themes.

So far, I am at a total loss as to what Boys for Pèlè is about. I really can’t decipher most of the lyrics. Tori’s got a penchant for all kinds of clever wordplay and secret messages, but for some reason I’m drawing blanks on a lot of the words this time around. Maybe I just haven’t “been there.” Or maybe she is straying far and wide of what originally drew me to her music. I really can’t tell yet.

Lyrics aside, Boys for Pèlè isn’t especially innovative in the music department alone; “Professional Widow” struck me as being a second dose of “God” from her last album, and I believe I would’ve liked it a lot better if it had been a piano rendering instead of the “funky harpsichord” treatment it got. (I’ll state right here and now, I just do not like the sound of the harpsichord. I don’t like it if the music being played on it was composed centuries ago or mere months ago. This album is smothered with harpsichord, or at least a clavinet trying to pass itself off as one. Urgh!)

At the same time, Boys for Pèlè does exhibit some intriguing new additions to Tori’s repertoire that bear examination next time around. A really jazzy little tune (“In The Springtime Of His Voodoo”) comes out on top as my favorite – it’s a real cookin’, swinging little number! Loved it. I also liked the very percussive “Caught A Lite Sneeze”, the first single off the album. The two big surprises were a couple of numbers on which Tori is joined by a small brass jazz group, and another which features what sounds like a southern gospel choir. Both of these elements are surprising to find on Tori’s music, and they meld with it beautifully.

Still, I found the innovative to be in the minority, but still well worth a listen. When Little Earthquakes was first released, it hit me like a revelation – it was like nothing I’d ever heard before. Now, here it is four years later, and3 out of 4 my biggest criticism of Tori’s two albums since her debut is that both of them tried to improve on areas that needed no improvement, and both of them retained weaknesses that could’ve used some work. Tori has never quite managed to surpass her first effort. Or equal it.

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  1. Beauty Queen / Horses (6:07)
  2. Blood Roses (3:56)
  3. Father Lucifer (3:43)
  4. Professional Widow (4:31)
  5. Mr. Zebra (1:07)
  6. Marianne (4:07)
  7. Caught a Lite Sneeze (4:24)
  8. Muhammed My Friend (3:48)
  9. Hey Jupiter (5:10)
  10. Way Down (1:13)
  11. Little Amsterdam (4:29)
  12. Talula (4:08)
  13. Not the Red Baron (3:49)
  14. Agent Orange (1:26)
  15. Doughnut Song (4:19)
  16. In The Springtime Of His Voodoo (5:32)
  17. Putting the Damage On (5:08)
  18. Twinkle (3:12)

Released by: Atlantic
Release date: 1996
Total running time: