Tori Amos – Tales Of A Librarian

Tori Amos - Tales Of A LibrarianReally more of a contractual obligation than anything, Tales Of A Librarian brings Tori Amos’ contract with Atlantic Records to an end and provides the fans with her first official best-of compilation. As with so many greatest hits collections, the main critique is going to be in the selection of material, though in most cases Librarian gives you what you’d expect; there’s a heavy emphasis on Little Earthquakes, represented by “Tear In Your Hand”, “Me And A Gun”, “Winter”, “Crucify”, “Precious Things” and “Silent All These Years”. Under The Pink is represented by “God”, “Cornflake Girl” and “Baker Baker”, while “Professional Widow” (wildly reworked; see below), “Way Down” and “Mr. Zebra” are here from Boys For Pele (what, no “Caught A Lite Sneeze”?).

There’s a surprising omission in the selection of songs from from the choirgirl hotel as well, as “Raspberry Swirl” is nowhere to be found; that album’s selection instead consists of “Spark”, “Jackie’s Strength”, and a version of “Playboy Mommy” that I’d swear has been, if not re-recorded, then at least heavily remixed. (All of the songs have been subtly reworked at least a little bit, but this is the most extreme example of that.) Perhaps not surprisingly, Strange Little Girls doesn’t make a showing at all, while only “Bliss” is drawn from the double album To Venus And Back.

The early era of Tori’s career – in some ways her most creatively energized years – is also represented by the Little Earthquakes-era B-sides “Mary” and “Sweet Dreams”, though they aren’t the original recordings.

“Mary” and “Sweet Dreams” were both re-recorded from the ground up for this album, and both of them receive a somewhat more raw, stripped-down treatment than their original versions. “Sweet Dreams” was always a bit of a jaunty, rollicking little number, with Tori backed up by the Subdudes, only here it’s arranged a little more loosely (though still with a full band backing), perhaps a little more representative of how it would sound today played live. It’s also shifted down a couple of keys, losing some of the original’s soaring backing vocals in the chorus. “Mary” has undergone an even more striking change, though – it’s gone from the traditional Little Earthquakes-style piano solo to a laid-back full-band arrangement similar to “Sweet Dreams”. And while I prefer the originals of both songs, these new arrangements aren’t bad. Just different. I’ve actually grown to like this alternative reading of “Mary” quite a bit.

Completely new on Librarian are “Angels” and “Snow Cherries From France”, which of course follow the same style as the rearranged B-sides: laid-back, with a small band, something that wouldn’t have been out of place on Scarlet’s Walk.

The whole re-recorded B-side thing bugs me a bit, because there’s something that would easily fulfill the contractual obligation and please the fans: Tori’s B-sides are a goldmine of fantastic material (in fact, while I rarely review CD singles here, I made an exception for some of Tori’s early CD singles because they were actually better than some of the album tracks). Not only are they good material, but they’ve become fairly scarce on CD. Surely a best-of-B-sides collection is waiting to happen somewhere.

Similarly, the bonus DVD of live material, while nice, misses the boat too – for years, Tori’s fans have been waiting for a video compilation on DVD. At least half of the tracks on Librarian have music videos that are just begging for an official release, and they’re some of the best examples of that medium in the past 15 years. Atlantic has announced and then cancelled a Tori Amos music video DVD at least twice to date; rating: 3 out of 4perhaps Librarian could’ve been a simultaneous multimedia release with these same hits receiving a long-overdue DVD treatment.

As it is, though, Librarian is a nice chronicle of Tori Amos’ career, with some interesting tracks that span the gap between where she’s been and where she’s going next.

Order this CD

  1. Precious Things (4:32)
  2. Angels (4:29)
  3. Silent All These Years (4:12)
  4. Cornflake Girl (5:08)
  5. Mary (4:44)
  6. God (3:56)
  7. Winter (5:45)
  8. Spark (4:15)
  9. Way Down (1:52)
  10. Professional Widow (3:50)
  11. Mr. Zebra (1:07)
  12. Crucify (5:02)
  13. Me And A Gun (3:45)
  14. Bliss (3:37)
  15. Playboy Mommy (4:08)
  16. Baker Baker (3:14)
  17. Tear In Your Hand (4:40)
  18. Sweet Dreams (3:41)
  19. Jackie’s Strength (4:27)
  20. Snow Cherries From France (2:56)

Released by: Atlantic
Release date: 2003
Total running time: 79:20