Album review: Tori Amos Night of Hunters

by niesha davis

After a nearly two year hiatus, Tori Amos returns to the music world with Night of Hunters, a classical concept album. The September 20th release is Tori’s 12th album and first release on  Deutsche Grammophon. Taking inspirations from classical composers ranging from Bach and Schubert to Grandos and Satie, Amos updates the music tradition by putting her own modern spin on songs of love, loss, and finally acceptance and forgiveness. Amos herself has never shied away from being experimental in regards to the concepts of her albums or the musical arrangements. Night of Hunters marks the return of Amos as pianist and vocalist first. There are no guitars or electronics on this album. Instead, acoustic instruments like:  flute, English horn, clarinet, bassoon, contra bassoon, and string quartet give this album it’s European old world feel. With a whopping 14 tracks in concept it’s an ambitious album, a song cycle that is meant to be listened to in one sitting.  Amos collaborates with Apollon Musagete, a Polish string quartet, Andreas Ottensamer, a principle clarinetist with the Berlin Philharmonic, and even sings duet with her own 11 year old daughter on several songs. Even so, as a long time Tori fan I can’t help but feel abandoned by this new project. While there are still remnants of the Tori I grew to love and admire, none of the 14 tracks really speak to me on a personal level like her previous work. According to Amos, Night of Hunters’ “Protagonist is a woman who finds herself in the dying embers of a relationship.”  “Shattering Sea”, the opening track manages to bring the drama as Amos begins to recognize the forces that are pulling her and her lover apart:  “That is not my blood on the bedroom floor/That is not the glass that I threw before.”  Not surprisingly Amos’ 11 year old daughter Natashya Hawley sounds like a baby voiced version of her mother  on tracks like “Cactus Practice.”  Since it’s a rare treat for Amos to share vocal on her records, the mother/daughter tag team works, if only because it provides the listener with something new. “Seven Sisters” a track void of any vocals whatsoever turns out to be one of my favorites on the album. It’s an easy and spirited piano driven song that makes me wish I was running through a field somewhere in Ireland. It also provides a perfect segue into the album’s closing track “Carry”. “ Love hold my hand help me see with the dawn that those that have left are not gone/You will not ever be forgotten by me,” Amos sings as she comes to accept that she must move on from her love lost. While Amos’ voice lends itself well to the classical music genre, I don’t come away with a distinct feeling one way or another about this offering. For an album that is at it’s core about a break up, her voice is ironically void of any pain that one might associate with that type of event. While her voice has probably never sounded prettier than it does now, I can’t help but feel that the classical genre holds Amos back from vocally exhibiting any real emotions in regards to her voice. With more than 12 million records sold, multiple Grammy nominations, and a career spanning well over 20 years, Ms. Amos has certainly earned the right to do whatever she darn well pleases with her music. I just wish this latest album did more than make me nostalgic for the Little Earthquakes days.

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