Being a rather rabid Toriphile, there was no question of whether or not I was going to purchase A Piano. Upon first glance the box set is really quite stunning. The piano shaped packaging is beautiful and perfect for a Tori box set. The included book is also gorgeous and full of interesting information and pictures, including some drawings done by Tori. Each disc is housed in it's own beautiful digipack that rests inside a faux velvet-like tray. My only complaint the with packaging is with the book. There were few very minor errors with some of the information, but what I was most disappointed with was the lack of a true "track-by-track" commentary of the included songs that I thought was going to be there. Instead, Tori comments on selected songs. Regardless, the commentary that is included is insightful and interesting.
As for the music itself, there is quite a lot to take in. But when it comes to Tori's music, I believe the more the better. And it really is about time that a true box set chronicled her career. However, some fans may find themselves disappointed with this collection as it does not offer much in the way of new/rare material, particularly if you collect Tori's singles and already have many of the b-sides. Also, the "alternate mixes" are not strikingly different from the album versions. With some of the alternate mixes I could hear the differences with the first listen. With many of them I am still struggling to find any difference. Even with the ones I did notice, the differences were fairly subtle.
Disc A: I am enjoying being able to hear the expanded version of Little Earthquakes that is more akin to how Tori originally envisioned it. I like that Tori decided to only use alternate mixes that were done in the Little Earthquakes era, rather than remixing as was done for Tales of a Librarian. But again, the alternate mixes are subtle in their differences.
Disc B: This disc focuses on Under The Pink and Boys For Pele era songs. I don't know what process of selection Tori went through when choosing songs to be included in this collection, but I find it strange that "Icicle" did not make the cut as I consider it to be one of the standout tracks on UTP. Conversely, I was surprised by some of the tracks that were included. "Take Me With You" is also a wonderful song that I am happy has now found a home. As for the BFP material, my comments are the same. I don't understand why some tracks, such as "Talula", were left off and why others were included. I don't mind the substitution of the Merry Widow version of "Professional Widow" for the album version, as I enjoy both.
Disc C: This disc wraps up the material from BFP and covers the material from To Venus And Back and Tales Of A Librarian. I am confused as to why there is another version of "Professional Widow" here (Armand's Star Trunk Funkin' Mix). This version of the song, to me, always seems out of place among Tori's other works. The unreleased song, "Walk to Dublin," is also a new gem that I greatly enjoy. The TVAB material was a surprise to me as I thought that Tori left off some of the best tracks from that album, "Juarez" and "Josephine" in particular, but included what I consider to be some of the weakest tracks. However, I was glad that the live version of "Sugar" and "Waitress" were included because of how much different (and better) they are from their studio counterparts.
Disc D: This disc covers material from Scarlet's Walk, The Beekeeper, and From The Choirgirl Hotel. I think this disc is really where the collection starts to falter. I was disappointed with how little material from Choirgirl was included in comparison to LE, UTP, BFP, and TVAB. It escapes me why songs like "Northern Lad" or "Pandora's Aquarium" or "Raspberry Swirl" were not included as well. Also, why only two songs from SW are here is puzzling. TBK also got similarly ignored with only three tracks making the cut. Among the tracks are newly remixed versions of "iieee" and "Cruel". Honestly, I prefer the album versions of both songs. "iieee" here sounds disjointed and choppy. While the remix of "Cruel" here feels like it's lost it's emotional intensity. There are also four unreleased songs on this disc. "Ode To My Clothes" is a funny song and I am glad that the booklet explains the story behind it, otherwise I doubt I would care much for it. "Zero Point" is a great song that I am amazed she set aside in favor of "Datura" on TVAB. "Dolphin Song" grabbed me instantly and I enjoy it immensely. "Not David Bowie" on the other hand, is the only unreleased song on the collection that I am not yet impressed with.
Disc E: This disc focuses on b-sides throughout Tori's career. Once again, I feel that this disc really faltered. With such an amazing catalogue of b-sides, I am a bit curious as to why Tori included songs like "This Old Man", "Hungarian Wedding Song", "Toodles Mr. Jim", etc. over songs like "Ode to the Banana King", "Siren", "Alamo", etc. The demos were interesting to hear, but with the exception of "The Fire Eater's Wife," I doubt I'll listen to them often. I would've rather had more b-sides or unreleased songs in place of them. The last unreleased song, "Peeping Tommi", is a great addition to the collection.
All in all, I greatly enjoy A Piano. However, there seem to be glaring omissions in what is supposed to be a retrospective of her solo career up to this point. Personally, I don't feel that FTCH was adequately represented considering that it was the album when Tori began experimenting with electronic music. Also, Tori's most recent studio albums, Scarlet's Walk and The Beekeeper, barely got a mention in this collection. Also missing from this box set, but perhaps not missed by many fans, are any selections from Tori's 2001 covers album, Strange Little Girls. Unfortunately, trying to capture Tori's incredible career in a 5 disc boxset is a near impossible task. I think this collection would've benefited from at least one more disc and a slightly modified track listing.