A Piano: the Collection Box set, Best of
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Out of print in the U.S.! 2006 five CD box. The unique and uncompromising artistry of Tori Amos, one of the defining stars of '90s music, laid the groundwork for the female singer/songwriter phenomenon that exploded midway through that decade. Her stunning 1992 debut Little Earthquakes introduced her haunting and emotive voice and captivating lyrical storytelling with an intensity and honesty that was breathtaking. Amos also masterfully brought piano back to the forefront of cutting-edge Pop/Rock, and over the course of her creatively daring career became one of the most influential artists of her time. Intimate, confessional, poetic, and defiantly independent, Amos' songs touch on self, family, religion, femininity, pain, and love with a searching spirit that translates powerfully into songcraft. This momentous box, spans the depth and breadth of her extraordinary repertoire, spotlighting both album versions and a sprawling tapestry of rarities. Rhino.
Top Customer Reviews
"A piano", the five-disc retrospective presented here, is extremely representative of Tori's career, if only because it chronicles both the progression of her art, and the extreme unpredictability that is characteristic of Tori. The track listing consists mostly of key album tracks, singles, demos, rarities, B-Sides and live tracks; with over 80 tracks, it's a more than generous serving. It beautifully demonstrates how Tori Amos, once she established herself as some complex musician and artist, fearlessly toyed with what was expected of her; while the instrument that lends its name to the boxed set remained at the core of her music, subsequent albums pushed her creativity to spheres one might not have expected from her.
Boxed-sets are usually a tricky business; they are obviously aimed at die-hard fans, who are always (myself included) the most difficult customers to please.Read more ›
Amazon.ca had the collection and shipped it to me within days in perfect mint condition. It has taken me months to find this collection in Canadian stores and even the distribution company did not have it in stock. I was worried that I might get some used wrong discs but I was very excited to recieve what I paid for.A Piano: The Collection
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
And wait until you hear the re-sequenced, expanded edition of Tori's solo debut "Little Earthquakes"! It's like hearing the album for the first time. The reconditioned sound is top-notch! And the four added-back-in outtakes are tremendous. I love it, love it, love it!
1. No covers? Tori wrote all these songs, with the exception of two traditional numbers. At the very least, "Smells Like Teen Spirit" should have been included. Tori does an amazing version of that song, one that Kurt Cobain himself loved. And it was heavily played on alternative radio back in 1992.
2. We get the re-recorded version of "Mary". Um, why? The original version is much, MUCH better and is EXTREMELY hard to get ahold of on CD. Besides, fans already have this new, sanitized version on "Tales From a Librarian," where it was an A-side (and promoted as a single), from 2003. Also, why in the world is the newer "Mary" on the "Bonus B-sides" disc? It was on an album, so calling it a b-side is inaccurate.
3. "Purple People" isn't noted as such in the liner notes, but it is an alternate version. Not as inviting as the other version, but still a tasty morsel. "Beauty Queen/Horses" is also an uncredited alternate mix that contains slight electronic vibe under the track, which was not on the original "Boys for Pele" version.
4. We get two versions of "Professional Widow," but neither remotely resembles the album version, either musically or lyrically. Kind of a disappointment, because the original album track most effectively relays the song's story.
5. I was bummed that "Humpty Dumpty" was not included. I think that is one of Tori's best b-sides. Such an mean-spirited little ditty; I love it!
That's it. All the "flaws" (for lack of a better word) I could find.
This collection is DELICIOUS. If you are a Tori fan, this is essential to your collection.
Thank you, Tori, for 15 years of soul-searching and -searing music.
On the other hand, to have a collection of only b-sides, demos, and live recordings would be to take many of these songs out of context. Particularly on the first disc, "Little Earthquakes Expanded," we have the classic breakthrough album presented in its entirety, with added songs not tacked on at the end, as reissues typically do, but placed strategically within the album. For me, it improves the album greatly, my one problem with the album being its relentless intensity. The added tracks serve to vary the pacing of the album, making it more listenable even as they lengthen the playing time.
Regardless of previous hits collections, putting all of these songs together in almost-chronological order ("Venus" songs appear before "choirgirl" songs, for some reason, and some b-sides are scattered a bit) is a tour-de-force presentation of a restless, wonderfully diverse artist. Though Tori Amos has a very distinctive sound, being able to listen to her career over the course of 80+ tracks reveals a lot about how she changed over the years, which elements of her music she chose to change, and which elements she always retains.
As can be expected, most people will wonder why a few songs weren't included (for me: She's Your Cocaine, Raspberry Swirl, and Taxi Ride), but it's easy enough to mix those in yourself if you keep music on your computer or mp3 player. And, for the most part, they got it right (for all the songs included, there is only one groaner, the live version of Professional Widow on the second disc.)
The sequencing is mostly well done, and the package is very nice. The cds each have their own individual cases, so they're protected. The book is informative and entertaining, containing Tori's trademark eccentric comments about her own work, as well as some rather interesting discussions about how her songs and different sounds came about.
This likely will not be the last Tori collection to come into existence, so hopefully a few years down the road we'll see more of a straight-up gathering of b-sides and hard-to-find tracks. For now, though, I think this is an outstanding collection, ranking for me alongside Tom Petty's "Playback" as being as good a box set as one could hope for. It should be interesting to see in which direction Tori will choose to go next.
1. No Covers. Where is Smells Like Teen Spirit, Angie, Thank you, Do It Again etc?
2. Just the rare and unreleased please. I own all the Tori albums and don't really need a recap (Though Tori points out that disc one is they way Little Earthquakes might have been, so that is kind of cool)
3. I have never liked the Digi pak, I like the jewel box. Digi paks wear out and are hard to deal with.
4. Now I have to find a place to store this obnoxious box. Sorry Tori or whoever designed it but I just want the music and the liner notes, I don't need another box to hide away somewhere.
WIth that said, this is a great box to give someone who wants some Tori and has none. It covers many of her best songs and her comments in the book are interesting and insightful.
I also recommend more men to give Tori a listen. As one of her male fans I like to compare her to music legends like Kate Bush.
Obviously die hard fans will have to own this one and nothing I say will change that.
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.
"A Piano: The Collection" (5 CDs, 86 tracks, 383 min.) brings an overview of Tori's best work, plus a wealth of rare, live, demos and previously unreleased tracks. When you get so much music (6 1/2 hours in total), it takes a while to digest it all, reason I only now post my review (I bought this box set the day it came out). The most enjoyable CD for me personally is Disc C ("Pele, Venus and Tales"), which brims with energy from start to finish (I admit that "To Venus and Back" is my favorite Tori album). Disc A is rightly devoted solely to Tori's incredible debut album, here titled "Little Earthquakes extended". It includes 4 B-sides from the singles of that album. Disc E ("Bonus B-Sides") brings just that: a wealth of B-sides, demos and other rarities (check out for example the excellent "Merman", previously only available as an internet download in 1999). And so on...
The packaging of this box set is outstanding. The set comes with a 60 page book, providing lines notes and album and track commentary by Tori herself. The folks at Rhino did their usual job of delivering a top notch product. After the disappointing "Tales from a Librarian" compilation in 2003, this 5CD box sets the record straight, and brings us almost all we'd ever want. Almost? yes indeed, despite the wealth of 86 tracks on this set, the box could have easily added a 6th CD with a collection of Tori's cover songs, of which she has done so many and so well over the years. Maybe there is another compilation on just that still waiting to be made someday. Meanwhile, enjoy this box set! Highly recommended.