Most Tori Amos music is for a particular ear. You're not likely to hear many of her singles on your local top 40-based radio station. But MIDWINTER GRACES, Tori's eleventh studio recording, is an album for everyone. Tori's take on the seasonal theme is a huge and surprising winner. There's little controversy here. Unlike some of her earlier releases, she doesn't mention drugs (From the Choirgirl Hotel
) or Satan (Boys for Pele
) or masturbation (Under the Pink
), but for once, that's a good thing in an Amos recording.
Aside from the simple and beautiful "Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht (Silent Night, Holy Night)" -- available on the deluxe version -- there are no traditional songs on this record. A handful are Amos-penned originals, while most are creative medleys or re-imagined versions of classic carols.
The album opens with the majestic "What Child, Nowell," which features the return of the harpsichord, which was so expertly used on Tori's third album, Boys for Pele
. It's followed by one of the album's best tracks, "Star of Wonder" -- a fantastic reworking of "We Three Kings." Both tracks will please Tori-first-timers and Tori-fanatics alike. As will the climactic Amos original "Winter's Carol (from THE LIGHT PRINCESS)", which celebrates the winter solstice.
One can hardly imagine that the woman who sang the story of her own violent rape in "Me and a Gun" on Little Earthquakes
and raged against secular religion in songs like "God
" and "Crucify
" could treat Christmas classics with such care and reverence without seeming like she's double-dealing. However, Tori shines on her reworkings of Christian standards "Candle: Coventry Carol" and "Emmanuel."
The most remarkable thing about this record is that Tori succeeds in delivering a truly seasonal record yet you would not feel out of place listening to Amos-written originals like the romantic "A Silent Night with You" or the big band number "Pink and Glitter" or the radio-friendly "Snow Angel" at any time of the year.
MIDWINTER GRACES carries itself with a dignity that many holiday albums don't manage. "Our New Year" is an emotional tribute to loss, while "Comfort and Joy" -- available on the deluxe version -- is classic, introspective Tori.
No one should be without a copy of MIDWINTER GRACES this holiday season. Order yours today! And if you enjoy this record, pick up a copy of Tori's debut album, Little Earthquakes
, or the best-of compilation Tales of a Librarian
and expand your Tori experience.