Karen Martin on Tori Amos’s Unrepentant Geraldines

May 23, 2014

Unrepentant Geraldines
Tori Amos
Mercury Classics

A stunning release from Tori Amos is not unexpected; who can forget 1992’s aptly named Little Earthquakes, with its dramatic pounding piano and deeply personal lyrics about not-for-pop topics like sexual assault?

Amos’ distinctively authoritative voice soars again on Unrepentant Geraldines, her 14th studio album where, among other subjects, the singer-songwriter boldly takes on the much-avoided topic of aging.
The best example is “16 Shades of Blue,” which discusses the artist’s attitude about turning 50 (there are some who say/I am now too old to play), as well as how getting older affects a woman in her 30s and another who, at 15, is considered to have waited too long to pursue her dreams, all played out against a quirky instrumental background.

Other notable tracks include “Wild Way,” in which a declaration of love is made with the unexpected lyric I hate you, I hate you, I do and a clever confrontation with the devil in “Trouble’s Lament” — Trouble got evicted/from the devil’s lair/I wager she got betrayed/by her friend Despair.

This is not dance music. It’s full of complicated key shifts, timing changes, an element of fantasy, and an emphasis on Amos’ sweeping vocal range that makes it hard to sing along (even if you’ve managed to conquer her witty, wild and sometimes savage lyrics).

It’ll take more than a few listenings to get comfortable with this album. But, like getting re-aquainted with an old friend whose life has undergone some surprising developments, it’s worth the time.

— Karen Martin

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