Epic Records, 2005
REVIEW BY: Sean McCarthy
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 02/25/2005
Later-era Tori Amos has divided her feverishly-devoted fan base. After Strange Little Girls, Scarlet's Walk was greeted by some as a glorious return to the songwriting craft of earlier (read - 'best') albums. Others missed the freaky elements of Boys For Pele or the studio records of To Venus And Back.
Amos's latest album, The Beekeeper, marks her second concept album in a row she has recorded. While Scarlet's Walk was about a journey across America, The Beekeeper is far more abstract; dealing with hives, hexagons and 19 songs, tucked into six different gardens. Take that, Yes.
Scarlet's Walk was a stellar album, meant to be listened to as a whole. No doubt she intends you to listen to The Beekeeper in the same fashion. However, unlike Walk, there are some tracks that are instantly memorable.
One of the biggest joys of The Beekeeper is hearing Amos loosen up. "Sweet The Sting" strays dangerous close to adult contemporary, but her quirky delivery gives it a funky edge. And while "Hoochie Woman" may scare some listeners away, it's one of the more listenable tracks on the album.
With Strange Little Girls and ...from the choirgirl hotel, the piano took a backseat to other instrumentations. With The Beekeeper, the piano returns to the forefront. If there's an unsung hero for Amos's albums, it's drummer Matt Chamberlain. Her unmistakable voice and her virtuosic piano make it nearly impossible to mistake a Tori song from another artist. However, Chamberlain's clean, jazzy percussion has always propelled her songs and gave them a much-needed gravity. His percussion work nearly steals the show in "Barons Of Suburbia."
Amos stretches your CD to its capacity with The Beekeeper, clocking in at close to 80 minutes. Unfortunately, The Beekeeper suffers a hellishly drab middle section. Some fans have endlessly pined for Amos to record another Little Earthquakes. Ain't gonna happen. It's as likely as Liz Phair recording another Exile In Guyville. Hopefully, with time and patient ears, fans will be able to weigh The Beekeeper on its own merits and not lump it in to the category of "Tori's latest stuff." Even after the third listen, the sting's getting more infectious.