Rhino // 2006 // 78 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Brendan Babish (Retired) // March 16th, 2006
A (nearly complete) video collection from that redheaded siren, Tori Amos.
When I was 19, I bought a copy of Tori Amos's debut album, Little Earthquakes, in a pawnshop for one dollar. Cent for cent, I think this is the best musical purchase I have ever made. Little Earthquakes, is not only one of the best debuts ever, but one of the most emotional albums I have heard. Though at the time I was somewhat self-conscious about listening to chick rock, this album stayed in my stereo's heavy rotation for at least six months. I just made sure that when there were visitors I played something with a little more testosterone, like Oasis or Morrissey.
Fade to Red: Tori Amos Video Collection contains all the videos from Little Earthquakes, in addition to nearly every other video Amos has every made (up to The Beekeeper album). Inexplicably, the collection contains only 19 of Amos's 21 videos. The two missing videos -- "Glory of the 80s" and "Strange Little Girl" -- may be two of Amos's more obscure singles, but with 19 videos spread out over two discs and a running time less than 90 minutes, there is no reason for these videos to be excised. I am not a Toriphile, so I am not incensed, but I am sure there are die-hards who will be sorely disappointed by the omission.
The 19 videos included in this collection are:
* "Past the Mission"
* "Jackie's Strength"
* "A Sorta Fairytale"
* "Sleeps With Butterflies"
* "Cornflake Girl (US Version)"
* "Hey Jupiter (Dakota Version)"
* "Silent All These Years"
* "Caught a Lite Sneeze"
* "1,000 Oceans"
* "Raspberry Swirl"
* "Talula (The Tornado Mix)"
* "Sweet the Sting"
* "Pretty Good Year"
Though most artists feature prominently in their videos, it is still interesting that Amos stars in every single one of these 19 videos. This is not surprising; Amos is a striking redhead with a theatrical flair. When she plays the piano she straddles the bench and gyrates her body in a way that would be unseemly for a less serious artist. When she stares into the camera her blue eyes look big enough to swim in. Any director would be foolish not to create a video around this photogenic performer.
But that's the problem with Fade to Red. While most innovative music videos start with a high-concept idea that the artist can be incorporated into (like most of Spike Jonze's videos), the majority of Amos's videos are thinly veiled showcases for her theatrics. Taken individually, this is not a problem. As previously mentioned, Amos is a spirited performer and a striking woman. However, while watching 19 of her videos consecutively, this formula can become a bit tedious.
Consequently, the weakest videos in the collection are those from her best album, Little Earthquakes. These videos clearly have a lower budget than those from her subsequent albums ("China's" production values are on par with a high school audio-video class piece). As a result, these videos can only offer Amos singing and dancing in front of various backdrops. Later, as the budgets increase, Amos continues to sing and dance, but she performs amongst more ornate set pieces. With bigger budgets her videos also begin employing extras to act out the song's subtext. This is a commendable attempt to engage the audience, but a rather underwhelming, straightforward approach for an artist with Amos's talent and creativity.
This is not to say that this video collection does not have redeeming features. Amos is one of the finest female solo artists of her generation, and this set is a great showcase for her music. Also, while the majority of the videos are imminently forgettable, there are two that stand out for their originality: "A Sorta Fairytale" and "God." "A Sorta Fairytale" features the heads of Amos and Adrien Brody (The Pianist) attached to a leg and an arm, respectively. Brody's arm chases Amos' leg around for a while, and when he finally catches her they make out on the beach. Believe me, words cannot do these visuals justice. "A Sorta Fairytale" is also the best Amos song not on Little Earthquakes, and it's good to see it receive an appropriately engaging video. "God" is probably Amos's best-known video. This is not only because the song was popular, but because the video features large, feral rats running up and down Amos's body (as well as across her face). The video is rather stylish, with lots of candles and dank locations, but really, it's the rats that elevate this clip above others in the collection.
Unfortunately, these two inspired videos merely remind us how open Amos is to creative ideas, and what lengths she will go to bring these ideas to fruition. But instead of constantly pushing herself in these directions she too often settles for mildly interesting ideas that could just as well feature Natalie Imbrulia or Michelle Branch. If you are a Tori Amos fan, then this set will certainly be worth purchasing. If you are just looking for a great selection of videos, I would have to recommend Bjork: Volumen, The Work of Director Spike Jonze or Radiohead's 7 Television Commercials over this uneven collection.
Despite the absence of two videos, and unnecessarily spreading the content over two DVDs, Rhino has still done a commendable job with this set. The videos all look and sound great. But more importantly, every single video features commentary with Tori Amos. While her comments are mostly banal (there's a lot of talk about finding the "comfort zone"), she engenders much goodwill by generously providing commentary on all 19 (and two bonus) videos. As for the bonus videos, "Cornflake Girl" is an uninspiring mishmash of incoherent images and "Professional Widow (Remix)" is just a montage of clips from Amos's video canon. Neither are worthwhile, but their inclusion is a nice gesture.
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Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 78 Minutes
Release Year: 2006
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Audio Commentary by Tori Amos
* Making of "A Sorta Fairytale"
* Bonus Videos: "Professional Widow (Remix)" & "Cornflake Girl (UK Version)"
* Tori Amos Official Site