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4 out of 5 stars
Gold Dust
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97 of 113 people found the following review helpful
on October 2, 2012
Format: Audio CD
It absolutely kills me to give a new record from Tori Amos~~especially a record that is meant to celebrate her 20 years since the release of Little Earthquakes~~a lukewarm review, but I'm afraid I must. Of course, the music, engineering and Tori's voice and piano sound great. The problem lies within the song choices: most of which were already given an accompaniment of beautiful arrangements by her long-time collaborator, John Philip Shenale...so most of the original releases already had beautiful orchestral arrangements. Why not give classic Tori songs like Caught a Lite Sneeze, Crucify, A Sorta Fairytale With You, Spark and so many others the full-on orchestral treatment since they never had one before?

When listening to this record, which streamed for a week on a Polish radio station (I think), I literally could not tell the difference between this new rendition of Jackie's Strength and the original that came out of From The Choirgirl Hotel. And the ending of Precious Things sounds like a cacophony of loud horns and Tori moaning and screaming...and it just sounds bad. And, as LOVELY as Star of Wonder sounds, this song has no place on a Tori retrospective (it's off a 2-year-old release called Midwinter Graces and is a riff off of the Christmas carol We Three Kings of Orient Are)...except this Star already had a beautiful orchestral arrangement. It sounds lovely...and exactly like the original release from MidWinter Graces. It, along with Snow Angel or Our New Year would have made a nice B-Side, and another more important song like Baker, Baker, Cooling (recently voted Tori's greatest song, ever) or Northern Lad could have made the cut on the main record. Even though I think that MidWinter Graces is the most beautiful holiday record I own, I only listen to it for about a month a year. A full-on Christmas song from Tori's least-well-known record simply just doesn't have a place on a career retrospective. For me, a holiday song in the middle of a non-holiday record is like the whole flow just screeches to a stop...since everyone has such strong feelings about that time of the year. I don't want to think about Christmas in June. Plus, aside from Star of Wonder, all the rest are complete originals. If she was going to do one of her "re-imagined" songs, couldn't it had been Rattlesnakes or one of the other fantastic songs that Tori has literally made her own? Even towards the end of his life, when people asked Kurt Cobain to play Smells Like Teen Spirit, he is quoted as saying "Ask Tori Amos to play it... it's her song now".

There is a feeling of laziness surrounding this record that makes me sad. All but two of the songs (Flavor~~which sounds amazing and Cloud On My Tongue~~which has a tempo change somewhere in the middle and sounds too fast) already had orchestral arrangements both for a concert Tori performed with the Metropole Orchestra in 2010 and these songs already have the orchestral treatment on their respective records. A radio show was made from this show and bootlegs of both shows are widely available. This just sounds exactly like that...except for the groan-inducing decision to take one of our most beloved Tori songs, Yes, Anastasia from Under the Pink and chop it in half. I guess as curiosity value goes, one may want to listen to this new, shortened version of this amazing song....which is now about half as amazing as it used to be. Really, the only two songs to buy off this record are Flavor and Marianne... those two songs sounded the best to my finely-tuned Tori ears. Even the title track, Gold Dust, which should have completely blown me away sounded tepid to my ears.

I own every single record, boxed set, authorized Boots, B-sides and other retrospectives from Tori Amos. I will own this record, too... but I doubt it will get played very often. The only thing I really like about it is that on some of the songs, Tori does some excellent over-dubbing with her voice...something that, for me, has been missing off her last several releases. So I am delighted to welcome that sound back, but on some songs, the orchestra overwhelms Tori and I'm not crazy about that. Of course, all devoted Tori Amos lovers, including me, will own this record. I'd say if you are a huge fan of rock musicians doing an orchestral "greatest hits" then you will want to own this record. But if you are one of the people who doesn't follow Tori's carer as much as you used to, you will probably not love this record. But maybe you will..... It will be interesting to see what people think about this record... and as I write this, there aren't any other reviews from customers, yet, so we'll see how this record is embraced. I hope it goes Platinum, for Tori's sake, but I don't think it will be a super brisk seller. Time will tell.
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40 of 47 people found the following review helpful
on October 2, 2012
Format: Audio CD
This is not a bad album, it's just unnecessary and a missed opportunity. Interesting song selection - not just a greatest hits. But I wish it was more like Joni Mitchell's Travelogue, which expanded an eclectic selection of Joni songs to a full orchestra, really transforming them. Tori picked songs that were already suited to this treatment, often already full of strings - what was the point of "Flying Dutchman" or "Yes Anastasia?" They are not reinvented, just rerecorded. And if that's the case, there could have been some more exciting songs there at least.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on October 5, 2012
Format: Audio CD
In Tori's hands (considering her repertoire), this project could have really WOWED. But it seems such a lazy selection of songs to give this treatment to. As many have said before here - these songs were already orchestrated (for the most part).

What about songs like She's Your Cocaine, Professional Widow, Horses, Bliss, Witness, Waitress??? These songs would have really wowed anyone familiar with them already.

I do like this recording for what it's worth - I just feel it could have been worth a WHOLE LOT MORE. She has a vast group of songs to play around with - but stayed too safe with her selections.

On the plus side, this is a very beautiful recording. I do think she and the orchestra sound beautiful together. I love the photographs and packaging as well. I'd actually welcome a second volume of songs given this treatment - just ones that challenge her and the arranger a bit more.
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on November 21, 2012
Format: Audio CDVerified Purchase
This is probably the lowest score I've ever given a Tori record. I'm a HUGE fan. I like all her albums, but some more than others, of course. This one is a huge step down from her magnificently brilliant previous album 'Night of Hunters.'

Her stated intention for this album, in her own words: "20 years ago, when Little Earthquakes was released in the states, I was touring alone with just a piano on stage. A passion I remember having was to play these songs one day with an orchestra." Basically, the whole point of the album was to explore adding a symphonic orchestra to songs from her catalog.

Here's what sucks: Eight of the 14 songs chosen ALREADY had the 'symphonic treatment.' It's pointless. Sure, if you listen closely, you can tell that the orchestral elements have been "amped up" in the songs that already had an orchestra in their original version ("Winter" and "Marianne" come to mind.) But, that's like eating the exact same hamburguer and just adding a little ketchup. Why not take songs like "Raspberry Swirl," or "Liquid Diamonds," or "Space Dog" and re-imagine them with an orchestra? Go for it, grab some oddities from your catalog which had NO symphonic elements, and rework them with the orchestra. But no, we get reheated versions of old songs.

I can't hate Tori, though, and the album is not a complete failure by any means. "Flavor" and "Precious Things" certainly are different (even if the latter is a bit of a disappointment. Symphonic orchestras do have percussion, you know? I kept waiting for it to bang in, but it doesn't enter at all until the end.)

At least I get two songs ("Flying Dutchman" and "Snow Cherries from France") that I wasn't familiar with because I don't have all her singles, nor her compilation 'Tales from a Librarian.'

Overall, like another reviewer said, it's a missed opportunity. She could've made some really unpredictable choices and make our jaws drop. Instead, she gave us 8 songs we've heard before, with very slight alterations, and 6 others that redeem the album somewhat because of a truly surprising arrangement, or because they weren't part of any of her main releases.

It's a love/hate with this one for me. I can certainly listen to it and enjoy it, but at the same time I feel a little bit cheated. *sigh*
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on October 15, 2012
Format: Audio CDVerified Purchase
I would have preferred to have heard strong, long-forgotten songs like "Professional Widow," "Playboy Mommy" and "Past The Mission" given the orchestral treatment rather than be subjected to tired re-treads of "Precious Things"," "Jackie's Strength" and "Snow Cherries From France." It would have been interesting to have heard a song or two selected from her much-maligned, largely forgotten debut album "Y Kant Tori Read." Amos seems more disdainful of that album than anyone else, but it is a collection of mostly good songs marred only by the late 1980s production values which make it sound dated. The "Etienne" trilogy could have sounded absolutely beautiful with an updated musical arrangement--God knows I did not need to hear "Winter" again!

A few new takes on old B-sides like "Sister Named Desire," "Cooling" and her cover of "Famous Blue Raincoat" would also have made welcome additions.

Anyone who would like to hear classic songs transformed by orchestral arrangements should check out Joni Mitchell's albums "Both Sides Now" and "Travelogue." I would not have wished for Amos to make a carbon copy of either album but I do wish she had listened to them and been inspired to make something entirely new of her old songs--the only one that sounds radically different from its original incarnation is "Yes, Anastasia."

"Gold Dust" is perfectly pleasant and, yes--I can hear the differences between these versions of her songs and the originals. But they are far too subtle to be truly arresting. This album represents a missed opportunity and I would love to hear Amos try out the concept again in earnest one day. If she ever does, I hope that she will take more risks in both her choice of songs and their musical arrangements.

In the meantime, I will dig out my copy of Mitchell's "Travelogue" and play it tonight.
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18 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on October 3, 2012
Format: Audio CD
When I read about the concept of Gold Dust, I was very excited. When I read the tracklist, I was a bit perplexed but still very much interested. After a few listens, I agree with others have who pointed out that some of the song choices are very unnecessary. I understand that "Winter" is a great song and a fan favorite, but it sounds almost like it did two decades ago. I have a soft spot for "Programmable Soda," so I was glad to see it included, but again, it essentially sounds almost like it does on American Doll Posse.

The album has certain moments that stand out: the opening of "Yes, Anastasia," the "circles" on "Cloud on My Tongue," "Flavor" as a whole, and the arrangement on "Star of Wonder." Do they make up for the rest of the tracks? Unforunately, no. Tori definitely missed the chance to re-invent some of her songs. I would have loved to hear "Raspberry Swirl," "Teenage Hustling," "God," or "Cruel" in an orchestral setting. If Tori's performance of "Cruel" on the Night of Hunters tour is any indication, the album would have been a lot more exciting.

This is the kind of album you own if you are a big Tori fan and as a rule, need to have everything she has released. It's nice to revisit most of the songs, and I'm enjoying myself listening to it. In a month, however, I will be looking forward to Tori's next release. If you are actually interested in listening to Tori Amos in a similar musical setting, I would recommend Tori's last studio release, "Night of Hunters." Songs like "Shattering Sea" and "Carry" are better than the "Gold Dust" album overall, which is kind of sad.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on January 9, 2013
Format: Audio CDVerified Purchase
What do you get when a 49-year-old Tori Amos revisits some of her 29-year-old angst ridden classics with a mixture of some modern Tori ballads reflecting her unorthodox views on life? An album that is both necessary and unnecessary, over polished and overproduced, yet breathtakingly heartbreaking on so many degrees. There's a few good examples. Take for instance, "Cloud on My Tongue." What was once back in 1994 almost limited to the piano and filled with Tori's voice, then strong with willpower, shockingly natural and honest, has been watered down to the basics with 49-year-old Tori that almost sounds like a cover song, her voice is so perfected and professional. It's a testimony to her genius and talent that at a mature age her voice has grown in an articulate sense. The words are pronounced with conviction and clarity but without the original feeling that left us Tori fanatics us able to sink into these songs and reflect upon our own lives, even if we couldn't understand what she was saying. Now she's saying the same things, only it's like our mother is reading it to us.

There are some mistakes on "Cloud on My Tongue." The chorus of Tori(s) singing "circles and circles and circles again," is almost cringe worthy. But then, her new interpretation of "over the bridge now" especially the pronunciation on "now" is shockingly beautiful. The additional notes she plays on the piano intro to "Jackie's Strength," lends something new to this masterpiece of hers. "Flying Dutchman" is revisited exceptionally well. While most tracks do sound similar to the originals (especially as many pointed out "Programmable Soda") what can we really expect if we think about it? What's disappointing is Tori's butchering of the heart stopping "Yes Anastasia" (some have called it her greatest masterpiece, her Beethoven's fifth). The raw piano and crackling, stunning vocals on this originally nine-plus minute song from "Under the Pink," was so innovative and breathtaking that it feels shameful to have this song cut in half and overpowered by the orchestra. What's also disappointing is that Tori is unable (or unwilling) to deliver the climax to "Anastasia" with "we'll see" like she originally did. Likewise, her vocals are weak on "Precious Things." If you want to hear the most stunning rendition of this amazing song, listen to her "Live in Montréal" with nothing other than a rattling, bone shaking voice and the piano ("giiirrrrrrlllls!!!!").

Nonetheless, overproduction and what I find to be an underused orchestra that lends little to the songs aside, there is some comfort in hearing Tori, now middle-aged, revisit these classics. Just a couple of notes added to the piano intro to "Silent All These Years" is amazing; this rendition is so beautifully raw it almost brought me to tears to hear her sing this again. As did the emotion in the heart-stopping "Marianne". Overall, Tori may be suffering from a midlife crisis, but emerging yourself into her incomparable music is always worth it.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on December 27, 2012
Format: Audio CD
Tori's skill as pianist has grown since the original releases of these songs. Her musical-craft is superb, and as a musician her technical skill has never been stronger. Her creativity and originality wellspring seems to be a wee bit on the dry side in recent years. As is evidenced by this rehashing of her former glories. Following hard on the heels of "Night of the Hunters," "Gold Dust" is an orchestral reboot of Tori's greatest hits. "Gold Dust" is a cogent, if not very revolutionary idea that is often poorly executed. Tori fans are rabid enough to purchase anything their Siren Goddess puts out and based on her stunning creativity from the 90's I always check out her new releases. However, with the exception of "American Doll Posse" and "Night of the Hunters," I've not cared for any of her full album releases in the last decade.

"Gold Dust" is, for me, a mixed bag. I like the last third of the album from "Programmable Soda" onward it's fantastic. However, that is only four songs out of fourteen.

She's murdered the icy ethereal chill of "Yes, Anastasia" by softening up the arrangement with the addition of the orchestra, which was hardly necessary since the original already included one that did it much more sparsely in tune with the song's eerie charm. "Jackie's Strength" with all of its junior high school allusions is another odd choice for orchestration - it just doesn't match. "Cloud on my Tongue," is one of my all-time favorite Tori tunes, and it sounded rather hopeful for most of the song, until Tori unpacked her (much overused in the last decade) frooty-loops chorus of her own pre-recorded backup vocals and sank the whole song. Ditto for "Precious Things." "Star of Wonder" is nice. "Winter" is another absurd choice for this compilation since it is so similar to the original that it is simply unnecessary here. "Flying Dutchman" is another personal favorite that is, again essentially unchanged from its original. "Programmable Soda," is super fun, and improves dramatically on the original, which was already great. Definitely the pick of the litter here. "Snow Cherries From France" is great as well. "Marrianne" has a few dramatic tweaks and is absolutely lovely, warm, and one of the few genuinely heart-felt performances on the album. "Silent All These Years" is well-done and pleasing, though not radically different. "Girl Disappearing" is fantastic and ends the album on a high note.

Tori's performance on these songs for the first two-thirds of the album is subpar. I mostly felt as if her vocal tone was that of someone whose told the same tall tale so many times, that their own performance had morphed into kitsch parody of themselves. The passion, interest, and commitment are simply not present in her voice for the first two-thirds of the album. I'd recommend streaming this album for a listen and then purchasing the tracks you want. With a few diamonds in the rough, "Gold Dust" is ultimately a failed attempt, that as an entire album will only be digestible to hard-core Tori-philes.
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11 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on October 7, 2012
Format: MP3 Music
Dame Edith Sitwell (1887-1964) was a British poet who experienced two prolonged periods of fame during her lifetime: the first, in the 1920s, when she initially published her innovative Modernist verse, edited the 'Wheels' poetry anthology, and created the performance piece 'Facade,' and the second, during the years of World War II and after, when she converted to Catholicism and shifted the focus of her poetry from the fanciful to the hard realities of human nature.

Sitwell was also wrote several non-fiction bestsellers, a novel, was a successful lecturer in America as well as Europe, and acted as muse for several painters of renown.

But during the latter part of her life, Sitwell, as her biographer Victoria Glendinning underscores, "simply published too much." In addition to new volumes such as 'Gardeners & Astronomers' (1953) and 'Music & Ceremonies (1963), Sitwell published a 'Poems of Edith Sitwell,' a 'Collected Poems of Edith Sitwell', a 'Selected Poems of Edith Sitwell,' a 'Complete Poems of Edith Sitwell,' added multiple entries of her own work to the massive anthologies of British verse she was chronically commissioned to edit, and, to complicate matters, altered her poems from all periods as she saw fit from edition to edition and anthology to anthology.

Perhaps at least partially as a result of these indulgences, today, Edith Sitwell and her work have fallen into almost complete obscurity. Except for sporadic and seemingly arbitrary appearances, her poems are little read, almost always out of print, and, sadly, none of her work appears in current comprehensive surveys of 20th century British verse.

In the last ten years, Tori Amos has, in addition to numerous albums of new material, released the 20-song compilation 'Tales of A Librarian' (2003), the massive 86-track collection, 'A Piano: The Collection' (2006), and no less than twenty-seven (27) albums recorded live on tour in the wake of 2007's 'American Doll Posse' (2007) and sold only on an MP3 file basis.

To compound matters, the typical Amos album of new material may include anywhere from 13 to 23 tracks.

Amos has been, to paraphrase Glendinning, "simply releasing too much."

'Gold Dust' (2012) is a beautifully-produced but fairly superfluous album of re-recorded and orchestrated Amos songs, the selection of which spans her career.

After the artistic and critical success of Amos' "21st century song cycle," 'Night of Hunters' (2011), which featured extended Amos compositions based on established pieces of classical music, similarly-orchestrated versions of some of her own songs might have seemed like a logical move; but in light of the absolute deluge of releases outlined above, 'Gold Dust' was a miscalculation, especially since some of the tracks barely seem altered at all. And as some of the tracks were already orchestrated in their original form, why were they selected for inclusion here?

Additionally, Amos has selected an apparent hodgepodge of songs (as was perhaps inevitable), from Amos 'certified classics' such as 'Winter,' 'Silent All These Years,' 'Cloud on My Tongue,' and 'Yes, Anastasia' to oddities like 'Programmable Soda' and secondary-at-best pieces like 'Snow Cherries From France' and 'Girl Disappearing.'

The overall effect is rather flat and undynamic, as the dull blasts of recognition and repetition strike the listener; 'Gold Dust,' sadly, comes off as the sort of album an older relative might overhear playing and comment, "That's nice, dear."

Amos has stumbled creatively before, which is absolutely her right as an individual and creative personality, and is to be expected of all artists. But even comparatively weak albums like 'The Beekeeper' (2005) and 'American Doll Posse' included some stunning tracks, such as 'Original Sinsuality,' 'Marys of the Seas,' 'Toast,' 'Bouncing Off Clouds,' 'Digital Ghost,' and 'You Can Bring Your Dog.'

'Gold Dust,' on the other hand, really offers nothing to fans not heard before, figuratively and almost literally.

The final lesson of Gold Dust' seems to be that, yes, there is such an animal as "too much of a good thing."
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on October 30, 2012
Format: Audio CD
Reading the negative reviews of this album, I can't help but notice that those disappointed by the record are hardcore Tori fans. That isn't meant as some sort of challenge or putdown. It's a testament to Tori's talent and songwriting that she has such a rabid fanbase.
As for me, I loved 'Little Earthquakes' twenty years ago and the follow-up, 'Under the Pink', but for some reason, Tori and I lost touch after that. I blame myself, for she is truly an artist of the highest order.
Listening to 'Gold Dust' tonight, I am once again awestruck by her talent, and those songs I loved twenty years ago are fresh as re-imagined with accompanying orchestra. No, they are not drastically different, but to ears imprinted with the original versions they are lush and beautiful.
I can't speak to the other songs included, at least why they were chosen, but I find them beautiful and want to explore the albums they came from.
Things change, my dear.
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