Despite the fact that she’s such a beloved, prolific artist, Tori Amos only managed to secure one spot (albeit a lofty one) on our list of 100 Greatest Music Videos in 2003. “Spark,” from the cult singer-songwriter’s 1998 album From The Choirgirl Hotel, managed to seemingly do what other Amos videos hadn’t: it transcended the song’s visually arousing imagery and created a narrative yarn all its own. As is often the case with artists like Amos, whose music is so utterly singular, even idiosyncratic (Björk comes immediately to mind), the music video medium proves to be a deflation of the artist’s already-potent art form of choice: songwriting. As Amos herself says during the commentary on her new video collection Fade to Red, she’s a musician, not an actor. But seeing Amos’s body of work in its (near) entirety on Fade to Red reveals that she sorely underestimates her acting talent. Take, for instance, the eyeliner-smudged, suicidal woman in “Hey Jupiter” or the runaway bride (and her dual role as that woman’s younger self) in “Jackie’s Strength.” In fact, the inclusion of videos like “Jackie’s Strength,” the poignant “A Sorta Fairytale,” co-starring Adrien Brody, and “Raspberry Swirl,” which Amos describes as “the pisstake of my dance career,” makes a good case for the singer as an accomplished music video artist. Avoiding treatments that are too literal or too faithful to Amos’s compositions is key, and the directors who do so are usually the most successful: the simple “1,000 Oceans,” helmed by Erick Ifergan, is one of Amos’s best, with the singer shrouded in a glass exhibition on a Los Angeles street like a living art installation, a metaphor for city dwellers preserved or detached from the organic world surrounding their concrete homes. Diehard fans should note—and will undoubtedly notice right away—that the sound on many of the videos have been remastered with the Tales Of A Librarian mixes, and missing from the collection is Ifergan’s “Glory Of The 80’s” and the haunting “Strange Little Girl.”
Detail is terrible on the early Amos videos, particularly the Little Earthquakes-era Cindy Palmano clips. Distortion is visible to the point of distraction whenever the camera moves during videos like "Past The Mission"; inky backgrounds plague many of the darker videos, and Amos's face looks like a paint-by-numbers template on "Crucify." Sound fares much better, with 5.1 Surround and PCM stereo options.
"I've always had a fascination with the beheading of Anne Boleyn." That pretty much sums up Amos's commentary throughout this two-disc collection. Born Myra Ellen, Amos refers to "Tori" in the third person, which might seem odd to casual listeners but makes perfect sense in the context of the mythology Amos has made for herself; Tori the character is a creative splintering of Amos's real-life personality. But the commentary isn't all faerie-speak. Fall into the lull of Amos's hypnotic speaking voice and you'll find interesting factoids and insights into the woman and the composer: her parents still have the miniature blue piano that was used in the video for "Silent All These Years" and on the cover of Little Earthquakes; "Spark" was-not surprisingly-inspired by Amos's fascination with Twin Peaks and Children of the Corn; she calls the U.S. version of "Cornflake Girl" "Mean Girls before Mean Girls"; and when describing the arduous blue-screen shoot for "Sleeps With Butterflies" and how she was directed to pretend as if she were sitting on a mushroom, Amos says she wished she were really on mushrooms. And there, folks, is a truly revealing look behind the music.
Fade to Red's special features (a 20-minute feature documenting the making of "A Sorta Fairytale" as well as the UK version of "Cornflake Girl") are included on both discs for whatever reason, but the bigger crime here is the generally poor digital transfers. It's still worth owning for Toriphiles and music video aficionados though.