Tori Amos’s Tales of a Librarian might just be one of the most ambitious greatest hits collections ever made. The 20 tracks that comprise the album aren’t just remastered, they’re remixed and, according to the liner notes, “reconditioned” by Tori and her chief engineers Mark Hawley and Marcel van Limbeck. Reverb is turned up on some tracks and reduced on others, formerly obscured overdubs are newly audible on tracks like “Cornflake Girl” and “Spark,” as are alternate piano and guitar parts. Individual tracks are isolated from the whole of some songs while others (the a cappella “Me & a Gun,” for example) are seemingly left untouched. The new mixes will likely infuriate die-hard Tori-heads (“Why mess with perfection?” they’ll justly ask), but it also makes Librarian an essential purchase. Though many of the remixes are nothing more than semi-interesting exercises on how to muddy up a mix, there are some plus points to the reconditioning: the spoken proverb toward the end of “God” is now crystal clear (“Give not thy strength unto women/Nor thy ways to that which destroyeth kings”); the otherwise disposable “Way Down” has been extended by more than 30 seconds; and “Playboy Mommy” is given a twangier interpretation. Added value features are two hit-or-miss new tracks (the lovely and nostalgic “Snow Cherries From France” hits, “Angels” misses), a couple of newly re-recorded B-sides (sadly, the gorgeous Mother Earth paean “Mary” is given the middle-of-the-road Scarlet’s Walk treatment), and Armand Van Heldon’s remix edit of “Professional Widow.” Tori’s debut, Little Earthquakes, is fully represented by six tracks, but choice Boys for Pele tunes are missing (“Caught a Lite Sneeze,” “Hey Jupiter,” “Talula”). Overall, though, Librarian is a comprehensive document of Tori’s prosperous Atlantic years, inventively cataloged in the Dewey Decimal System we all learned in grade school. Funnily enough, the album’s packaging even smells like a brand spankin’ new textbook, but that’s probably just a happy coincidence. Cheers to the crazy piano lady who never seems to stop working.
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