by David Chiu
I can vividly remember the first time I heard Tori Amos’ music. It was in the early ’90s at a record store—either a Sam Goody or a now-defunct East Village establishment – where I heard this strange yet powerful piano rendition of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” A WTF moment for me, I remember being struck by that haunting voice and the fact someone would have the sheer nerve to perform the song in that manner years before it would become commonplace for artists to do unconventional covers. It was only long after that experience that I found out it was by Amos herself, who by that time had already established herself as one of the most compelling performers of the ’90s. She was definitely the bridge between the emotionally-wrought piano pop of Kate Bush and the crop of female singer-songwriters who would later break through such as Sarah McLachlan, Alanis Morrisette and Jewel. Amos’ first two albums, Little Earthquakes and Under the Pink propelled the artist to the mainstream as the music landscape shifted towards alternative rock. More than 20 years later, those early records – which have now just been reissued – still hold up as timeless works rather than artifacts of the decade they came from. 1992’s Little Earthquakes positioned Amos as someone quite different from the rest of her peers with her delicate piano-based compositions, especially such tracks as “Crucify,” “Precious Things,” “Winter” and “Silent All These Years” that have become staples of hers; the a capella “Me and a Gun,” remains gut-wrenching—it’s remarkable that it was Amos’ debut single, especially one that touched on the topic of sexual assault. Released two years later, Under the Pink eclipsed Little Earthquakes‘ performance on the charts, peaking at #12. It didn’t stylistically depart much from its predecessor although notable tracks like “God” and “Cornflake Girl” had a radio friendly pop sheen the them, and “Space Dog” had a jazzy funk rock feel – complemented by moving ballads like “Cloud on My Tongue” and “Baker Baker.” Each of these reissues carry a bonus disc containing a wealth of B-sides, rarities, and live performances – including the aforementioned Nirvana cover on the this edition of Little Earthquakes. It’s great to see that these early yet crucial albums in Amos’ career be given the deluxe treatments they deserve.