Tori Amos' third solo album, released in 1996

Track list:

Beauty Queen
Blood Roses
Father Lucifer
Professional Widow
Mr. Zebra
Caught a Lite Sneeze
Muhammad My Friend
Hey Jupiter
Way Down
Little Amsterdam
Not the Red Baron
Agent Orange
Doughnut Song
In the Springtime of His Voodoo
Putting the Damage On

Boys for Pele is hands down my favorite album by Tori. It's so fucking exquisite. The songs flow progressively, like chapters of a book. Or, if the album were a long trip, every track would be a stop along the way; a landmark intrinsic to the whole journey. Each one has its own distinct scapes, characters and insights. The shorter songs - all about a minute long - serve as sort of segues between the longer ones, taking the listener to different locations or parts of the story. I have the CD on as I'm typing this and am still impressed by its richness, even after hearing it many times before. There are so many little nuances in each track. From the breaths and intonation to the vast array of instrumentation to layered background lyrics to even the clicking of the piano pedals, there are so many wonderful bits that add to the fullness of each song. Very well done.

Boys for Pele was a 1997 Grammy nominee for Best Alternative Artist Performance but lost out to Beck's Odelay. This was Tori's first go at producing an album herself. She was helped greatly by sound engineers Marcel Van Limbeek and Mark Hawley (Mark is now her husband) who work with her during live tours as well. The album was recorded in 1995, mostly in the Republic of Ireland, at an old church in Delgany, County Wicklow. In the recording of the Bösendorfer piano and harpsichord, they wanted to capture the instruments' interaction with the acoustics of the church. When Tori records, she does the main vocals while she's playing so they had to devise a way to isolate both sounds:
"They had built this structure where I would go into and there were holes in the structure, only holes that would fit the keys of the Bösey and the double manual of the harpsichord and everything else was sealed up - except my pedals of course came in but everything around them, it was sealed so that the sound - again, the instruments could work completely off the ambience of the church and my vocal wasn't drivin' down those microphones." - Tori Amos - World Cafe
or in more precise terms:
"In order to separate the vocal signal from the piano and harpsichord mics, we built a wooden construction, acoustically tiled on the inside, which encased the two keyboards. The instruments could then be mic'd in the hall while she sang in an entirely separate acoustic space." - Mark Hawley - Pro Sound News

The church's acoustics did play a big part in the record's sound, it's gorgeous to listen to. Other little local bits became part of the record as well, such as the Delgany church bells which can be heard during Blood Roses. There was a bull kept next door to the church. If you listen closely to the loops on Professional Widow (perhaps with a little manipulation of your stereo knobs) you can hear its bellows and the scraping of a shovel scooping up its shit. Lovely, eh? I always thought so..

Additional recording was done in a County Cork, Ireland and in New Orleans at the Egyptian Room and Dinosaur Studios. Among the many musicians who worked on the album were the Sinfonia of London, the Black Dyke Mills Band, blues artist George Porter, Jr. and a really excellent gospel choir from Louisiana. Tori learned how to play the harpsichord specifically for the album. She also plays harmonium, clavichord and, of course, piano on it.

'Pele' is in reference to a Hawai'ian fire/volcano goddess who resides on Kilauea. The album's inspiration came largely from a break-up with Tori's longtime boyfriend and 'soul mate' Eric Rosse. The record doesn't only focus on the loss of a lover though. Rather, the ending of that relationship served as a sort of catalyst for the examination of and revelations about many other types of relationships both with men and with herself. The songs on the album were born of these revelations. Here's a quote where Tori talks a bit about that and about having to choose which of these songs would make final cut on the album:
"These songs are.. They're about recognizing that an extreme kind of viciousness is being played out even as you exchange honeysuckle. They're about the hidden things that go on in a woman's heart - the things that are expressed and the things that have to remain hidden. They're about the breaking down of the patriarchy within relationships and the idea of women claiming their own power."

"Anyway, this record goes into relationships, archetypes even, Lucifer, Jesus, etc., et al. Relationships with your brother's friends, relationships with your brother, your father, relationships with that boy you had a crush on the first time, even the first time relationship with the guy that you were seeing last night. It's the boy record. Boys for Pele. Some of it was a bit of an eye-opener for me, it came down to these men that have come into my life, the one's I've run into anyway. They made me see that I had to find my own passion, not steal theirs, and this is what this record is to me ... Boys is not a short album. I've had many different types of relationships with men in my life. A relationship does not mean sex. It can be any person you've ever known, friend, lover, brother, mother, but this album is mostly about the men I've come in contact with. So there are still songs negotiating for position. Some are gonna switch because as the mixes are going down, I'm pulling my hair out. I'm going ... how can I not have this on the album? ... Everybody's humming this, wanting to hear this one, but if I don't have this one on, I'm gonna kick myself. One of those situations." Tori - Upside Down fanzine

Here are some of those songs that didn't make it onto the album and had to settle for B-sidedom. Many of them are definitely just as important to the album as the official tracks:

Caught a Lite Sneeze B-sides:
This Old Man
That's What I Like Mick (The Sandwich Song)
Hungarian Wedding Song
Toodles Mr. Jim

Talula B-sides:
Frog On My Toe
London Girls
Sister Named Desire
Amazing Grace/Til the Chicken

Three more songs written during the Pele era didn't come out as B-sides until the release of Tori's fourth album, From the Choirgirl Hotel. They are:

Never Seen Blue
Beulah Land

Ask most Tori Amos fans which album they prefer and you will most likely hear Little Earthquakes or From the Choirgirl Hotel. Like, ifeeldizzy, however, I prefer Boys and probably listen to it more than all the others combined.

The songs on this album have two different threads flowing through them (in addition to Amos's more familiar piano/singer sound; a sultry southern blues sound and a baroque/mystical sound. The blues feel is especially evident in Little Amsterdam and in In the Springtime of His Voodoo. The baroque is evident in the liberal use of harpsichord, played in a manner idiomatic for the instrument. We also hear contrapuntal textures in nearly every song, and in Father Lucifer a trumpet played in the typically baroque clarino range accompanies the bridge.

Incidentally, most copies of this album that are out there do not contain the original version of Talula, but a remix taken from the film Twister.

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