- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 4, 2001

Some musicians shy away from performing other artists' songs. Tori Amos embraces the opportunity.
She's sprinkled "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," Prince's "Purple Rain" and R.E.M.'s "Losing My Religion" into her concert appearances. Early in her career, she stripped the pounding guitar, drum and bass from Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" but retained its emotion through her poignant vocal performance and piano arrangement.
Many of the 12 tracks on her new release, "Strange Little Girls," receive a similar cleansing and rebirth. In an entertainer-meets-women's-studies-professor role, Miss Amos attempts to understand how men view women and themselves by singing compositions written by Neil Young, Eminem, Joe Jackson, Tom Waits and others. She'll perform the reimagined songs during Saturday and Sunday appearances at Constitution Hall.
Miss Amos, a graduate of Rockville's Richard Montgomery High School, experienced a supernatural connection with the women when composing the music. "I don't feel like they're inside, but they can inhabit so that they take over," she says.
Miss Amos relates the concept of serving as a "container" to being pregnant. Not coincidentally, the idea for "Strange Little Girls" was formulated just before she gave birth to her daughter, she says.
Themes from Miss Amos' past projects, particularly gun violence, resurface in the shape of the Beatles' "Happiness is a Warm Gun" and The Boomtown Rats' "I Don't Like Mondays." She weaves an undertone of heartrending dread throughout the album, particularly on her version of Eminem's morbid " '97 Bonnie and Clyde." He's dancing on his spouse's grave, says Miss Amos, and she found it "irresistible to crawl in with the dying wife that nobody seemed to care about."
Miss Amos, who as a teen-ager performed standards and her own compositions at Georgetown bars and downtown hotels, did not contact the original artists to better understand their thought process.
"I had to keep my loyalty clear to myself," and to the women who sing the songs. Speaking to the men, none of whom she knows personally, would have held her hostage, she says. Her voice turns firm with conviction when she saya, "It's a study in perception, not a tribute record."

"Global A Go-Go" proves that Joe Strummer's flair for discovering eclectic rhythms is wound tightly into his DNA. Mr. Strummer and his five-piece band, the Mescaleros, season the album with African, Caribbean, Celtic and South American influences. The title track and such songs as "Bhindi Bhagee" celebrate how "you can appreciate each other's culture across nations," says Mr. Strummer, speaking from his home in the county of Somerset, about three hours away from London.
The disc, like Mr. Strummer himself, defies genre-specific labeling. As lead vocalist and guitarist with The Clash, Mr. Strummer helped propel punk rock from a fringe movement in the late 1970s to an internationally recognized and respected form of musical expression. Vibrant as 1,000 Saturday nights, the band jettisoned expectations of what a punk band should be by infusing reggae beats into songs laced with sharply political lyrics.
Mr. Strummer notices a lack of politically charged songwriting by today's younger artists. "Times change and people make music for whatever time they are in. You know that your vote is kind of a like a sham," says Mr. Strummer, who opens his U.S. tour tonight at the 9:30 Club. In the early days of the Clash, punk bands in the United Kingdom felt that they could make a difference by standing in the street and yelling, he says.
His voice, scuffed like the floor of a punk club from years of singing and cigarette smoking, still crackles with hope and defiance. Mr. Strummer promises to mix some Clash numbers into the 9:30 Club set. He stays in contact with former bandmates Mick Jones, Paul Simonon and Topper Headon by phone almost every week, primarily to mull requests for the use of Clash songs in commercials and other projects. The demand for a reunion tour exists, but Mr. Strummer says he's not entertaining that notion.
Regardless of his next project, whether it's a third record with the Mescaleros or something entirely different, Mr. Strummer won't retread past territory.
"You want to give the message that you're going to change up and it's going to be an interesting ride," he says, "that it's not going to be a slice from the same loaf."


LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide