The Good: A wonderful song!
The Bad: Hugely expensive in this form!
The Basics: A great song, “Jackie’s Strength” is ridiculously expensive when one manages to track down the one-track radio station single!
My local library, as many of my local readers know, has had a stack of compact discs they’ve been trying to sell for months now. And, whenever I’ve been strapped for a music review, I go to their singles and listen and write about them. So, it might seem pretty weird and wonderful that I came across “Jackie’s Strength” by Tori Amos in their enduring pile. There are multiple versions of this single, but the most valuable is the one-track. The one-track includes just the album cut of “Jackie’s Strength” and the reason it is insanely pricey is because it was the version that was not commercially released. This one-track single was only released to radio stations for airplay, so finding it now is exceptionally difficult (don’t ask: I already bought the library’s copy and sent it to a big fan friend of mine!).
It might seem odd that I would take the track I declared the superlative song on From The Choirgirl Hotel to be a bust as a single, but this has more to do with the rarity and, therefore, expense of getting this one-track version. Unwitting fans might think they are paying big bucks for a rare recording or an exceptional presentation, but the truth is that this is the same version that appears on the album. As a result, despite it being an exceptionally cool song, there is no reason to pay for it in this form, especially to those who already own the album From The Choirgirl Hotel.
With a single track occupying 4:17, “Jackie’s Strength” is very much the creative vision of singer-songwriter Tori Amos. Amos provides the lead vocals on the song that she wrote. As well, she plays her piano, which is the primary instrument on the song. Tori Amos also produced this moody, melodic pop track. This is exactly the song she wanted to release and it probably would have done amazing, had it not been lost at the outset of the Blonde Revolution of the late 1990s amid singles by Britney Spears and Christina Aguillera.
Instrumentally, the song is rich in production that makes it sound like more than just one woman at her piano. The piano dominates with thundering chords that are deeper and resonate, almost making it possible to neglect just how repetitive the song is. Tori Amos’s soprano voice is slow and high in stark contrast to the deeper, more pounding piano. This is very much a pop-rock ballad and it is probably considered “alternative” more because it did not achieve commercial success than it actually being terribly different from the mainstream (it sounds a lot like Fiona Apple’s works from around the same time).
Vocally, Tori Amos does give listeners something somewhat new with her vocals on “Jackie’s Strength.” The single presents Amos with more reverb and production than usual. Her vocals have echoes at key points, but this does not distract from the natural, high pitches she is able to carry, rather it enhances it. Tori Amos has an exceptional voice and while she does get repetitive with some of the lyrics to the refrain on “Jackie’s Strength,” her voice manages to sound fresh and pleasant the entire time.
“Jackie’s Strength” succeeds as well because of the lyrical potency. Tori Amos presents a musical story-song that evolves from being an exploration of teen life – pregnancy, violence, etc. – to a retrospective filled with amazing imagery. Amos makes an uncommon song with her lines like “Stickers licked on lunch boxes / Worshipping David Cassidy / Yeah I mooned him once / On Donna's box / She's still in recovery / Sleep-overs Beene's got some pot / You're only popular with anorexia / So I turn myself inside out / In hope someone will see” (“Jackie’s Strength”) which reference the trials of being a young woman with a realistic sense of angst to it. The whole song has a resonance from the lyrics to the singing to the instrumental accompaniment.
But, it’s not such a great song that anyone but the most die-hard collectors will feel the need or desire to hunt it down in this form. The expense, quite simply, outweighs the quality of the song and because the album this is on may be found so inexpensively, it becomes impossible to recommend buying this when you could get so much more for so much less.
For other Tori Amos works, please visit my reviews of:
Under The Pink
Boys For Pele
From The Choirgirl Hotel
To Venus And Back
Strange Little Girls
Tales Of A Librarian: A Tori Amos Collection
American Doll Posse
Night Of Hunters
For other music reviews, please visit my Music Review Index Page for an organized listing of all the music reviews I have written!
© 2012, 2010 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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