Barely a year after Amos released “Strange Little Girls”, her first attempt at creating a conceptual album, Amos released her sixth studio album, “Scarlet’s Walk”. Just as it happened with “Strange Little Girls”, “Scarlet’s Walk” presented us with another attempt at crafting an album around a concept, in this case the main idea being the story of an alter-ego of the songwriter, called Scarlet, who went on a road trip around the United States and along the way found herself learning about life and about herself.
Clichéd as the concept might sound, “Scarlet’s Walk” is actually the one album by Amos where the concept that drives it truly shines, and where it becomes actually easy to understand it, allowing the listener to comprehend the voyage Scarlet goes through and empathize with her along the way. The proper reason for this is hard to find, maybe it is because the concept is much less abstract than the concepts she touches in her other albums, or maybe because Amos indeed went through an US trip while she composed and wrote the lyrics for the album. In either case, this is Amos’ strongest conceptual work, and one of her best musical productions to date.
“Scarlet’s Walk” actually has one of the slowest, less characteristic openers of Amos’ discography; that being the sweet, yet somehow not too memorable “Amber Waves”. It isn’t necessarily a bad thing, however, considering that a book rarely ever starts the story with the most interesting part, instead most stories starting up slowly, with the first chapter usually being the hardest to get through, with it being barely a set up for the rest. That’s pretty much how I believe the whole of “Scarlet’s Walk” should be seen, like a book, a whole story told by songs instead of written chapters.
Once the opening song is done, the listener is thrown straight into Scarlet’s adventure, with the beautiful “A Sorta Fairytale”, which actually sets the stage for the rest of the album, which contains a pretty big set of different musical styles, all of which seem to blend together just fine under the general theme of the album.
Musically, this is one of Amos’ most varied albums, since there isn’t a musical base set through it – There is a small part of the arrangements and writing of the songs that keeps them tied together as a piece of work, but besides that each song is its own world, and no genre seems to repeat itself over. This is an album where each song has an identity and that is actually what keeps the album up and what makes Scarlet’s story so interesting overall. If there’s a musical genre that actually rules all over the album, it would have to be the shades of country and folk music that can be found on many songs – None of them can be properly considered either of the genres, but there are shades of them in most of the songs, something that’s pretty understandable considering the album is telling us about a voyage through the US.
Lyrically, the album keeps up with the music. Just as every song is a world of its own musically its own, each song tells its own story, which can be looked upon either separately or together – All of the songs in here work just fine both ways, and no song depends on the storytelling of the album to shine, there are no proper interludes (Although if you had to choose a song as one it’d be “Wapum Prayer”), and even lyrically the songs are independent. The themes touched here range wildly too, showing how the lyrics of the album tells us more about Scarlet’s thoughts than what physically happens through the album. Some of the songs where the lyrics shine the most are “A Sorta Fairytale”, which is also one of Amos’ best known songs, “Strange”, an unusual breakup song and “I Can’t See New York”, a song loosely based in the events of 9/11 (It is said its based directly in it, but Amos has repeatedly stated she had already been working on the song by when 9/11 happened, and that even when it affected the song greatly, a part of it existed long before then), which is possibly Amos’ most haunting song ever, sporting a strong piano, changes in the tempo of the instruments and extremely deep lyrics that, no matter what Amos might say, do seem to refer to 9/11 almost directly (“Thirteen thousand and counting, swallowed in the purring of an engine”, “But I can’t see New York, as I’m circling down through white clouds, falling out”, “In the end all we have; soul blueprint… But did we get lost in it? Do we conduct a search for this?”).
All things said, I believe “Scarlet’s Walk” to be a true masterpiece, and one of the two albums I believe anyone who wants to know at least a bit about Amos has to go through – Where “Little Earthquakes” proves she craft timeless songs that manage to enthrall you twenty years later, “Scarlet’s Walk” manages to show any audience why Amos has, and should keep on working around concepts, since out of all her conceptual albums (That being anything since “Strange Little Girls”, since “Abnormally Attracted to Sin”, though not presented as a conceptual album, does manage to pull out a particular atmosphere where the album may as well have been a story told through the eyes of a 1930s mother intersected with the same story through the eyes of a 2000’s mother, much like what was done on film with “The Hours”).
Final review rating: 5/5
Availability: The album is currently available on physical and digital form from Amazon.com
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