December 02, 2002 12:00 PM

Tori Amos (Epic)

Tori Amos is the queen of the concept album. After last year’s Strange Little Girls, her gender-bending covers collection featuring songs originally performed by men, she plays musical Kerouac on her seventh release. Inspired by 9/11, Amos’s ambitious new album traces the spiritual trans-American journey of Scarlet, a character based on the flame-haired singer-songwriter.

Unfortunately, though, you practically need a road map to follow the convoluted narrative, which begins on the West Coast with “Amber Waves” (a double entendre playing off both the phrase from “America the Beautiful” and the name of a porn star in Boogie Nights) and ends in Washington, D.C., with “Gold Dust.” At least the music—highlighted by Amos’s adroit work on her trademark Bösendorfer piano—sets an evocative backdrop. Still, all but die-hard fans will find Scarlet‘s web too tangled.

BOTTOM LINE: A wobbly effort

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