The Beekeeper

Tori Amos suffers from the same affliction as Prince and other freakishly talented musicians: Too smart and too foolish to take direction, she overreaches and ends up making music that's too abstract and oblique. On her eighth album, she does something much less expected: She squanders her gifts on a bland record. At its worst, The Beekeeper suggests a female John Mayer or Jack Johnson. Many of these underwritten, underproduced tunes sound as if Amos could have composed them in the supermarket express lane. Her duet with Irish folk singer Damien Rice, "The Power of Orange Knickers," is surprisingly direct and catchy, but the arrangement is startlingly sterile and dull.

Fortunately, Beekeeper rallies in the second half. The title track brings back the flattering electronic sounds we heard on 1998's From the Choirgirl Hotel, and "Original Sinsuality" hearkens back to the harrowing starkness of Little Earthquakes. The frustrating part: With some ruthless editing and remixing, this maddeningly uneven eighty-minute disc could have been her best in ages.

x