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Y Kant Tori Read

From critical disaster to beloved fan curio, the ephemeral synth-rock outfit Y Kant Tori Read was a crucial stepping stone in the development of singer-songwriter Tori Amos, who would go on to build a successful decades-spanning solo career without the hairspray and corsets, but just her voice and a piano. Formed in the late '80s in Los Angeles, YKTR was Amos' first major foray into the business, seemingly plagued from the start by label and industry pressure. The band's name was a tongue-in-cheek reference to the self-taught Amos' preference to play piano from memory instead of reading sheet music while a student at the Peabody Conservatory of Music. The youngest person to ever be admitted to Peabody at the time, Amos was asked to leave after six years, her love of rock bands like Led Zeppelin at odds with the conservatory's ethos. Over the next decade, the young Amos would hone her pop piano skills by playing bars around the Silver Spring, Maryland area, encouraged by her minister father. At 21, she made her way to Los Angeles to pursue music full time. Signed with Atlantic Records, the YKTR team originally included a who's-who of musicians, including Steve Caton (who would later feature on her solo albums), Matt Sorum (Guns N' Roses), Brad Cobb (Stryper), Merry Clayton (vocalist on the Rolling Stones' "Gimme Shelter"), Rick Nielsen and Robin Zander (Cheap Trick), Steve Farris (Mr. Mister), the Valentine Brothers, producer Joe Chiccarelli (Pat Benatar, Frank Zappa) and programmer Kim Bullard (Kajagoogoo). Y Kant Tori Read was released in January 1988 and was an almost immediate failure. While it spawned a pair of singles and a video for "The Big Picture," album sales lagged, the label ceased promotion, and the band split. Packing up the hairspray and tossing the Skid Row costumes, Amos returned to the studio to fulfill contractual obligations with Atlantic. She switched directions and delved inward, capturing a raw and confessional energy that would be released in 1992 on her de facto solo debut, the seminal Little Earthquakes. Although Amos distanced herself from YKTR over the following decades, fans eventually caught on and the album became a highly-prized relic, both guilty pleasure and endearing glimpse into Amos' early songwriting development. While certain songs like "Cool On Your Island" and "Etienne" would appear in her live sets over the years, YKTR remained buried in the '80s until, in 2017, Amos issued a remastered version of Y Kant Tori Read on digital and vinyl. Beneath the outdated production and rock band backing, the first sparks of her later lyrical stylings and distinctive delivery are clear, making Y Kant Tori Read a necessary stumble that inspired her to simply be Tori Amos.
© Neil Z. Yeung /TiVo


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