Gold Dust came from two impulses: Amos’s desire to work further with the Metropole Orkest, after a one-off 2010 concert, and a celebration of 20 years since the release of her first solo album, Little Earthquakes. Gold Dust draws on tracks from across her career; not counting her covers album and last year’s classical-themed Night of Hunters, only two Amos albums are unrepresented on Gold Dust: To Venus and Back and The Beekeeper.
The debut’s three central songs – “Precious Things,” “Winter” and “Silent All These Years” – occupy key positions. Two were orchestrated in their original incarnation, but the arrangements on Gold Dust, by longtime collaborator John Philip Shenale, are cooler in tone, more like chamber music. Of course, Amos’s pianism is front and center, but Shenale also grants the woodwinds prominence, which adds a dark timbre appropriate to the more autobiographical songs Amos picked for this project. The choices were not obvious; “Cornflake Girl” isn’t here, but the obscure B-side “Flying Dutchman” is – and proves to be one of the highlights.
When gussying up rock tunes with orchestral arrangements, artists must walk a thin line between pretension and blandness. Amos and Shenale have danced along that line with attractive grace.