Y Kant Tori Read (with Tori Amos) 1985 demo tape

As someone who takes an interest in the availability -- or lack thereof -- of certain recordings, I've seen many long-lost, out-of-print albums reissued on CD or iTunes over the years, but I never expected to see a reissue of the self-titled 1988 album by a band called Y Kant Tori Read. This band was fronted by singer/songwriter/pianist Tori Amos, and their one album was released about four years before Amos became an arty alternative icon in the '90's. It was very unlike the piano-based music that Amos would later become known for. Instead, it consisted of synth-heavy '80's pop-rock, with occasional signs of Tori's future persona trying to break out. Here is my review of the album on my website.

The album was a failure in its day, but it now has its admirers among Tori's fan base. Until this year, its previous lack of availability made it something of a "holy grail" among her following. Amos had disowned the album, and it was long kept out of print at her request. An extensive FAQ about the Y Kant Tori Read album was published on the web in the '90's, and is now mirrored at Oocities. A glance at this FAQ will explain the mystique that once surrounded the album.

Last month, Y Kant Tori Read finally was released digitally, in newly remastered form. On Record Store Day Black Friday of 2017, the album will be given a limited physical release, with 4,000 copies issued on LP and 3,500 issued on CD. It would now seem that Ms. Amos has finally come to terms with this part of her past. Then again, her intention might simply be to demystify the album, as its ready commercial availability might cause less attention to be drawn to it in the future.

It may also have something to do with another recording having been recently unearthed. In 2016, a demo recording from the Y Kant Tori Read band surfaced on the internet, made up of five songs from a one-sided cassette. This demo tape was recorded in 1985, by a lineup consisting of Amos, guitarist Steve Caton (who worked with Amos again in the '90's), drummer Matt Sorum (who later played with the Cult, Guns N' Roses, and Velvet Revolver), and bassist Brad Cobb (who was playing with Stryper by the time Y Kant Tori Read recorded their 1988 album). The demo was submitted to Warner Brothers, and was stashed away by the label until 2016, when it was sold on eBay for approximately $200. The typewritten words in the cassette inlay credited the tape to "Tori Ellen Amos & Her Band Named: Y Kant Tori Read".

If the Y Kant Tori Read album bears the dated stamp of the late-'80's, the 1985 demo cassette makes the band sound as though they were aiming for the equally synth-driven pop-rock market of that decade's earlier half. Although the usual Kate Bush similarities do seem to be present, the songs on this demo tape come across like an Americanized variation on Bush's quirky early-'80's albums, making the material more reminiscent of Quarterflash and Missing Persons. Amos plays a synthesizer on these tracks, but the instrument is usually not dominant, suggesting that Y Kant Tori Read truly was a band effort, rather than just a vehicle for the future star as the eventual album's cover art would suggest. In fact, Caton steals at least two of the songs ("Friends?", "Looking For Eldorado") with his guitar work, and the entire band blends well together on "I Don't Know How To Leave You", which is the song that displays Amos' synth-playing to the best effect. Not to say that this material is any good, but these demos at least come off better than the overproduced Y Kant Tori Read album. The hard rock edge of "Trail Of Tears" gives the politically-charged song the most immediacy of the five.

Y Kant Tori Read "Tori Ellen Amos & Her Band Named: Y Kant Tori Read" (no label or number, recorded in 1985)

1985 Demo Cassette Track Listing:

1. Trail Of Tears
2. The Lonely Parade
3. Friends?
4. Looking For Eldorado
5. I Don't Know How To Leave You