A critical and commercial flop at the time of release, Y Kant Tori Read was seemingly doomed from the start. Yet, as the decades passed, the only album recorded by Tori Amos' ephemeral late-'80s synth rock outfit managed to become a beloved fan favorite and a crucial stepping stone on the path to her '90s breakthrough as a confessional singer/songwriter. Hints of her future lie hidden beneath thoroughly '80s production -- courtesy of Joe Chiccarelli (Pat Benatar, Frank Zappa) -- and contributions by a team of musicians, including Steve Caton (who would later be featured 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, and Kim Bullard (Kajagoogoo). Stripping away the excess from tracks like "Cool on Your Island," "Fire on the Side," and "On the Boundary," Amos' evocative lyrical imagery and gift for melody shine as brightly as anything on Little Earthquakes, her 1992 solo debut. This musical foreshadowing is most apparent on the epic closer "The Etienne Trilogy," which centers on the sweeping piano heart of "Etienne." While these tracks feature sounds similar to Amos' later works, Y Kant Tori Read also embraces the era of its creation on the Skid Row leather-and-hairspray romp "The Big Picture"; the funky "Fayth," which features a brief rap and guitar solo; "Heart Attack at 23," which throws the proverbial kitchen sink into the mix; the kooky "Pirates"; and the underrated "You Go to My Head," one of the many tracks that sounds like a castoff from an '80s movie soundtrack. Although the album sold poorly and Atlantic Records quickly ceased promotion efforts, Y Kant Tori Read found new life with intrepid fans as Amos' solo career blossomed, becoming a highly sought after collectible, even though Amos distanced herself from the work for decades. In 2017, nearly 30 years after original release, she finally embraced this part of her legacy, issuing a remastered version. Without the failure of Y Kant Tori Read and her direct reaction to its forced aesthetic, Amos' true vision might never have emerged four years later on Little Earthquakes. As she sings on "Etienne," "By the morning maybe we'll remember who I am." In hindsight, Amos needed to make Y Kant Tori Read to do just that.
AllMusic Review by Neil Z. Yeung