Little Earthquakes is Tori Amos' debut solo album which was released on January 6, 1992 by Atlantic Records in the United States and East West in Europe.
Following the dissolution of her synth-pop band Y Kant Tori Read, Tori Amos composed 12 songs, recorded them at Capitol Records in Los Angeles with Davitt Sigerson producing; in June 1990, she submitted them for copyright.
Amos approached Atlantic Records in December 1990 with a 10-track demo tape, some being newer songs but mostly ones from June. The track listing consisted of "Russia" (later to become "Take to the Sky"), "Mary", "Crucify", "Happy Phantom", "Leather", "Winter", "Sweet Dreams", "Song for Eric", "Learn to Fly" and "Flying Dutchman".
Atlantic was unhappy with the songs, and in response Amos and her then boyfriend Eric Rosse recorded some new songs, including "Girl", "Precious Things", "Tear In Your Hand", "Mother" and "Little Earthquakes."
The song "Take Me With You" was recorded during these sessions, but not released until 2006 (with re-recorded vocals.) This session was recorded on a limited budget in Rosse's home studio, using his 3M 24-track analog tape machine and a Yamaha CP-80 piano.
Amos and Rosse also went to Stag Studios to use a Yamaha grand piano. Satisfied with these recordings, Atlantic determined that the album Little Earthquakes would have 13 tracks, removing "Learn to Fly" and adding four from the December recording session.
Amos moved to London to work with Ian Stanley (formerly of Tears for Fears); Atlantic thought Amos would have an easier time of achieving success, because of English appreciation for eccentric performers; here she recorded what would become two of her early singles.
"Me and a Gun" was the last song written for the album, while "China" was an early track (originally titled "Distance") that she wrote in 1987.
The second final version of the album was accepted by the record company. However, this was still revised before the final release; a 13-track promo cassette shows that the song "Little Earthquakes" was to appear after "Happy Phantom" on side one, with side two closing with "Flying Dutchman." The latter track was presumably dropped due to the physical restraints of the vinyl LP format.
Atlantic's European counterpart, East West, promoted the record extensively. Amos spent much of 1991 performing in small bars and clubs in London and playing for music executives and journalists, often in her own apartment.
The "Me and a Gun" EP containing four tracks was released in October 1991, receiving considerable critical attention.
- Crucify 5:00
- Girl 4:07
- Silent All These Years 4:11
- Precious Things 4:27
- Winter 5:42
- Happy Phantom 3:15
- China 5:00
- Leather 3:12
- Mother 6:59
- Tear In Your Hand 4:38
- Me And A Gun 3:44
- Little Earthquakes 6:52
When "Little Earthquakes" was released in the United Kingdom, it peaked at #14 on the UK Albums chart (staying on the chart for 23 weeks). A month later, it was released in the United States where it peaked at #54 on the Billboard 200.
The album was certified Gold in the United Kingdom (with sales of 100,000) and 2x Platinum by the RIAA in the United States (with sales of 2,000,000). It also reached Gold status in Canada, Belgium, Australia and the Netherlands.
The reviews for "Little Earthquakes" were generally positive.
Josef Woodward of Rolling Stone described it as "an often pretty, subtly progressive song cycle that reflects darkly on sexual alienation and personal struggles", and that by the end of the album "we feel as though we've been through some peculiar therapy session, half-cleansed and half-stirred. That artful paradox is part of what makes Little Earthquakes a gripping debut."
His original rating of three and a half stars out of five in the 1992 print version of the magazine was later rounded up to four stars out of five on Rolling Stone's website.
Jean Rosenbluth of the Los Angeles Times wrote that few had "progressed from the silly to the sublime as quickly or smoothly as Amos" and praised Little Earthquakes as "a quixotic, compelling record that mixes the smart sensuality of Kate Bush with the provocative impenetrability of Mary Margaret O'Hara."
Among negative assessments, Stephanie Zacharek of Entertainment Weekly felt that Amos's songs "are too self-consciously weird" to be enjoyable while Village Voice critic Robert Christgau only expressed praise for the song "Me and a Gun", disregarding the rest as lesser versions of Kate Bush.
In the United Kingdom, where Amos was first promoted, the album was also warmly received. Jon Wilde of Melody Maker stated that Amos "possesses a rare ability to explore a multiplicity of emotions and a broad range of perspectives within the same song", describing the album's songs as "cerebral soul music for the kind of people who mean to read TE Lawrence's Seven Pillars of Wisdom on their holiday but end up spending all their time exchanging bodily fluids with strangers."
Q's John Aizlewood wrote that "Guilt, misery and failed relationships thread their way through Little Earthquakes with occasional detours for childhood traumas transformed into adult inadequacies" and praised Amos' s lyrics, concluding: "Little Earthquakes is disturbing, funny and sexy by turns. Amos does all this with the unmistakable stamp of a potentially great songwriter. Where on earth can she go from here?"
Roger Morton of NME, however, was more reserved, writing that "it isn't easy getting to grips with Tori" and calling Little Earthquakes "a sprawling, confusing journey through the gunk of a woman's soul ... Sometimes it's magical and sometimes it's sickly and overwrought."