Saturday, September 24, 2005

for beth-heads everywhere

Pass In Time
Beth Orton

The other night, I picked up a copy of Beth Orton's Pass In Time. This was one of those purchases where I found myself second-guessing my decision as soon as I walked out of the store ... I mean, it's a little suspicious when an artist puts out a retrospective record despite having previously released only four full-length LP's. But I had no need to worry - as usual, Beth didn't disappoint.

The first thing you notice about Pass In Time is that it doesn't cheat you on length - there's two hours of music here spanning 24 tracks and two CD's. Yet, there's a pleasantly surprising lack of filler material, a bit of new stuff plus a bit of old obscure stuff, and nothing seems out of place. Musicians take note: this is how you make a retrospective album.

Born in Norwich, England, in 1970, Beth Orton has a distinct, soulful voice; is almost six feet tall; suffers from Crohn's disease; and has a nice smile. Describing Beth's brand of urban-folkie-occasionalelectronica(?) music to anyone who hasn't heard her before is difficult. Quite frankly, she doesn't sound like anybody else though I've heard people try to compare her to everyone from Gwen Stefani to Jewel to Sarah Slean. I won't do Beth the unjustice of trying to make my own comparisons so I'll simply say that Beth Orton sounds like Beth Orton, and you need to listen to this album.

dingobear track selections:

Disc 1
2. Someone's Daughter. Beth's comment on this song from the CD inset: "A song born from being in love and blissed out." My comment: it's happy, it's easy on the ears, it's from Trailer Park, released in 1996.

6. I Wish I Never Saw The Sunshine. Cover of the Ronettes' bittersweet ballad.

8. The Same Day. New, previously unreleased track.

9. Stolen Car. In my opinion, the track that best defines Beth Orton. That is, to the extent she's actually definable. From 1999's superb Central Reservation. Ben Harper guest stars on the slide guitar.

14. Thinking About Tomorrow. Maybe my favourite Beth Orton song to date. From the underrated Daybreaker album, released in 2003.

Disc 2
1. Central Reservation (Spiritual Life - Ibadan Remix). This mix sounds like it fell out of a Lemon Jelly record.

2. Where Do I Begin. Collaboration with the Chemical Brothers, with whom Beth's guest vocals earned her acclaim earlier in her career. Outstanding track. "Sunday morning, I'm waking up / Can't even focus on a coffee cup / Don't even know whose bed I'm in / Where do I start ... where do I begin?"

3. Stars All Seem to Weep. Maybe best known from its part on Everything But The Girl's Back to Mine compilation album. Vintage Beth Orton vocals plus flawless Ben Watt production. "I think about you on a moonlit night / And stars all seem to weep."

4. Safety. A recording of the first time Beth sang solo.

7. It's Not The Spotlight. Cover of a throwback Rod Stewart (yes! Rod the Mod!) tune, circa 1975.

9. Where Do You Go. "Where do you go when the wind doesn't blow? / Are you still like the trees ... only bend in the breeze?" Hauntingly brilliant, raw but pure, foreshadows greater things to come. From the 1993 album Superpinkymandy, which was released only in Japan. If anyone knows where I can find this record (without having to make a trip to Tokyo), please drop me a comment.

I think Beth Orton has a cute smile.

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