published: 9 /
In our 'Re:View' section, in which our writers look back at albums from the past, Anthony Strutt reflects on English singer-songwriter Beth Orton's 1999 album 'Central Reservation', which has just been re-released in a new double CD edition
Beth Orton’s 1999 second album ‘Central Reservation’ was a big step upwards from ‘Trailer Park’, her 1997 first record. Her band by this time were a strong force, and her vision had become much wider. It is an album, based in dance, chill out and folk.
‘Central Reservation’ opens with the single ‘Stolen Car’, which has a bigger arrangement than most of the tracks on ‘Trailer Park’. It is a summery, mystical number, full of backwards guitars and with a graceful vocal.
‘Sweetest Decline’ is a soothing folk track. ‘Couldn't Cause Me Harm’ is a trippy, slowed-right-down number with a relaxed feel, and ‘So Much More’, is almost a jazz piece with its soft, gently plucked beats.
‘Pass in Time’, which was about Beth’s mother’s death, is reminiscent of Tim Buckley or early Nick Drake, and has elements of early 60’s folk rock too. Touching on jazz as well, it is sung as a duet with Terry Callier.
The original version of ‘Central Reservation’ is a continent of a song. It is a storytelling number of epic portions, but is softly sung as if rocking a child too sleep. ‘Stars Seem to Weep’ is a soft dance number, rocking without the volume that gives you a headache, while ‘Love like Laughter’ has a lazy 1970’s country feel to it.
‘Blood Like River’ was always a live concert highlight, and soul searching and clever. ‘Devil Song’ in contrast is pretty much a solo number, with limited backing, and is an updated folk track from “The Comedown Queen” as she was called back then.
‘Feel to Believe’ was always a happy concert closer, cheerful and bouncy, while the album closes with an reprise of the title track called ‘The Then’ which is more dance-influenced than the original of 'Central Reservation'.
A fine album, which has stood up well over the years.