Central Reservation - Expanded Edition
added: 13 Aug 2014
// release date: 18 Aug 2014 // label: Cherry Red Records
reviewer: David Spencer
From the moment the faded guitar intro envelops you on Stolen Car, Beth Orton's 1999 second album is something special. Fifteen years have passed but the record hasn't dated at all. Central Reservation was nominated for a Mercury, while Orton went on to claim Best Female in 2000. The shortlist for that latter award underlines just how much British music lacked female talent at that time, with no disrespect to the likes of Gabrielle and Beverley Knight - but Geri Halliwell and Melanie C anyone?!
It was 1999, and this was pre Dido, Adele, Amy Winehouse and the all-conquering female army of singers that now dominates much of the mainstream. Not that Orton was ever going to be mainstream - but her unique voice and blend of folk-pop-rock raised the bar for females to come. The album sounds as good as ever, with the plaintiff and heartbreaking Sweetest Decline, to the acoustic brilliance of Feel To Believe.
The attraction for fans - less so newcomers - is the extra CD of sessions and demos. Compiled by Orton herself, there are recordings from an acoustic gig at West 54th Street in New York - with the singer demonstrating her ability to let the song consume her. Of the b-sides included, the tender Love Like Daughter is the pick, while there are also demos of Central Reservation and Couldn't Cause Me Harm.
The album is listed in the book, 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die and deservedly so, while Orton herself says she enjoys listening back to a record that was recorded at a time she describes as a 'period of redemption'. If you've never explored it - now is a good time.
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