Sony’s reissue of Beth Orton’s 1996 album openly rides the wave of London’s folk revival, making it impossible not to judge Orton against her new contemporaries Laura Marling, Emmy The Great, et al. It’s not a favourable comparison. Orton’s debut, while it may have sat well in a decade marred by squishy-sounding synths and William Orbit production, sounds insincere compared to the pared-down, simple orchestration favoured by today’s folkies.
There’s no doubting Orton’s songwriting and lyrical skills, showcased to perfection on Live As You Dream and She Cries Your Name, while her crackling, melancholic voice adds yet more gravitas to laments such as I Wish I Never Saw The Sunshine. Tracks such as Tangent and Galaxy Of Emptiness, however, are blighted by obnoxious production. This two-disc edition comprises the full album, originally released on Heavenly, as well as a bonus disc of B-sides and rarities.
The latter includes gems such as the lovely ballad Safety, which must be one of Orton’s most accomplished compositions, and a performance of Orton’s hero Terry Callier’s Lean On Me, featuring the man himself. Orton’s debut certainly deserves a re-airing, but Sony has done her a disservice in its attempt to jump on the folk bandwagon.