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4.3 out of 5 stars
Comfort Of Strangers
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Pop music has been blessed by numerous female folk minstrels of immense talent: Joan Baez, Janis Ian, Eva Cassidy, Sandy Denny… and of course, Beth Orton, one of the best female singer-songwriters to have emerged from Britain in the last twenty years.
It has been a long time coming- four years since Daybreaker- but on the evidence of Comfort of Strangers, it would appear that the time has been well spent.
The trip-hop, Massive Attack-esque influences first exhibited on 1996’s Trailer Park are less in evidence here, with her moving towards a straight folk direction. However, songs such as “Worms”, “Comfort of Strangers”, “Conceived” and “Heartland Truckstop” are beautiful in their purity, with her trademark downbeat, world-weary vocals very much in good health and her lyrics as intelligent and introspective as ever. It just feels authentic, as if she is singing from the depths of her soul.
In all, Comfort of Strangers is of a calibre that few will be able to match, with her intimate, stark simplicity demonstrating perfectly that substance will always triumph over style. Although the folk/indie/electronica fusion has been replaced by rootsy folk, this is as good as Trailer Park and 1999’s Central Reservation. Definitely worth buying.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on 16 February 2006
Well, thank god that she has gone bad to her folksy roots - this mature blending of melancholy lyrics and haunting musical arrangement is a delight to listen to. After recently seeing her live, where she did 3 encores asking the audience what they'd like to hear, this album reconfirmed to me that she is a truly unique singer and poet. This is an album thankfully unlike her last, experimentally up-beat, album 'Daybreaker' and more like her heart-stirring, original efforts of 'Trailer Park' and 'Central Reservation.
It is a truly beautiful album, sung so beautifully it will make you cry over and over again. Beth Orton really has a voice that would make angels jealous. Buy it, I implore you.
Or, at least, listen to 'I wish I never saw the sunshine' from Trailer Park; I challenge you to not be moved.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Unfairly known as the `comedown queen', Beth Orton has been mining a particular furrow of the frail chauntese for a decade now. Or, more accurately, as the credible female singer-songwriter for whom massive commercial success has always eluded her. Singer-songwriter. What a dreadful phrase that is- Dylan's a singer-songwriter.hell. Even Robbie Williams is a singer-songwriter. So the phrase is itself absolutely redundant.

Meanwhile, Beth Orton seems never to make great commercial inroads or revolutionise the music world. This isn't due to talent (1x Beth Orton = 51 x Joss Stone, according the alegbra of taste), but due to the simple fact that Orton has never been able to transcend the era in which she rose to public prominence. Healthy, but never earthshattering sales, and a preference by cloth eared editors to prefer simpler, more pliable female stars to sell as eye candy on the front cover of their monthlies and radio 2 flagships have meant that Orton sits left of the spotlight.

Two years on from the contractual-obligation "Pass In Time", and "The Comfort of Strangers" is well, yet another Beth Orton album. There's no stylistic evolution from previous records - then again, if it aint broke, why fix it? The template of previous albums, the gentle, understated music and the fragile vocals sound like your hangover at the exact moment you start to feel completely sober. Delicate, battered, and wise.

Where Orton shines is tapping into that particularly British mood that bands like Pink Floyd, Coldplay, and lesser lights have trademarked - a sense of exhausted, exasperated, quiet desperation coupled with a vague sense of distanced reserve from everything. With a dash of regretful sex, which seems to be Orton's unique selling point - intelligent, sorrowful lust.

"Concieved", and the title track manage to convey this sense well : the feeling of the morning after. (and this is nothing new, `Central reservation' carries much the same), but the mogadon pace fails to convey much sense of life until "Shadow of A Doubt" and "Shopping Trolley". The rest of the album manages to indulge in a sense of vague British regret at something, at everything, and nothing in particular at the same time.

Which, if that's what you want "Comfort Of Strangers" is perfect. If you want something that doesn't sound like a dinner party with an ex-lover, you may want to look elsewhere.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 15 February 2006
Ever since "Central Reservation," and other than a couple of tracks -Sweetest Deline" and her collaboration with Terry Callier, I've been missing her full emotional range, her voice and her lyrics back at the center again.
Comfort of Strangers is that promised fulfilled. Jim O'Rourke produced the miracle, reaching for Orton's heart, and recording a set of tracks that is both eclectic and finely wrought together. This is an album, that rare species of CDs that contain no duds, it's all great.
Still, gems abound. Listen for instance to her voice in the gorgeous Comfort To Stragers, Rectify, Feral Children, Safe in Your Arms, or the lyrics and groove of Worms. She can sings!
Jim O'Rourke's gift is in the nuances and details, here he offers precisely what each song needed. Some almost a wisp of guitar and a quiet bass, or piano, strings or horns in those places where it was the thing to have.
This is a great album, an obvious choice for anyone who'd followed her career, a perfect place to start in your way to Central Reservation, or just a tremendous addtion to any respectable collection.
PS: You can find my in-depth review at futurosity.com
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 5 March 2006
Quite simply, this is the best record Beth Orton has made in a long, long time. It seems Beth has given herself a wake-up call - she is working with new musicians, has learned to play the piano and even plugs in an electric guitar on this set. The songs are strong, particularly the title track where her voice soars. Other standouts include Countenance, Conceived, Shopping Trolley and Feral. Jim O'Rourke's pared down production lets the songs breathe and really works. I haven't enjoyed a Beth Orton album so much since Trailer Park.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Having been an avid fan of ms orton since hearing touch me with your love on the radio way back in 1996 i have enjoyed both the trailer park and central reservation albums but have always cringed a little when the dance remixes are applied. Then daybreaker came along which broke my heart as it for me just didnt work. The new album is something else and really is Beth back to her best great lyrics catchy hum along tunes not a sniff of a dance track.If you like this look out for her best bits ep as they are of the same vain. Definatly try this album out for size
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 23 January 2007
There are some albums that I love. I bought these albums and listened to them intensely for a couple of weeks. After that I still enjoyed them but my enthusiasm wained. Then there are a few albums that I have owned for a year or more and they still send a shiver down my spine. Comfort of Strangers is one of the latter. This collection of songs is a poignant, mature, haunting offering and I guarantee that it will linger with you. Track 13 in particular is so good that it makes my soul ache.
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An earthy voice, catchy musical arrangements and original, often amusing lyrics (the opening line of the album is 'Worms don't dance, they haven't got the balls'). All this adds up to a charming album. The centrepiece and first single, Conceived, is a marvellous piece of work with a catchy chorus that stays in your head for hours, and its predecessor Shadow of a Doubt has a similar effect. Beth Orton has an almost conversational style at times, and perhaps this is one of the reasons you feel you're in the room with her as she sings to you.

This special edition comes with a second disc with 5 other tracks that feel more raw than the rest. The reworking of the title track as a duet is particularly excellent. All in all, this album is a must-buy for Beth Orton's existing fans, and a worthwhile purchase for those looking for someone out of the mainstream who can provide relaxing, harmonic music to die for.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 2 September 2006
It's hard to find praise for this album that hasn't already been left by its other reviewers.

For me it took a few listens to really get into it, but Beth Orton seems to have such a confident, open, and optimistic approach to singing about her emotions that it's incredible to listen to. Lines like 'didn't ask to be conceived in a loveless embrace' are rare and brave. And the laughing/crying feeling that Shopping Trolley carries all the way through it is amazing - how does she sound so upbeat as she sings 'my head's hanging so low I'm kicking it as I walk down the road'?

I can't recommend this latest great Beth Orton album enough - it's inteligent, emotional, and addictive.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Beth Orton, a 70s child from Norfolk, captures the essence of folk-music that runs through the whole of this album successfully. Using the talents of Jim O'Rourke (guitarist and bassist of Sonic Youth), Orton has managed to produce an album, musically different from her previous works, but made with the same energy and passion. The opening song 'Worms' has a jazz approach, and with the gentle, rich voice of Beth Orton, each song sounded more captivating than the last. A gentle drum beat, acoustic guitar and the use of a harmonica I found this perfect music to unwind to in such a stressful period of exams.
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