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Comfort of Strangers

3.5 out of 5 stars 44 customer reviews

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Audio CD, February 7, 2006
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Product Description

Delivering one of 2006's most anticipated releases, Beth Orton, re-emerges with a self-assuredness that can be heard, or rather felt, in her songwriting, her vocals and her guitar. Features the single "Conceived."

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Few vocalists equal the expressive subtlety of Beth Orton, whose fourth album is both her most musically spare and artistically complex to date. Not only does the production and backing by Jim O'Rourke (known for his work with Sonic Youth and Wilco) capture Orton's vocal style at its most unstudied and unvarnished, the lack of embellishment focuses all the more attention on her songwriting. From the jazzy phrasing on the deceptively jaunty "Worms" through the haunting "Feral" and the amazing grace of the closing, hymnlike "Pieces of Sky," Orton's songs give voice to the sort of knotty, prickly emotions that are as hard to define as they are deeply felt. Most of the musical dynamic features piano or guitar over an elemental, insistent rhythm section, making the coloring of an occasional string section ("Conceived"), harmonica ("Absinthe"), or accordion ("Safe in Your Arms") all the more striking. As an indication of the emotional range of this musical minimalism, the title cut is soothing enough to please fans of Norah Jones, while "Heartlandstruckstop" is as edgy as Patti Smith. --Don McLeese
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (February 7, 2006)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Parlophone
  • ASIN: B000CBSHK2
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (44 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #32,229 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD
Beth Orton's Central Reservation is one of my most loved and worn-out records, and as an artist I hold her in very high regard. Orton's musical integrity, uniqueness and high songwriting standards seemed to be intact from day one of her career, and her voice has always been unmistakably beautiful. No one sounded like Beth Orton back in the mid 90's and nobody does now.

Having said all that, I thought she might have stalled a bit with her last full-length album - 2002's Daybreaker. Daybreaker wasn't without a good song or two, and was actually a pretty good record by most people's standards, it's just that you come to expect so much more from a songwriter of Beth Orton's class. Pleasingly, four years on, any notions of a slide in quality have been well and truly dispelled by her new effort Comfort Of Strangers.

Comfort Of Strangers is less immediate than previous releases and more understated musically and melodically, but sure enough, little by little, these songs begin to get under your skin. The electronic touches that adorned her earlier work are now gone in favour of a more organic approach courtesy of sympathetic producer Jim O'Rourke (Wilco). He allows Orton's soulful folk/pop songs room to breathe, and in moving away from technology her new material becomes imbued with a real sense of timelessness.

Lyrically too, she's in top form. Orton has a knack of writing about the important stuff, without being.... well.... all important about it. Like the great writer Raymond Carver, Orton sings about love, life and the nature of humanity by observing the little details, cracks and fissures in daily existence that tend to get passed over for the more obvious moments.
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Format: Audio CD
if you're trying to decide whether to shell out the extra five dollars for the bonus cd, i'd like to convince you that it is worth it.

argument #1 = the tracks on the bonus cd are just as strong as the rest of the cd, not an afterthought. no crappy remixes to be found here.
argument #2 = if two years ago beth orton put out a cd with five new songs on it for $5, you would have bought it without hesitation.
argument #3 = title track comfort of strangers #9 is particularly good, with a duet with m ward (who co-wrote the song with beth orton).

similar to pass in time, the comfort of strangers bonus disc is quality material, and well worth the extra dollars.
1 Comment 13 of 13 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
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.
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Format: Audio CD
Having loved the bassy beat-driven Daybreaker, Beth goes back to her Central Reservation roots with a more acoustic and "earthy" sounding album. Her voice still plays wonderfully amidst the poppy, Carole King-esque, guitar tunes. I have yet to find a heartstring tugger on this album, but I am sure in time one will emerge. Check out the music video for the first single as well. It is a good summarization of what you can expect on the album.
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Format: Audio CD
Beth Orton is a talented and unique singer-songwriter with a consistent sense of releasing good music. The soul of Beth Orton songs have always been two things - her great voice and her fantastic lyrics. "Safe In Your Arms" was my first favorite off this album. Next, "Heart of Soul" a more upbeat piece to break up the slower songs. If you're a fan of Beth's or new to her, this CD is for you. Excellent music from beginning to end. It's different in style to Trailer Park and Central Reservation, but all in all a great album.
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Format: Audio CD
Really puzzled by so many bad reviews of this great batch of

songs. My expectations were so low, and these songs are so

incredibly likeable. And the "bad sound" is really just a very

nice, very informal, very fresh recording. I'm not even a fan

of Beth Orton's, and I think this is just one of the most

wonderful and rewarding efforts I've heard in years.
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Format: Audio CD
I remember reading somewhere around the time the "Daybreaker" was released that Beth meant it to conclude the trilogy of albums that included "Trailer Park" and "Central Reservation". Not included in the "trilogy" was a "Best Bit" EP issued between 1st and 2nd CD but, musically, it definitely belonged there. That body of work appeared to be of dual nature; alternating between electronically colored, hypnotic at times, extended grooves and acoustic, guitar only, folk songs. I absolutely loved that part of her music where she applied the experience gained while with William Orbit or Chemical Brothers.

In the current album, "Comfort of Strangers", she is more consistent than she ever was. The music is more in the "urban folk" category (if there is such a term). The frugal instrumentation of bass, drums, guitar and/or piano puts so much more emphasis on Beth Orton's voice. The occasional touches of cello and viola are reminiscent of her prior arrangements. A harmonica or accordion, in couple of songs, just adds to quiet drama of her lyrics. The music on this album swings; swings in the rock sense, of course. The ever pulling rhythm is always there; sometimes loud and clear in front, other times muted yet pulsating behind. I rarely focus on the lyrics but they are a treat here; "...I don't care how much religion you've got, you've got to put a lot of love in your heart (whole lotta love in your heart)". Was it a concious Led Zeppelin quote? If only the reprinted lyrics in the booklet were easier to read I would have told you more about them. The focus on her voice and lyrics is what probably makes the songs very short. They are tight and to the point. Makes me yearning for more.
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