"I was lucky someone had lent me a record by Terry.
I listened to him - and not much else - for about a year."
Title: Best Bit EP
Artist: Beth Orton
Release Date: 14th December 1997
Record Label: Heavenly Recordings
1. Best Bit
2. Skimming Stone
4. Lean on Me
5. Touch Me With Your Love (Live at KCRW-FM) (US edition only)
This was Beth's first release after her blistering debut, Trailer Park. Featuring two original compositions (Best Bit and Skimming Stone), two covers and (in the US) a live recording of an oldy but a goody, this EP was exactly what every Beth fan wanted in the (far too long) gap between albums.
The Callier Connection
Beth Orton had been a great admirer of the work of jazz musician Terry Callier ever since a friend lent her one of his records, and desperately wanted the opportunity to work with him. After catching Callier's London Jazz Cafe show in 1996, Beth sent him a copy of Trailer Park, and asked if he'd like to try a duet next time he was in town. So in April 1997, the two recorded together.
"For three days we sat and sang together. I asked Terry how
he thought our voices could possibly go together. He told me:
'Well you're gonna try and sound like me and I'm gonna try and sound like you. You see?'.
And it made perfect sense."
Best Bit (the song) was originally released as a B-side to the reissue of She Cries your Name and could happily stand its own against any of Beth's album tracks. Seemingly a personal favourite (she nearly always has Best Bit as part of her encore), the song is much faster paced than most of Beth's work, but utilises her unique voice to great efffect. The second track, Skimming Stone, is unfortunately much blander and feels a bit half-finished. By no means bad (could Beth manage bad?), it is still a little disappointing.
Track 3, Dolphins, is a cover of a Fred Neil track from 1971. It is one of the four (that I know of) tracks Beth recorded with Terry Callier (the ones not on this EP being Pass in Time from Central Reservation and Love Can Do on Callier's album, Lifetime). The two complement each other perfectly, and the inherent greatness of Fred Neil's song shines through.
Track 4 is the reason to buy this EP. It is a cover of a Callier original, appearing on his 1972 album, Occasional Rain. Beth and Terry really do sound like they were made to sing together on this one, the song being absolutely perfect for Beth's folky sound.
Track 5 is simply a live recording of Touch Me With Your Love which, while very pleasant, is nothing special.
Obviously, if you're a fan of either Beth or Terry, this is an essential purchase. As a first step into either of their worlds, I would suggest something else - try either Trailer Park or an early Terry Callier record. For anyone else - try it, you just might like it.