Catherine Howe What a Beautiful Place [Remaster] CD
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Description & Features+
Recording information: 02/1971.
This 1971 debut album by this British singer/songwriter has sold for large sums on the collector's market in its original vinyl form, though it became easily affordable upon its 2007 CD reissue, which added historical liner notes. Though its high price tag as a collectable LP and its subsequent reissue testifies to the high regard in which the record is held by some listeners, others will wonder if that mystique has more to do with the rarity than the quality. It's fairly mainstream early-'70s singer/songwriter fare, pushed toward both the slightly odd and the slightly middle of the road by orchestration that's as oriented toward easy listening as artiness. Howe has a pleasing voice with a wide range that sometimes echoes major female singer/songwriters of the era like Joni Mitchell and Sandy Denny. Yet her songs (some written with Bobby Scott, who also co-produced) are rather ordinary, if listenable. Too, the production and her hazy enunciation mask the clarity of her lyrics, which matters a lot in singer/songwriter efforts. The quirky "Prologue," "Interlude," and "Epilogue" -- all of which sound, as strange as it might seem, like the opening bit (with the spoken narration) of the theme to the original Star Trek TV series, as morphed into the early-'70s singer/songwriter style -- hint at a conceptual grandiosity not realized or justified by the proper songs. Intimations of something a little darker and more British in tone -- like "It's Not Likely," the song which most strongly recalls some of Sandy Denny's brooding outings -- aren't followed through with punch. The precious and at times bittersweet daintiness of the vocals and melodies will appeal to some fans of slightly offbeat period singer/songwriter fare, but will also frustrate others hoping for something more substantial and distinctive. ~ Richie Unterberger
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