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Album Review

Out of Season plays to Beth Gibbons' strengths as a vocalist and songwriter more than anything released prior by Portishead. On both Dummy and Portishead, her pained, worn, resilient voice was often made to sound as if it was as much an artifact as the Isaac Hayes and Lalo Schifrin samples. That voice of hers was perfectly suited for the backing provided by her bandmates, but more than a few wondered if it would sound even more perfect — or in a better setting, naked and completely central — if it were supported by the type of folk, jazz, and R&B recordings it could've been plucked from in the first place. That "what if" is answered with this album, made by Gibbons in collaboration with Paul Webb, several of his fellow Talk Talk alums, and numerous others. Brass, strings, reeds, organs, acoustic guitar, double bass, and lightly brushed drums are all part of the mix, which never threatens to take the spotlight away from Gibbons. The lyrical themes aren't much of a departure for the singer, who contemplates the passing of time and her love/hate relationship with existence throughout — one song opens with "God knows how I adore life," and then one song later, she's "So tired of life." The icing on the cake is in the little details, like the sly Carol Kaye imitation snuck in by bassist Adrian Utley during "Romance" and the way the background vocals discreetly drift in and out, alternating between serene and spooky. The sticker that came affixed to the disc contains a quote that proclaims this to be one of the best albums of all time. While that is a stretch, there's no denying that the quote below that one — "Quietly devastating" — is 100 percent accurate. [The U.S. version, issued nearly a year after the album's initial release, adds a live cover of the Velvet Underground's "Candy Says"; the video for "Mysteries" is also included.]

Customer Reviews

A haunting classic

Out of Season is a timeless beauty. With its Snow White'esque ghost choruses and classic vintage production, it is both understated and haunting on many levels. Beth takes her gritty stories of lost love and broken shadows from Portishead and distills them in to stripped, acoustic torch songs. While this album seems to have gotten a lackluster reception in the States, it was hailed as a masterwork in the UK. This sort of geographical divide is not entirely uncommon, but still hard to understand. I would have given this album 6 stars if I could, it's near perfect.

Magnificent harmony of music and voice

After straight power of Portishead I needed a few years to understand and appreciate this album. But it definitely deserves for waiting. I rediscovered it recently and now can’t stop listening. Great needs time to become timeless.

Rustin Man...

...Is bassist Paul Webb of Talk Talk and .O. Rang

Biography

Born: Exeter, Devon, England

Genre: Pop

Years Active: '90s, '00s

Beth Gibbons, lead singer of the important British alternative band Portishead, is not so much mysterious as intensely private. Born in 1965 into an Exeter farm family, she embraced rural life fully, forgoing college to continue doing farm work and listening to music on a home stereo with her family. As a 22-year-old in the late '80s, however, she took a chance on becoming a singer by moving to the seaside town of Bristol. A smattering of praise and bookings kept her on the local scene, but Gibbons,...
Full Bio
Out of Season, Beth Gibbons
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