Revisiting Beth Orton's 1996 Epic 'Trailer Park'!

We revisit Beth Orton's 1996 classic "Trailer Park"!

Strange thing, timing. You either have it or you don't.

In music, it can be the difference between a successful career and an expensive hobby. For Beth Orton, it can be the difference between bumping into someone at a party and bumping into producer William Orbit at a party, asking him for a cigarette, and unwittingly setting in motion a music career that now spans three decades.

Not long after their incidental meeting, Orton and Orbit began dating and what began as a request to lend impromptu spoken-word vocals to Orbit's 1993 song "Water From A Vine Leaf" (from the album Strange Cargo III) had, by 1995, morphed into Orton's first solo album (the Orbit-produced Japan-only debut album Superpinkymandy).

While that album includes the first version of "She Cries Your Name", the whole exercise seems intended more as a William Orbit demo reel than the work of an inspired female singer-songwriter and is almost indistinguishable from her contributions to the Strange Cargo (Orbit under a pseudonym) album Hinterland (1995), which also includes a version of "She Cries Your Name".

A second stroke of impeccable timing puts Orton on a collision path with the Chemical Brothers (then known as the Dust Brothers), who've just come off two high profile remixes for Primal Scream and the Prodigy.

The pair invites Orton to contribute vocals to two tracks ("One Too Many Mornings" and "Alive Alone") on what is to be their breakout album, Exit Planet Dust (1995).

Perhaps sensing that the buzz around the Chem Bros would permeate everyone and everything in their "orbit", for lack of a better term, Heavenly Records honcho Jeff Barrett snaps up Orton and
puts her in the studio with DJ/producer Andrew Weatherall, best known as the DJ Primal Scream tapped to co-produce their breakout album, Screamadelica.

Just as Screamadelica would turn Primal Scream into the reigning kings of the dancefloor, Trailer Park would quickly make Beth Orton queen of the chill-out session.

Here in the States, you didn't have to be a clubber to be well aware of Orton. Anyone who walked into a record store between the years 1996-1998 is familiar with the sight of album promo placards of Trailer Park's cover art hanging prominently throughout. Nor could you turn on your local NPR radio station without being treated to "She Cries Your Name" at least once an hour.

That is, by no means, a complaint, but an accomplishment and proof of just how iconic the record was. It didn't hit with the seismic impact of, say, Nirvana's Nevermind, but its glacial momentum was all-encompassing and its influence upon a myriad of artists in numerous genres continues to this day.

UK singer Beth Orton in '97.
Like so many albums of the time, Trailer Park received the "deluxe edition" treatment in 2009 and, unlike so many albums of the time, the "bonus disc" of remixes, castaways and demos hints actually adds to the album rather than detracts. Her "Twin Peaks"-worthy rendition of the Paris Sisters' classic "I Love How You Love Me" awaits those who make it to the very end of said bonus disc, pre-dating the Raveonettes by five years.

Of special note to Chicago music fans is the inclusion of two songs Orton performed with Terry Collier ("Lean On Me" and "Dolphins") that had previously only been available on the 1997 Best Bit EP.

Those wishing to revisit 1996-97 successfully would be better served pulling Orton's Trailer Park one out of storage than say, Crystal Method's Vegas. Don't get us wrong, Vegas is a great album, but trying to keep up with that one on the dancefloor will only reveal how out of shape we are, whereas Trailer Park has always known our limitations and never judged us.

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