Beth Orton Daybreaker

Beth is back, and this time she's breaking out the big guns. Teaming up with producer Ben Watt (Everything But the Girl), she's created another collection of intimate, heart-tugging tunes stamped by her signature haunting vocal style. That's the solid base that's been maintained, yet what's gone is the sparse, ethereal feeling that has accompanied her previous releases. This time, Ms. Orton jet-propels, rather than floats, through musical space, fuelled by confident strings, multi-layered orchestration, punchy hooks and ornate instrumentation. Emmylou Harris and Ryan Adams are along for the ride, brightening yet not stealing the spotlight on "God Song" and "Concrete Sky," respectively - two of the highlights in this rich, filmic atmosphere. Although it's all a bit brasher and edging towards "wall of sound" grandiosity, the unique quality of Orton's beautiful voice and her melancholy lyrics means that whatever she spins, and in whatever variation, will be saved from being cheesy adult contemporary pop, which the skeletal framework of the tunes here have the potential of being in less competent hands. The willowy ghostly spirit lives on, yet this time it's got a little more power to stay in your head and visit your dreams, a little more bite with which to make its mark. (EMI)