Jazzland is proud to present a special selection of some of the best music by one of the most popular and enduring bands to come out of the Norwegian scene: the inimitable Beady Belle.
Fronted by Beate S. Lech, a stunning singer, songwriter and composer with few peers, and consistently provided with unparallelled backbone by Marius Reksjø and Erik Holm, and regular top-notch collaborators such as David Wallumrød, the group has progressed, digressed and evolved to become one of the most consistently excellent bands, both live and in the studio.
The phrase "All killer, no filler" has rarely been more apt than here, with this fabulous three-disc collection offering a superb selection of tracks that effortlessly demonstrate just why Beady Belle are placed upon a golden pedestal by so many critics and fans alike.
The first two disks present the group in the studio, featuring a selection of tracks that fans helped to choose. Rather than chronological order, the tracks have been given new placements to complement each other and create a smooth flow. Each studio album contributes several tracks, and with that comes an array of collaborators that reads like a litany of the great and good in modern jazz and crossover: Jamie Cullum, India Irie, Torun Eriksen, Bugge Wesseltoft, Jørgen Munkeby, Geir Sundstøl, Anders Engen and countless others.
Despite line-up adjustments, the sound remains unmistakeably "Beady Belle" throughout. From the minimalist funk opening of "Saved" and the hint of reggae funk of "So Far, So Good" (both from the breathtaking "concept" album "Cricklewood Broadway") through the unlikely fusion of jazz and Bluegrass stylings that is "Diamond in The Rough" (from "At Welding Bridge"), the Latin influenced beats and musical structures of Middle Eastern music found in "My Name On The World" (a return to "Cricklewood Broadway"),the soul-funk-jazz gumbo of "Lose & Win" ("Home"), "Irony" ("Closer"), and "Self-fulfilling" ("Belvedere" - featuring India Irie), to the swampblues-meets-smoothjazz of "Runaway Mind" ("At Welding Bridge"), to the slightly off-kilter club jazz of "Skin Deep" (from "Closer"), the jubilant disco-inflected grooves of "Moderation" and driving rhythms of "Ghosts" (both from "Home"), the first disc displays an eclecticism that would suggest inconsistency in any other band. Yet here we can hear something immediately identifiable from the outset in every case.
The second disc follows this trend with similar stylistic shifts, but this time the mood is a little bit darker, with dashes of balladry, deeper experimentation and explorations of shadowy moods. Beginning with "Big Balloon" ("CEWBEAGAPPIC") and its smoky dub soul, the album moves along through the yearning "A Touch of Paradise" ("Belvedere"), the soulful "Shadow" ("CEWBEAGAPPIC"), the laidback blue groove of "Apron Strings" ("Belvedere"), the stardust melodies of "Intermission Music" ("Belvedere" - featuring Jamie Cullum), the shuffling jazz of "April Fool" ("CEWBEAGAPPIC"), the honey-smooth soul of "Closer" ("Closer"), the sunset golden shades of "When My Anger Starts To Cry" ("CEWBEAGAPPIC"), the stumbling balladry of "Turn Back Time" ("At Welding Bridge") before concluding with the resounding affirmation of life and music that is "Half-Truth" ("Cricklewood Broadway").
The third disc, entitled "A Night At The Theatre", is unique to this collection, and presents a live recording of a concert at Parkteatret, set in the heart of Grünerløkka, Oslo (a place that briefly lent its name to the club-jazz fusion music scene that emerged at the turn of the millenium, a scene in which Beady Belle were key players). The versions of classic Beady Belle tracks on offer here demonstrate the band's ability to deliver renditions that are both familiar and seem utterly new. Some appear in extended form, with superb soloing and expansions of mood and texture, and where the studio arrangement may have included horn and string sections, it becomes clear that such choices were purely aesthetic rather than disguising some imagined shortcoming on the part of either the band or the song. Harder edges appear alongside stripped-back interpretations of tracks that were previously warm and lush. This disk will undoubtedly lead to more casual fans of the band to make an effort to catch them live.
Throughout all the work on display, the star that shines the brightest, without too much argument from most, it is safe to say, is Beate S. Lech's astounding voice, capable of huge range, both in terms of texture and musical reach. Of course, this isn't news to fans who have followed her work both in Beady Belle and other projects (not least her contributions to another classic Jazzland album "Dreams That Went Astray" by The Jon Eberson Group where "Wish" is possibly one of the best tracks that Jazzland has ever released).
There is nothing nostalgic about this collection. It is a beautiful summary of an exceptional career to date, and a prelude to more great things to come.