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Caroleen Beatty - You're Only As Pretty As You Feel

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Artist: Caroleen Beatty

Album: You're Only As Pretty As You Feel

Label: Black Beauty

Review date: Dec. 8, 2005

Singer Caroleen Beatty fronts Waycross and the Bedlam Rovers, but she gained some recognition last year alongside Doug Hilsinger for their collaborative reinterpretation of Brian Eno's Taking Tiger Mountain (by Strategy). They took a unique approach on that disc, replacing the trademark keys and proto-synth pop swells with an array of acoustic instruments, giving Beatty's forceful voice free reign over a series of tunes that weren't initially meant to be vehicles for such a set of pipes. You're Only As Pretty As You Feel takes a somewhat similar tactic, but instead gives Beatty a chance to stretch out over five covers of songs originally penned by the likes of Pentangle and Ginger Baker's Air Force.

Backed by Mushroom on three songs and the Heavy Friends on the remaining two, the performances here are expectedly loose and limber. While the material may cite psychedelic and folk, the rhythms are soaked in a fine funk. She starts with Bill Withers, leading her backing band on a smoky pull through "Use Me," all forlorn horns and gentle wah. Not much of a stretch from the original there, but "Sally Go Round the Roses" ends up more supple, pinned next to organ drone and guitar chime – more limber and spry than the Pentangle version. Jefferson Airplane's "Pretty As You Feel," one of the few bright spots in their later catalogue, finds Beatty and Pat Thomas in a duet, with a tremulant violin line setting up amidst the woebegone vocals. By the time she closes things out with a run through Ginger Baker's "Toady," the air is thick with night, but the band still burns it out.

Not a bad performance, overall. The song selection is a little bizarre, but it suits Beatty's voice just fine. The more bottom heavy aspects of the recording could do with a bit of grit and grime that might have switched things up a little bit over the course of the EP. But hey, it still sounds pretty good at 3 a.m. over a couple of beers.

By Michael Crumsho

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