Beth Orton may prefer these days to pretend that it never happened, but three years before 1996’s Trailer Park, she actually recorded and released an entire album, Superpinkymandy. Released only in Japan as a limited edition, history hasn’t been especially kind to this debut, which is a very great shame, as it’s an exceptional album.
Orton had met William Orbit at a party in the late 1980s, and had become his girlfriend for a while, and this album appears to have been the result of their early 1990s collaborations, along with several contributions to his Strange Cargo series.
It opens with the adorable Don’t Wanna Know Bout Evil, a cover of a song by John Martyn. Orton’s soft vocal style is already well formed on this opener, and while she may not agree now, Orbit’s gentle electronic production works wonderfully. It’s a great song.
Other tracks are less fully formed – Faith Will Carry is good, but it lacks some of the gravitas of other tracks – Water from a Vine Leaf, for example, had appeared the same year, and features some similar production, but feels a lot more polished.
There is a strong Strange Cargo feel here, although that’s hardly surprising. If Yesterday’s Gone feels as though it should be on one of Orbit’s releases, that’s because it’s essentially an early version of Montok Point, from Strange Cargo Hinterland. Only perhaps not quite as good.
Is that She Cries Your Name next? It is! In a very similar version to the one on Strange Cargo Hinterland, too. Both Orbit and Orton recognised just how good this track is, as it appeared on both of their next albums, including opening Beth Orton‘s “debut” Trailer Park in a sadly somewhat inferior version.
When You Wake is good too, a jangly guitar piece that doesn’t sound as though it’s been quite as heavily touched by Orbit. Roll the Dice is a bit weaker, but still a nice background track. Then the short interlude City Blue is pleasant too – possibly the most folky and Beth Orton-like of any of the tracks on here.
The Prisoner seems to bear little resemblance to the classic 1960s television show, which is a shame. Instead, it’s a pleasantly catchy song. You do have to wonder, though, whether Orton was really ready to release this album – apart from She Cries Your Name, most of the tracks appear to be demo recordings with typically full-on William Orbit production.
Some are better than others, though – Where Do Yo Go is a good song, a little more memorable than most, and the gospel-fuelled closing track Release Me is entirely competent too. In a way, it’s surprising that it took Orton another three years to complete Trailer Park, as she clearly had a pretty good idea of what she was doing by 1993.
If you ever have a couple of hundred pounds or dollars to spend, Superpinkymandy is therefore, at worst, an interesting early release for Orton, and a fun lost release for Orbit. At best, it has an early and entirely brilliant version of She Cries Your Name, which surely makes it worth buying? Well, maybe not for that price.
This album was never widely available.