Anytime you see a “best of” when it comes to album releases it’s typically because of the need to a band’s contractual agreement. This is not to poo-poo the idea of this hit driven concept. In fact, it can be a great way to introduce newbies to a given group with some of their best material. In this case, it was a way to learn more about a band that has since disbanded (and again, I expect it was a way to fulfill open gaps in their contract without having to go back to the studio).
In this 2-CD set by The Beta Band we’ve got double the pleasure, double the fun. CD-1 compiles what the group considers to their prime studio releases along with CD-2 of their live show recording at The Shepards Bush Empire.
I have to say I am the biggest fan of their most recent work from Heroes to Zeros, but the live rendition of “Dry The Rain” from 1997 is poignant as their fans join in on the chorus, adding to the beautiful jangle of its melody and layered loveliness. It’s also interesting to go back and forth between the studio and the stage recordings, hearing how songs evolve in a live setting. “Inner Meet Me,” using a cross between a Steve Miller “Jungle Love” intro and something from Spock’s closet, comes to life as the acoustics take over and Stephen Mason’s signature vocals pull the rip cord.
The live version of “She’s The One” really gives you a mental picture of the harmonic talents of this foursome, and how well they were able to carry their instrumental and songwriting talents out to the crowd, as does one of my favorite, bouncy tracks “Easy.”
For those who were not able to experience The Beta Band in the way their fans did at Shepards, this double CD is but bittersweet. What it will do is drive you to not bands like this for granted and to see them while they’re still around. I too have my “I could have seen Nirvana at a small club” story, and it’s one I’m not proud to tell. And whether this was a farewell gift from the band to their friends or something management decided upon is irrelevant. This “best of” really lives up to its name both in track selection and the talent behind it.