STYLE: Roots/Acoustic RATING OUR PRODUCT CODE: 155495-22891 LABEL: Signpost SP52103 FORMAT: CD Album ITEMS: 4
Reviewed by Lins Honeyman
To mark 25 years as a solo artist, Canadian singer/songwriter Steve Bell has released a lavish four disc box set that refreshingly bucks the trend of merely honing in on greatest hits and the odd unreleased track or two. Instead, each disc has its own identity with the first containing 12 split new recordings that act as an ideal introduction to the veteran performer's work for any newcomer. Tracks like "Big Mistake" and "Lenten Lands" serve to showcase Bell's innate ability to communicate a faith-based message through enthralling poetic imagery (with the help of co-lyricist Malcolm Guitte) whilst his gently expressive vocal style adds conviction to a cover of the old chestnut "Wayfaring Stranger" - all of which benefit from Bell's subtly breathtaking fingering picking and some great musicianship from all involved. Disc two - 'Unadorned' - contains 12 tracks from Bell's back catalogue chosen by friends and fans and reworked with just an acoustic guitar to add weight to the theory that timeless songs can survive being stripped right back to the most basic of instrumentation. Thirdly, 'Good Company' sees a number of guest artists such as Bob Bennett, Gayle Salmond and Ego Spank cover selected Bell numbers to take the man's songs in new directions whilst serving to highlight the esteem in which Bell is held by his peers. By the time the last instalment is reached, Bell has earned the trust of listener old and new alike to offer up a collection of previously released recordings that have been completely stripped of lyrics and vocals in an exercise - thanks to symphonically-adorned tracks like "Deep Calls To Deep" and "Lord Of The Starfields" - that is much more than simply karaoke fodder. An equally lavish accompanying book containing a detailed biographical essay from Canadian scholar and writer John G Stackhouse Jr plus lyrics and photos aplenty round off a supreme monument to Bell's achievements over the last 25 years.
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