Rachel Taylor-Beales lost her voice, which is pretty devastating for a singer. With her writing and painting to help her she fought back and the result is Out Of This Frame – that’s her self-portrait on the cover. I think she looks a bit like Jamie Leigh Curtis! I should say out the outset that the record will be marketed with a companion book, available in hardback and digital formats – you get a download of the digital version with the CD but I’m fortunate enough to have a hardback copy – and it is essential, collecting together lyrics, thoughts on the songs and more paintings.
The album opens dramatically with ‘Just Look At You Now’ piano-based and dressed by Lucy Rivers’ violin as are so many songs in the set. Also important in the mix are Stacey Blythe’s accordion and Bill Taylor-Beales’ drum programming. Bill does a lot more than that but the drums stand out. The song does a remarkable job of pulling together some of our current issues, notably the aftermath of colonialism. Being brought up in Australia, Rachel knows a lot more about mis-education than most. The title track comes next, a loose jazzy vibe. It’s a song about running but in a complex way – you do need Rachel’s notes.
Immediately I heard ‘Jackie’s Coming Around’, even without benefit of notes, I knew it was about Jackie Leven. I only met him once, briefly, and wanted to set up an interview with him but I was too late. Rachel sings him a wonderful epitaph decorated with Bill’s electric guitar and her own saxophone. ‘Signal’ is Rachel’s recollection of a dream of being an orca.
In ‘Fire Girl’, Rachel talks of meeting a fire-spinner at a workshop. More than any other song on Out Of This Frame it’s about reinventing your life. Steffi – for that is her name – was an outsider until she discovered “her people” in the circus community. ‘Someone’ and ‘All In The Game’ are both co-writes with husband Bill and then comes my favourite track.
‘February 29th’ is about the dismantling of the Calais Jungle in 2016 or, at least, that’s the story Rachel is telling but it’s also about displacement on any level. It’s a cousin to Ewan MacColl’s ‘Go, Move, Shift’. ‘Shoot The Moon’ is about birth and a broken cup but it seems to me to hark back to Rachel’s dream in ‘Signal’. Her daughter, Polly, provides some spoken word interjections and also recites the introduction to ‘Fibonacci’s Train’. Actually, I’m not sure where Fibonacci fits with ‘The Old Woman Tossed Up In A Blanket’ but I have to leave you something to do.
‘The Ballad Of Pandora And Eve’ refers to the male predilection for retelling female stories from their perspective. Rachel attempts to reverse that and, by coincidence, it’s the second new song about Pandora that I’ve heard this month. Finally, ‘Last Chance Parade’ is the album’s big finish. I hoped that “don’t go chasing yesterday’s kite” is a quote from Greta Thunberg but I can’t substantiate that. It does, however, reinforce the message of moving forward, not looking back, which suffuses the album.
As I hope you can tell, Out Of This Frame is a big album in many ways – from Rachel’s own struggles to a message for the world.
Artist’s website: https://www.racheltaylor-beales.com/
‘The Ballad Of Pandora And Eve’ – official video: