Boomkat Product Review:
The legendary "lost" debut solo album from British singer-songwriter, actor and author Catherine Howe, who recorded "What a Beautiful Place" in 1971 when she was only 20 years old. Produced by jazz pianist Bobby Scott, it's a wyrd folk milestone to file alongside Vashti Bunyan's "Just Another Diamond Day".
When she recorded "What a Beautiful Place", Howe had established herself as an actor, performing in TV shows like "Doctor Who" and "Z-Cars". This helped her get a foothold in music, and she penned her first album to map her biography, drifting from Yorkshire to London and then Dorset. Sadly, the album was only available for a month after it was released, as it tanked independent imprint Reflection Records. Undeterred, Howe recorded a run of further albums, taking a break in the 1980s and '90s and returning to recording in 2005 with "Princelet Street".
In 2007, Numero Group remastered the album using a source copy (the master tapes had sadly been lost), and the wider world was finally able to hear this hidden classic. Howe was so young when it was recorded that her voice sounds almost angelic as it runs through experiences still fresh in her mind. The accompanying music too lifts these songs into blue clouds and over green hills. There's a whimsical quality that reminds of Linda Perhacs or Bridget St. John - if you squint a little, you can even hear the traces of eccentric progressive energy that would electrify Kate Bush a few years later.