Dame Shirley Bassey

“Get this party started on a Saturday night / Everyone’s waiting for me to arrive / I can go for miles / If you know what I mean”.

She’s not shy, our Shirl.
What is there still to be said about a Welsh institution? Big deep voice that comes up from her boots, loud showstopping tunes, schmaltz, glamour.
She’d not thank us for saying it but she’s been around a while and is probably unhappy about records becoming the denizens of the bargain compilation bins in market stalls. So here we have a re-invention. The aforementioned title track is given a Pet Shop Boys cum disco treatment. Other tracks get new vocals or dance remixes. Big Spender gets a new production, making it a Las Vegas number on a disco floor. I’m reminded what a fundamentally low don and dirty song this is, all money, sex and the invitation to a good time. I Who Have Nothing, the ultimate torch song still has the strings and pauses of the original (thank goodness), but has a funky remix. Think I still prefer the original heartwrenching dramatics of the original mix. A fact for pop pundits – the lyrics were rewritten from the Italian by rock and roll kings Lieber and Stoller. This Is My Life is another OTT song that has karaoke singers gesticulating as they emote. “This is me / this is me / this is my life / And I don’t give a damn for lost emotions” sings Shirley. It’s as cathartic as a Joy Division concert, this stuff.

I once went to hear another Diva Dame – Gwyneth Jones – sing in her sixties (though this was Wagner, not Lieber and Stoller) and there was a lot of wobble in a voice well worn. Shirley is, wait for it, seventy and has been in showbiz for fifty years. And there’s no wobble showing – in the voice, at least - though the studio can do wonders. Guess that’s why some of these are new vocals but some are remixes. Slave To The Rhythm works just fine; a surprise to me, since I thought the song belonged exclusively to Grace Jones. Takes some bottle to cover it and the Dame turns it into a show tune. What Now My Love is a swirly remix and does add a certain confusion to the overwrought original. Lionel Richie’s vile Hello does nothing for me but that’s about the song really. The Living Tree is a new recording of a new-ish song and incredible for a septuagenarian – a vocal performance aided by applying honey to the tonsils we hear, and a powerful piece of MOR rock / showtune / Meatloaf contender. Where Is The Love is the kind of remix I hate – mostly just applying a dance beat and overlaying a little jazz-lite and fills. I Will Survive is universally known and becomes a less worked up and more flowing latin workout here. The remix actually works!

Not our usual fare, here at Vanguard Towers but it definitely cleansed the palate and refreshed us before the next batch of grungy guitar histrionics.

Ross McGibbon