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The Performance

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Album Review

Following her career-defining set at Glastonbury, the success of her cover of P!nk's "Get the Party Started," and Kanye West's recent sampling of "Diamonds Are Forever," legendary Welsh powerhouse vocalist Shirley Bassey is perhaps more relevant than she has been since the early '70s. Her 34th studio release, The Performance, continues her unexpected career resurgence by drafting in a whole host of contemporary pop/rock performers and songwriters to pen 11 brand-new compositions, the first time Bassey has recorded an album full of original material in over 20 years. Of course, Bassey is no stranger to collaborations, having guested on the Propellerheads' wondrous '60s big beat anthem "History Repeating" and Swiss electronic duo Yello's 1987 hit "The Rhythm Divine." But instead of furthering Bassey's dance diva credentials, The Performance is an understated and timeless affair that befits her elegant and grandiose status. Produced by David Arnold, who like Bassey is responsible for some of the most impressive James Bond themes, The Performance successfully modernizes her iconic sweeping orchestral sound without ever resorting to unnecessary studio trickery or inappropriate attempts at "getting down with the kids." The Rufus Wainwright-penned "Apartment," a glorious slice of flamenco full of Spanish guitars, jazz horns, and Gypsy rhythms, instantly transports you to the streets of Andalusia, while fellow countrymen Manic Street Preachers' autobiographical tale "The Girl from Tiger Bay" echoes the Phil Spector-influenced symphonic rock of their 1996 classic Everything Must Go and closing track "The Performance of My Life," a fragile show-stopping torch song that apparently reduced Bassey to tears while recording, continues Pet Shop Boys' impressive track record of writing for female icons, following their work with Dusty Springfield and Liza Minnelli. Elsewhere, Bassey performs tracks written by Gary Barlow (the Burt Bacharach-esque "This Time"), John Barry (the cinematic lounge-pop of "Our Time Is Now"), and the sole female contributor, KT Tunstall (the country-rock led "Nice Men"), with the same vigor and gusto as she did in her prolific '60s heyday. Like the recent material from Wales' other enduring pop icon, Tom Jones, The Performance proves that age is no barrier, and an incredible 52 years after her debut, Born to Sing the Blues, the number one Dame in Pop is producing some of the best music of her career. ~ Jon O'Brien, Rovi


Born: 08 January 1937 in Tiger Bay, Cardiff, Wales

Genre: Pop

Years Active: '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Known to Americans most for her belting rendition of the theme to Goldfinger, the 1964 edition in the James Bond series (as well as 1971's Diamonds Are Forever and 1979's Moonraker), Shirley Bassey was one of the most popular female vocalists in Britain during the last half of the 20th century. Known as "Bassey the Belter" and also the "Tigress of Tiger Bay," her early career in touring shows and cabaret brought her a recording contract with Philips by the late '50s. After reaching the top of the...
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The Performance, Shirley Bassey
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