Dame Shirley Bassey first blazed into the American consciousness in 1964 singing the immortal theme to Goldfinger. Bassey’s full-throttle take on the John Barry/Anthony Newley/Leslie Bricusse song became her first and only American Top 10 single, and helped the film’s soundtrack recording climb all the way to the top spot. Bassey returned to both John Barry and James Bond with the themes to Diamonds are Forever (1971) and Moonraker (1979), but she never again scaled the heights of commercial fame on our shores. Yet Bassey’s recording career (which began in the United Kingdom in 1956 with the risque “Burn My Candle (At Both Ends),” a song promptly banned by the BBC) still thrives, and Bassey has retained a loyal, worldwide fan base on both sides of the pond.
U.K. label BGO (also responsible for recent reissues from The Hollies, among other artists) will next week be releasing the eleventh (and perhaps last) volume in its long-running series bringing Bassey’s back catalogue for United Artists Records back into print on CD. The Magic is You/Thoughts of Love collects Bassey’s 1979 swan song at UA plus a 1976 “love songs” compilation focusing on the contemporary pop side of the UA years. The Magic is You, chiefly arranged by Nick DeCaro, followed the template of most of Bassey’s albums in the 1970s, combining current pop covers (Neil Sedaka’s “You Never Done It Like That,” popularized by Captain and Tennille), theatre songs (“Don’t Cry For Me Argentina” from Evita) and classics (Antonio Carlos Jobim’s “How Insensitive,” which had already become a jazz standard despite its relatively recent origin). The Magic is You also featured an early version of Linda Creed and Michael Masser’s “The Greatest Love of All,” which a few years later would become a standard itself in the hands of Whitney Houston. The Magic is You opened with a new version of Bassey’s 1968 “This Is My Life,” still one of her signature songs. The 12-inch disco versions of “This Is My Life” are much sought-after today, and BGO states on its website that “the sought-after U.S. and European 12-inch disco versions of ‘This Is My Life'” will be included on the new reissue.
Thoughts of Love is a grab bag of contemporary pop material and features Bassey bringing her volcanic pipes to an array of material made famous by others. The British have always had a soft spot for compilations, and this was no exception, going gold and reaching the Top 20. The oldest track was Bassey’s recording of Jacques Brel’s”If You Go Away” from 1967, while the most recent were three songs from the very same year as the compilation, 1976: “What I Did For Love” from Marvin Hamlisch and Edward Kleban’s A Chorus Line, Gilbert O’Sullivan’s “Alone Again (Naturally)” and Loulou Gasté’s deathless “Feelings,” made famous by Morris Albert. A second Hamlisch song appears in the form of “The Way We Were,” and Stephen Sondheim is represented with “Send in the Clowns” from the musical A Little Night Music.
Since her departure from United Artists in 1979 after a nearly 14-year tenure, Bassey hasn’t had another longterm label association. She has, however, returned to the recording studio with more frequency in recent years. 2007’s Get The Party Started was highlighted by a unique treatment of Pink’s song of the same name, and marked Bassey’s first album to receive an American release in many years. Its follow-up, The Performance, was an even more impressive feat, Bassey’s first album of all original songs in over three decades. Spearheaded by David Arnold, John Barry’s successor on the James Bond series of films, The Performance brought together an amazing array of writing talent ready to pay homage to Bassey: Rufus Wainwright, Gary Barlow of Take That, Manic Street Preachers, KT Tunstall, Richard Hawley and the Pet Shop Boys’ Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe among them. Arnold himself contributed new songs as did the legendary John Barry, whose “The Time Is Now” co-written with Don Black is one of his last recorded compositions.
Hit the jump for pre-order information, a track listing for both albums with discographical annotation, and a fun (if slightly surreal!) video link of Shirley Bassey with some of rock’s royalty!
Shirley Bassey turned 74 this year, but like her fellow big-voiced Welsh compatriot Tom Jones (who is just three years younger), she shows no sign of slowing down. If you’re ready to get the party started with classic Shirley Bassey, The Magic is You/Thoughts of Love is released on April 26 in the U.K. and June 28 in the U.S. from BGO Records. The track listing with discographical annotation and a pre-order link follows, below.
And just for the fun of it, here’s an unforgettable moment: Dame Shirley Bassey sharing the stage with Elton John, Bruce Springsteen, Lady Gaga, Sting and Debbie Harry as they perform Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’” at a 2010 Carnegie Hall concert. All-star jams don’t get much more surreal than this one, folks!
Shirley Bassey, The Magic Is You/Thoughts of Love (BGO Records, 2011)
- This Is My Life
- Better Off Alone
- You Never Done It Like That
- Don’t Cry For Me Argentina
- As We Fall In Love Once More
- Night Moves
- Anyone Who Had A Heart
- The Magic Is You
- How Insensitive
- The Greatest Love Of All
- Send In The Clowns
- Killing Me Softly With His Song
- What Are You Doing The Rest Of Your Life
- What I Did For Love
- All That Love Went To Waste
- The Way We Were
- If You Go Away (Ne Me Quitte Pas)
- Alone Again (Naturally)
- I Won’t Last A Day Without You
- You Are The Sunshine Of My Life
Tracks 1-10 from The Magic is You (United Artists UA LA-926-H, 1979)
Tracks 11-22 from Thoughts of Love (United Artists UAS-30011, 1976)