I think everyone needs some Shirley Bassey in their music collection. There are times when only the Dame’s sense of heightened drama and unique interpretations of songs will do. With a career spanning over so many decades it can be hard to know where to begin. Studio albums can be a little patchy, song choice is not always on point but the novice cannot go wrong by choosing from one of her many compilations. Having said that a few years back the label BGO paired her studio albums and ended up with some first class material (try “You Take My Heart Away/Yesterdays” or “Never Never Never/Good Bad And Beautiful” the latter featuring the superb track “Living” where Shirley goes into battle with a Welsh Male Voice Choir) . Anyone looking for a more contemporary edge to their Bassey should check out her 2009 “The Performance” where she was produced by David Arnold and had songs especially written for the album by the likes of the Manic Street Preachers, Rufus Wainwright, Pet Shop Boys and KT Tunstell to good effect. Anyone wanting a bit more getting- ready- to- go- out- on- a- Saturday night with their Bassey should consider her “Diamonds Are Forever (The Remix Album) where a selection of her familiar hits are remixed by names such as Groove Armada, Kenny Dope and Mantronix for a selection of tunes which end up more bangin’ than cheesy. For me, if I could only have one Bassey CD on my shelves the one I would choose would be this, my 80th best CD of all time. Budget label Music For Pleasure put this out in 1996 It picks up the Bassey story from 1960, by which time she had scored 6 Top 40 singles (her first number one the sublime “As I Love You”dating from 1958 isn’t actually on this collection). However from first track “As Long As He Needs Me” it features in chronological order all of her big hit singles to 1973’s “Never Never Never”. Of course, you get the ones everyone knows “Big Spender”, “Diamonds Are Forever” and both sides of her 1961 Double A sided number one “Reach For The Stars/Climb Every Mountain”, but amongst the lesser known tracks “Gone” her number 36 1964 is a dramatic, string-laden ballad which ranks among her best. And then of course there’s “Goldfinger”, the archetypal Bond Theme (I was surprised Shirley didn’t cover Adele’s “Skyfall” on her most recent album, as it sounds like a song written for her). “Goldfinger” is the song most associated with Bassey yet amazingly only reached 21 in the charts in 1964 (it was however her only US hit single reaching number 8). It was good to see on a guest spot on “Strictly Come Dancing” last year she is still able to reach that incredible final note at the age of 78. Dame Shirley Bassey is a true British living legend and this CD is testament to this.
At time of writing this CD can be purchased from Amazon.co.uk for £6.03 new, from 1p used or as a download for £5.49. It can also be streamed on Spotify. American listeners can buy new for $16.88, used for $0.01 or download for $11.49.