Shirley Bassey and Nelson Riddle are two names forever connected with great music. Separately, they remain too very unique artists who continue to enthrall audiences the world over. The 1962 album, "Let's Face The Music" is their only collaboration and remains among the most fascinating works of their respective careers.
By 1962, Riddle had orchestrated and conducted albums by some of the greatest female performers of the time, names like Judy Garland, Ella Fitzgerald, Peggy Lee, Dinah Shore, Rosemary Clooney and Keely Smith instantly come to mind. Of course, his best remembered work was the series of classic albums he had scored for Frank Sinatra. On the other hand, Shirley Bassey was only three years into her tenure with the UK label EMI, having recorded three successful albums under the baton of Geoff Love. So, to have Nelson Riddle score and conduct an album for her must have been a highlight in a career that would have many such highlights.
The album is one of the best from each of these clebrated performers. It presents Shirley Bassey at her youthful best, just prior to her finding the definitive Bassey vocal style that would emerge the following year with her recording of "Goldfinger" and her subsequent recordings. Although the voice is unmistakably hers, Shirley's knife edge vocal style was yet to fully emerge. On this album, she is at her youthful best. In fact, of the four EMI albums she would record prior to finding that style, this is the best. Shirley's voice is in prime condition and she receive the incomparable support of master arranger Riddle who provides a stunning array of backdrops for his singer.
The album is primarily a collection of ballads with only two exceptions. Of these two cuts, one is the classic interpretation of "What Now My Love", a song that has remained a permenant part of the Bassey concert repertoire. Though other singers have tried their hand and tonsils on this extremely difficult number, Shirley continues to claim it as her own. The poise, complete control she musters together with the suspense she creates in this number are stunning. The other uptempo piece is a latin styled account of Cole Porter's "I Get A Kick Out of You", another popular standard that has had many interpreters. However, Shirley's version remains one of the finest accounts of this great song on record. Other gems on this fine album are a dramatic reading of the Kern classic "All The Things You Are", Rodgers and Hart's "Spring Is Here", and an unusual presentation of Berlin's "Let's Face The Music And Dance".
In all, this is fine collection and in it's first release on CD it is a must for Bassey and Riddle fans. For those new to the work of Shirley Bassey, this album provides an excellent introduction to the legend in company with another of such status, Nelson Riddle. My recommendation, grab a copy!