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4.8 out of 5 stars
The Performance
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93 of 95 people found the following review helpful
At the beginning of 2009, if somebody had told me that one of my favourite albums of the year was going to be by Shirley Bassey, I think I would have laughed at them, but it's true. Now, ever since I first heard it, I've been busy telling incredulous people how great it is. I don't blame them for not believing me, because in this case, hearing is believing. The combination of the undeniably fabulous songs, passionately and beautifully delivered by Shirley and a magnificent orchestra, all produced by David Arnold, is just musical heaven. What's even more impressive is the roll-call of the songwriters who have contributed to this album's success, plus the fact that Shirley hasn't gone down the road of simply covering the classics - she has a whole host of excellent musicians queuing up to write her new classics!

Such is the quality of this album, I could list every single track as a highlight, but for the sake of brevity, I will briefly describe the real talking points. "Almost There", which is my personal favourite Tom Baxter song, opens "The Performance" - and what a performance it is! When the heartbreaking song swells and explodes, it gives the listener chills down your neck and spine... absolutely magnificent. Track two is "Apartment", a Latin-tinted, toe-tapping Rufus Wainwright song, penned specifically for this album, sounding every bit like a modern Shirley Bassey classic. The first time I listened to the album, I did so without reading the liner notes, wanting to guess who had written the different songs. For the beautiful, loungey "This Time", I was guessing Burt Bacharach, mainly because of the time signature, use of strings and the muted horns - but it was none other than Gary Barlow. To be perfectly honest, I'm impressed.

"I Love You Now", composed by Nick Hodgson of The Kaiser Chiefs, is a classy, minor key beauty, which could easily have been written for Shirley in her heyday. "No Good About Goodbye", brilliantly written by David Arnold and Don Black, is just superb and could easily have been a 70's Bond theme - and what a vocal performance by Shirley. My personal pick on the album is the tremendous "The Girl From Tiger Bay", written by the Manic Street Preachers and David Arnold. As a huge fan of James Dean Bradfield and the Manics, it's almost frustrating to hear such a brilliant song given away - but what a worthy cause! Wonderful, tailor-made lyrics for Ms. Bassey as well. The last highlight of the album, for me, is the slightly camp, but genuinely touching and emotional Pet Shop Boys-written finale, "The Performance Of My Life". Other songs on the album are written by John Barry & Don Black, David Arnold and David McAlmont, KT Tunstall and Richard Hawley - and they're all excellent.

I doubt that it could be said that I'm Dame Shirley's typical audience, but the names behind the songs drew me into this album and it has turned out to be one of the greatest albums I've heard all year. Whatever your "normal" taste in music, this is a sensational album, absolutely packed with wonderful songs and some of the finest performances by a vocalist you will have ever heard. I can't recommend "The Performance" highly enough. Every home should have a copy!
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23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on 8 November 2009
What a fabulous performance with some great new songs. My favourites are The Girl from Tiger Bay, The Performance, and best of all After the Rain. Its great to have a new albumn and this would make an excellent Christmas present for anyone who has enjoyed Shirley Bassey over the years. The Dame is certainly back, and this is certainly The Performance - simply FABULOUS.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on 26 November 2009
This is the Bassey album her fans have been waiting years for. Not another re-hash of her old hits but a great piece of work that puts her firmly back where she belongs. The voice is as strong as ever, she looks FANTASTIC and each song has been written by the best of today's songwriters.

No doubt, Amy Winehouse would have been included in that line-up had she got her act together (Dame Shirley has said that "Back to Black" is one of her favourite songs). It would have been interesting to see what Ms. Winehouse had in store for Shirley.

As it is, we have 11 wonderful performances with the highlights being "Almost there", "After the rain", Gary Barlow's "This time" and the Pet Shop Boys' dramatic title track. This has the potential to become my favourite Shirley Bassey album. I hope DSB will not leave it too long before recording more of the same.
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47 of 49 people found the following review helpful
on 24 October 2009
Dame Shirley Bassey is looking amazing and her voice is as good as ever. I have just been to see the BBC Electric Prom at the Roundhouse in Camden, London. Her performance at age 72 for an hour and a half was beautiful, emotional and quite extraordinary. I wanted to cry I was so happy to be standing in the intimate atmosphere with people around me whooping, squealing and exclaiming. The atmosphere was 'electric' and full of love and admiration of our Dame. The new songs, written by current artists, sounded stunning and were delivered with emotion and subtlety in a softer tone and the expected DSB style . Quite captivating and entrancing. I was blown away, as always. DSB is an incredible lady that I want to hear much more of. Thankfully age has not diminished her voice or performance skills. She is truly astounding and I defy anyone to not be impressed by her performance. There is definately much more to be had from the delicious Dame. She never fails to impress.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 12 December 2009
Someone aged 72 releasing an album of contemporary songs that not only sounds fresh but timeless? Can you imagine anyone else doing this?
Dame Shirley Bassey's The Performance knocked my socks off, curled my hair, floated my boat, you name it. David Arnold's production, Bassey's superbly-recorded and performed vocals, and uniformly excellent songs make this one of those rare creations: an album you compulsively listen to start to finish. She sells it.
Yes, DSB sounds like a mature vocalist, but her artistry is totally and almost-overwhelmingly evident; just have a listen and realise how much most contemporary singers oversing. It's almost a joke realising Bassey is renowned for her strident vocals, yet her singing on The Performance is just perfect. THE contemporary pop album of the year, and probably of her career.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on 8 November 2009
Shirley Bassey has long been looked upon as a the high priestess of camp and the diamond encrusted goddess of divadom. What most people too often overlook is that this lady has been able to be sustain a career of over 50 years for one rather simple reason: she is an outstanding vocalist. To be blunt, it is a very long time indeed since the Dame has been given material or a producer worthy of her Olympian talents. One needs to go back to the classic UA albums from the 70s to remind oneself just how great a recording artist that she was. Until now, that is.

This is the best album she has produced in decades. It is lovingly arranged and produced with songs that force Bassey to be more introspective and perhaps less bombastic than is usually the case. The writing talent enlisted for the project is impressive and all of the songs (to a greater and lesser extent) deliver. Highlights are 'Almost There' and 'The Performance' - a suitably self-reflexive comment on the loneliness that accompanies the effort involved in being 'Shirley Bassey.' However, the real gem of the album is the track by producer, David Arnold entitled 'As God Is My Witness.' It is an achingly beautiful melody and finds Bassey opting for some mellow falsetto singing when she just as easily could have provided a gale force rendition more in keeping with her 'style.' The modulation she sings in the reprise at the end is spine tingling. For those of you who like the belter, she can still has the ability to produce a kind of euphoria in the listener. The last operatic note of the album is classic Bassey, but it is accompanied by a shimmer of strings that dissolve into the ether rather than in a vegas-style crescendo.

A truly beautiful album that ought to win Dame Shirley a new legion of adoring fans. It must also surely count as one of the best discs of the year by any artist.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on 7 November 2009
Fabulous album, the Dame's class exudes. Inspired idea to round up the young talent to write for her. Love the Spanish feel of Rufus W's "Apartment", Gary Barlow's song is a cracker and I love Richard Hawley's contribution. The Barry/Black bondesque outing is pure nostalgia and the when PSBs meet DSB it's as camp as a row of tents!

Buy it, pre-Christmas cracker!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 15 January 2010
During the 1980s and 1990s, Shirley Bassey seemed to coast, content to waltz from one triumphant show to the next self-glorifying TV special. Yes, there were the odd moments of something new and exciting, like the 1997 collaboration with The Propellerheads on "History Repeating", and, from a couple of years ago, "Get The Party Started".

It was something of a surprise, therefore, to see her release an album of new songs, especially mostly written by modern pop or rock singers. The killer single, "Nice Men" has deservedly had a lot of radio play, and showcases classic Shirley Basssey, with ringing vocals, and brassy, punchy backing.

But where this album really impresses is in how she breaks new ground. Shirley Bassey and introspection? It's there in "The Girl From Tiger Bay" and "The Performance Of My Life".

For me, the finest moment is "After The Rain", where she sings in such a beautiful and sensitive way that you realise that she could easily have been a very different singer. She sings sensitively, sweetly, and with an almost girlish innocence. It's really quite hard to describe how different it is from what one normally thinks of as associated with Shirley Bassey. It was the most special performance I've heard for some considerable time.

Perhaps the greatest achievement is that she has embraced her new collaborators so convincingly, and so wholeheartedly, that the sole song from the older generation of John Barry and Don Black, "Our Time Is Now" sounds, not bad exactly, but just a little pale compared to the rest of this excellent album.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 18 December 2009
When I heard Shirley Bassey had made a new album I had to hear it. I always loved her James Bond theme songs but apart from that I haven't followed her carreer and don't know much about her other works.

The closing track is titled "The Performance of My Life" and what a performance it is, this album. She's 72 years old and sings as good as ever.

The album opens with a slow song, "Almost There, that builds up to a nice climax. Then there's the catchy "Apartment" which has a bit of a latin sound to it. "This Time" is a nice ballad that has grown on me. "I Love You Now" hasn't quite grown on me yet, but it's still quite good and has some very nice arrangements. "Our Time Is Now" is one of my favorite songs on the album, composed by John Barry. This one really deserves some airplay and a single release. "As Good is My Witness" is okay but one of the weaker song on the album. "No Good About Goodbye", composed by David Arnold sounds very much like a James Bond theme. I wish the Bond producers would have brought back Bassey with a song like this instead of the dreadful Madonna song they had a few years back. "The Girl from Tiger Bay" is another very good song. "Nice Men" is also one of the weaker songs on the album, followed by a soothing ballad, "After the Rain" and the last track, "The Performance of My Life" is perfectly suited to end the album.

"The Performance" is full of good songs and full of great performances, by Bassey and the producers. Recommended!
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32 of 36 people found the following review helpful
on 29 October 2009
I've been lucky enough to hear this album in review and to see Dame Shirley perform some of her new material live at the Roundhouse for the BBC Electric Proms last weekend. Her performance was amazing and the album The Performance is just stunning! Dame Shirley, the writers, composers, producers and the whole team behind it should be very proud of what they have created - an autobiographic piece that does justice to the lady and her incredible life. Congratulations! I highly recommend this work of pure art...all my Christmas shopping done in one go!
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