Having bought and been thoroughly impressed with Clare's latest album "Don't Talk", I thought I should investigate some of her back catalogue "before she woz famous", and from this one I can certainly see why she was snapped up by major label Sony. Content here is more the swinging jazz style, with a romp through Johnny Mercer's "Dream" setting the tone from the start. There's no big band, though; backing comes from her regular group of six musicians, all given their chance to shine individually along the way. Clare's voice is beautiful, smooth and low, with more than a hint of Peggy Lee's phrasing, and by turn swinging, emotive, joyous and powerful, just rightly as each track demands. She even tries a little scat, of which I'm normally no great fan, on Irving Berlin's "Blue Skies", and it's brilliant, as a one-off. The Great American Songbook is duly raided for most of the tracks, the one slightly less familiar amongst these being "Something I Dreamed Last Night", a bluesy ballad previously aired only by Anita O'Day and Marlene Dietrich, which Clare gives just the right, contrasting, laid-back treatment of. She also gives us a dreamy, late night version of "What A Difference A Day Made", certainly a nice change to some over-excited attacks on this song elsewhere. Two of her own compositions are included, one after the other. "So Blue" is a haunting torch song in the mould of Kay Starr or Patsy Cline; "The Road Less Travelled" is more uptempo, with a groovy 60s lounge feel, the only drawback being Jamie Cullum's added vocal - any pretentions that the man can sing are blown away right here next to Clare's golden tone. Nevertheless, these two songs show that she can certainly write. Sound and production are handled by much the same team as on her new album. Apart from the slower numbers everything, backing musicians as well as vocals, is very upfront, and the only drawback to this is that when the heat is turned up, for example on the last two tracks, the backing does almost overwhelm her in the choruses. This is a minor gripe, though - it's a very fine and enjoyable album, enough to tempt one further back in her archive.
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