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Friday, March 29, 2013

The Return of Petula Clark

Lost in You, the new Petula Clark album, posits the "Downtown" diva as a contemporary of, say, Florence + The Machine with its production techniques (echo, filtering) and some of its musical choices. It is produced by England's John Williams with a modern feel and a generous twist of nostalgia. Admittedly uneven, it's still an engaging album for fans of the 80-year-old singer.

As The Digital Fix Music put it: "[T]his is a lady who has sold nearly 70 million albums over a career stretching back to the Second World War, [and] is well regarded among those with a taste for classy European easy listening...."

Recorded at the London studio on Williams' estate (which may explain why this effort has such an overall relaxed feel), the album opens with "Cut Copy Me," a song with strong commercial appeal and remix possibilities. It's a soft, trancey ballad that Pop Justice described as "sort of Saint Etienne-meets-Lana Del Rey-esque surprise triumph. Part of its beauty lies in the fragility of the whole thing...."

It's truly a trip to hear Pet cover Gnarls Barkley's "Crazy." "Wasn't too crazy about doing this," the singer writes candidly in her liner notes (a great reason to buy this on cd rather than download), "But I'm glad I did! It's such a blast to sing!" And even more so to hear, I must add, at the risk of sounding presumptuous.

Clark co-wrote three of the songs: "Never Enough," a country tune; "Reflections," based on a melody by Bach with exceptionally personal lyrics; and the pop ballad "I Won't Care" that ends the album. "Next to You" is a very French, Charles Aznavour-ish track, and the title song, "Lost in You," is both beautifully written and sensitively rendered.

Standards on the album include "He Loves and She Loves" by the Gershwins, John Lennon's "Imagine," Elvis Presley's "Love Me Tender," and, not surprisingly, a new arrangement of the august "Downtown." An eclectic collection of songs, certainly, hoping to have trans-generational appeal and doing so perhaps a tad errantly. Yet, how else does one try to sum up and display the appeal of a diva with such a long and lustrous career?

The British John Williams (not to be confused with the American composer of film scores), has been the producer, songwriter and arranger for a variety of bands and vocalists since the 1980s, including Alison Moyet, Simple Minds, Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Cure, Cathy Dennis, Sarah Brightman, Debbie Harry. He has previously worked with the perennial Petula and has obviously earned her trust in his guidance.

I bought my copy of Lost in You in New York at Rebel Rebel on Bleecker Street (downtown where all the lights are bright). Lost in You, released through Sony Music, is also available at Barnes & Noble, on-line at and coming soon to iTunes in both cd and MP3 formats.

Below, the official video for "Cut Copy Me":

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