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Dame Shirley Bassey - Get the Party Started Print E-mail
Tuesday, 01 July 2008
ImageThe Dame attached to the front of her name doesn’t really have much to do with the Queen of England poinking her on the head and declaring her to be a lady, ‘cause lady’s got nothin’ to do with it. Shirley Bassey is a dame in the Sinatra sense. You know, a sweater who knows when to cool her heels and doesn’t mind kisses laced with cigarettes and scotch. A she-panther who lets you think you’re in charge even though all your friends know better. The hot dish who leaps up in front of everyone at a cocktail party and belts out a coupla numbers that have the women sucking ice and the men mouth breathing. A sweet broad who knows how to Get the Party Started.

Rampant ‘50s sexism aside, someone’s gonna have to explain to me how these Welsh singers can keep their pipes and sexuality intact late into their 60s. Tom Jones is 68 and he’s still getting hit in the mug with cotton goodies. Bassey’s 71 and the sound of her voice alone makes me as randy as a 14-year-old boy home by himself with a new issue of “Bodacious Ta-Tas.” Could it be because both Jones and Bassey are more than willing to embrace the now, the new and the naughty? For example, when she sings “kissing my ass” on the Linda Perry/Pink title cut it doesn’t seem as much a put down as it does a sexual come on. Rowr, I’ve got to leave the room.

Now, if Get the Party Started merely consisted of Shirley singing I’d have to give it a 10 and move on, but as great as it is to have her putting out music (this collection has been released in the US a year after the fact), these arrangements are leaden, mechanical, and don’t support or enhance her enormous vocal abilities in the least. The truth is that most 14-year-olds with  Garage Band could put together backing tracks as interesting. The Cy Coleman oldie “Big Spender” (famous to your grandpa as a cigar commercial song) comes across as Broadway meets Depeche Mode’s “Personal Jesus” at your local karaoke night. You’ve got one of the most incredible voices ever to come out of a throat belting out show tunes over Casio keyboard music. Sure I know the songs of Get the Party Started are intended for dance clubs and those people who need an unwavering, unchanging beat in order to get their groove on, but come on! Bassey’s original recording of “Goldfinger” has more dynamite soul than anything on this collection and that was a friggin’ movie soundtrack theme song.

If you believe I’m being overly critical just take a listen to Shirley singing “History Repeating” on Propellerhead’s Decksanddrumsandrockandroll. That’s how good she can sound over a remix. Instead the producers of Get the Party Started, many of today’s “hot, young, wow” types could only envision straight up 4/4, snare on the downbeat, dance arrangements and sly Bondian quotes to enliven this collection.

The take on the Grace Jones track “Slave to the Rhythm” is about as interesting as it gets on GtPS, and it’s still easy to tell that the Glimmers assembled the entire thing on a computer. And when they toss in the obligatory “Goldfinger” quote it seems as if they’re trying to remind us who Shirley Bassey is. Really? Compared to them she’s Kobe Bryant playing  against a sixth grade gym class. It doesn’t matter how many of them there are, we know who wins. At least the rhythm on this track doesn’t make you want to take a job assembling hand grenades. The next cut, “Can I Touch You There?” -- does that. She sounds sexier than moonlight, champagne and a hot tub, and the best the producer can do is give her ‘80s TV CFM music. CFM, you may not know, stands for “come fuck me” and was made popular by a guy with long curly hair who played soprano saxophone while dancing around like ants were nibbling at his peanuts. I’d rather listen to a fire alarm go off.

On “What Now My Love” the producers saddle her to a wooden horse arrangement that sounds like Charles Ives composing music for a hyper-sweet breakfast cereal on a toy piano. There’re tings and bangs and boinks galore and even her wonderful wailing performance can’t lift this dreck above its clownish instrumentation.

The re-imagining of her early hit “Kiss Me Honey Honey Kiss Me” works in a way that the other cuts don’t. Sparse and pushed forward by a samba beat it captures a playfulness that seems natural and unforced, which is good considering the next song is a take on Lionel Richie’s “Hello,” which is like hell on earth revisited. Bassey’s voice sounds warm, sexy and exquisite, and the backing track sounds like it was assembled by having a murder of crows peck at a computer keyboard laced with laxative. It’s random, shitty and I guess the word murder is the most important in that entire sentence. There may be an actual guitar on the track but you can’t be certain. The mix is by someone named Dobie whom I’ve never heard of which means I’m out of the loop or lucky and/or both.

Do we really need another version of “I Will Survive?” Why didn’t they have her sing “Happy Birthday to You?”

Bassey’s voice is so stunning and her ability to soar above everything else about this release is so evident that I found myself wishing she’d record an album with Jack White or Burt Bacharach or Terence Blanchard or someone who will put her into a setting that is real and give her amazing voice the backing it needs. She’s a dame who deserves better than pedestrian 1s and 0s.

Now scram while I pour me a martini and put on Coltrane’s “Afro Blue,” I got to cleanse my palette of computer noodling.

I downloaded these 256kbps MP3 files from and they’re incredibly middy. The highs are clipped and although the low end is mixed for clubbing it’s not that well defined either. It sounds squishy and muddy and doesn’t give my heart that kick start it demands when I want to shake my double ham crack. 

Not to beat a dead horse but these arrangements are strictly karaoke. Imagine, if you will, Pavarotti arriving for a performance only to find he was signing a dog food jingle. That’s how Shirley Bassey must have felt when she heard some of these mixes. Dead horses and dog food, what a shame.

I listened to it on my home stereo system, G5 and in my car. The things I do for you folks! Buy her greatest hits and be amazed, buy this if you just have to hear another version of “Hello.”

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