Archive for January, 2010

Dame Vera Lynn: Woman of the Year

January 10, 2010

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Dame Vera Lynn – who has enjoyed more UK hit singles than any other British female vocalist – has received a lifetime achievement award at the annual Women of the Year event in London.

The 92-year-old, who recently became the oldest living artist to top the UK album chart, received her prize from classical music star Katherine Jenkins.

“It’s lovely to be recognised all those years after the event,” said Dame Vera at the awards ceremony. “I’m still very proud of the fact that ‘We’ll Meet Again’ is a song that has gone around the world. What better words can you have when your loved one has gone to war and you leave your family behind?”

The ‘forces’ sweetheart’, who kept up the spirits of millions of soldiers during World War II, urged contemporary pop stars to do more to support British troops abroad.

Dame Vera’s greatest hits album, We’ll Meet Again – The Very Best of Vera Lynn, went to number one for one week in September 2009 – outselling the Arctic Monkeys, Kings of Leon and even The Beatles’ re-mastered studio albums.

Universal Music is aiming to emulate the success of that album with the release of what it claims is “the most comprehensive collection of her recordings ever released”. Titled Vera Lynn – Gold: 100 Songs From A Life In Music, the new 5-CD box set includes many re-mastered tracks which are being made available on CD for the first time.

The album features almost all of Dame Vera’s hit singles – including her number one hits: ‘We’ll Meet Again’, ‘Auf Wiederseh’n Sweetheart’, ‘My Son My Son’, ‘It Can’t Be Wrong’, and ‘We’ve Come A Long Way Together’.

Also included are unforgettable classics like ‘The White Cliffs Of Dover’, ‘It’s A Lovely Day Tomorrow’, ‘Wish Me Luck As You Wave Me Goodbye’, and ‘A Nightingale Sang In Berkeley Square’.

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Dame Shirley Bassey releases first studio album for 20 years

January 10, 2010

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Dame Shirley Bassey has released her first full-length studio album in more than 20 years.

Titled The Performance, the 72-year-old’s ‘comeback’ album features 11 new songs specially written for her by contemporary artists such as Take That’s Gary Barlow, the Pet Shop Boys, Manic Street Preachers, Kaiser Chiefs, Rufus Wainwright, and KT Tunstall.

The album also includes a brand new composition by John Barry and Don Black – the first new song they have written for her since ‘Diamonds Are Forever’.

“I’d really retired, and was just coming out for special occasions,” Dame Shirley told the US music magazine Billboard. “But these writers have brought me back.”

“It was a challenge because you wouldn’t have thought they were my songs,” she said. “I took them on holiday with me, and I would say: ‘I can’t do this, they’re too difficult’. But I was listening to the way the writers were singing them, and trying to sing in their key, which never helps. It wasn’t until I actually went into the studio, with a piano, and put voice on, that I started to get excited. I’m always up for a challenge, and it paid off.”

She says she doesn’t have a favourite song on the album: “I love all of them. But the Pet Shop Boys’ song, ‘The Performance of My Life’, got right into my head and made me sob, and not many songs do that.”

Other key tracks include ‘The Girl From Tiger Bay’ (written by the Manic Street Preachers), ‘This Time’ (by Gary Barlow), and the opening track ‘Almost There’ (by singer-songwriter Tom Baxter).

The Performance was produced by David Arnold, the Grammy Award-winning composer behind the soundtracks for five James Bond films. He says the album confirms the legendary Welsh singer still has the power to move an audience.

“I tried to make a record that made the most of that voice and one that could sit alongside her other classic recordings like ‘Goldfinger’ or ‘Big Spender’,” says Arnold. “All these songs were just songs, until Dame Shirley Bassey sang them.”

He adds: “There’s something about a Bassey performance that can knock the wind out of your sails, make you laugh, or cry, let you in on the joke, or lead you to a more exotic place.”

In a career that has spanned 50 years, Dame Shirley Bassey has sold more than 135 million records and remains the only singer ever to record three James Bond theme tunes.

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Elvis’s 75th birthday celebrated with 100-track Elvis 75 collection

January 10, 2010

To commemorate what would have been Elvis Presley’s 75th birthday on 8 January 2010, the first definitive overview of his entire recording career is being released as a 100-track 4CD box set, titled Elvis 75: Good Rockin’ Tonight. It comes with an 80-page full-colour book containing rare photographs, memorabilia, and a 7,000-word biography.

The 100 digitally-restored tracks include hit singles, album tracks, rare recordings, live performances, and all thirty of Elvis’s number one hits. The tracks appear in strict chronological order of recording dates across four discs spanning 1953-1957, 1958-1962, 1963-1969, and 1970-1977.

Tracks range from the first demo acetate that Elvis made as a gift for his mother in 1953 (‘My Happiness’), to Sun Records releases produced by Sam Phillips between 1954 and 1955 (including ‘That’s All Right’, ‘Blue Moon Of Kentucky’, and ‘Good Rockin’ Tonight’), and RCA Victor tracks recorded between 1956 and 1977 (from ‘Heartbreak Hotel’ to ‘Way Down’).

Elvis biographer Ernst Mikael Jørgensen says: “Elvis’s chart hits are of crucial importance. But only when heard in the context of some of the lesser-known artistic achievements can they present a complete picture of an artist with repertoire so vast that he released 711 master recordings during his lifetime.”

He adds: “These tracks span Elvis’ entire career, from his first personal demo in 1953 through his last hit in 1977, and even beyond that to a 2002 worldwide smash hit remix. This is as definitive a summation of Elvis’ career as has ever been attempted on four discs.”

A 75-track Elvis 75 collection – featuring a selection of tracks from the box set – is being released simultaneously as a 3CD set.

Sony Music Entertainment says it plans to reissue more digitally-restored original albums from Elvis’s RCA years throughout 2010.

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