Dame Shirley Bassey releases first studio album for 20 years

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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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