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Shirley Bassey This Is My Life: The Greatest Hits Review

Compilation. Released 2000.  

BBC Review

A perfect celebration of her distinctive artistry.

Adrian Edwards 2009

Shirley Bassey has been a star on disc and stage for more years than it would be gallant to mention, so there’s an historic angle to This Is My Life: The Greatest Hits, as well a reason to raise a glass to her unique voice and talent.

Bassey has a happy knack of choosing great songs upon which she has been able to put her own individual stamp. When she began her career in an era of cover versions, any Bassey single vied for attention with other artists; but it was her inimitable interpretation of a song that stole the hearts of the record buying public. Who can forget the jaunty swagger with which she launches the saucy lyric of Big Spender; her unsentimental, yet compelling singing of Something; or her dramatic Piaf-like account of What Now My Love?, where the drama is heightened by the bolero accompaniment of Nelson Riddle’s arrangement. 

In several instances on this collection, the original single releases have been re-recorded. The newly minted As I Love You, one of her earliest hits, has been given a Latin touch which replaces the original stately treatment with a more contemporary edge. Big Spender and Kiss Me Honey Honey (Kiss Me) are now in lower keys with small alterations in word emphasis and interpretation, although they retain the atmosphere of the originals. Only once, on For All We Know, does an over-fussy fresh arrangement mar the simplicity of the original.

All of these tracks sound terrific when digitally re-mastered, though no amount of cleansing will ever rob Bassey’s enthralling Goldfinger of its innate suggestion of over modulation, something that was part of the visceral attraction of the original production. This original soundtrack recording of the title song to the third Bond film propelled Bassey’s name before the American public, and its parent album went to the top of the US charts where it also launched the stateside career of composer John Barry. It’s good, too, to hear his swooning strings on the less familiar Moonraker song as well as Bassey’s seductive vocal on Diamonds are Forever. 

A beloved figure of impersonators, Bassey has a whale of a time on the Propellerheads’ History Repeating, and as a dramatic performer she has few peers on a song like If You Go Away. Wonderfully varied, this compilation is a perfect celebration of her distinctive artistry.             

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