Website last updated: 26-2-2024

The Living Tree Sung By Dame Shirley Bassey

By: FSWL team
Shirley bassey the living tree 2007
The single The Living Tree sung by Shirley Bassey is now available on Single, Enhanced, EP from the Lock Stock and Barrel label.

She’s gold, gowns and glamour. Champagne, charisma and chic. Savoir faire, style and showbiz. She’s besequinned, beloved, Bassey.

The buzzwords have been tripping off our tongues for decades, but there can never be enough of them to sum up an artist who defines the word superstar. In a world where true legends of entertainment are an endangered phenomenon, it’s time once again to celebrate the unique force of nature that is Dame Shirley Bassey.

One of Great Britain’s greatest-ever entertainers has been having a love affair with her public for more than 50 years. She’s sung for Presidents, Queens and secret agents, hung out with a King, packed concert halls across the known world and sold an estimated 135 million records in the process. Every step of the way, she has radiated magnetic elegance, and now the moment has come for Dame Shirley to bedazzle yet another new generation.

On November 9, Geffen Records is proud to unveil ‘The Performance,’ the new studio recording which the artist humbly considers to be the greatest album of her career. Produced, aptly, by David Arnold, a musician as steeped in ‘007’ tradition as she is, it features songs written especially for Bassey by an extraordinary A-list of contemporary composers and performers.

Gary Barlow, the Pet Shop Boys, Rufus Wainwright, KT Tunstall and Manic Street Preachers are among those truly honoured to have their songs interpreted by Dame Shirley, alongside a cherished pairing from her past, John Barry & Don Black. To borrow the title of the Tennant/Lowe song that brings the record to a tumultuous and emotional conclusion, it is the performance of her life.

At 72, Dame Shirley Bassey is about to extend her span as a chart artist to an astonishing 52 years, and she can hardly contain her excitement. She chose material for ‘The Performance’ with the rigourousness that has fuelled her career, and then set about the recording sessions with Arnold and a crack team of musicians, in residence at Grouse Lodge Studios in Westmeath, Ireland, which counts no less a fellow legend than Michael Jackson among its former visitors.

“We stayed there, ate there, slept there and recorded there, and it was great fun,” says Dame Shirley, “in spite of the rain.” Soon, word was getting out that she was loving the songs, and when this artist loves a song, it becomes forever Basseyfied. During the process, she began to do what she has always done: not just to sing a song, but to live inside it. She pronounces herself “ecstatic” with the results.

The stirring melodies and inspiring arrangements of these bespoke compositions are the perfect backdrop for the artist to extract every last drop of emotion from the lyrics of those writers and other distinguished talents such as Richard Hawley, Tom Baxter, David McAlmont and Nick Hodgson of Kaiser Chiefs.

The first track Dame Shirley heard that moved her to embark on a new album project was Wainwright’s characteristically playful ‘Apartment.’ The “fairytale song,” as she describes it, got her in the mood to welcome fresh material, commit to coming out of her “semi-retirement” again and give her public a truly memorable record.

The master stroke was to team Bassey with David Arnold, custodian of the James Bond music marque to which the Dame has contributed three times, more than any other artist. “David’s very gentle, he lets you find your own way,” says Bassey of her new producer. “He’s very cool, he put me completely at ease.”

A self-confessed fan of both the look and sound of the classic, Connery-era ‘Goldfinger’ and ‘Diamonds Are Forever’ movies for which she sang the indelible themes, he called the Pet Shop Boys, Hodgson and others to invite material. When Dame Shirley heard Tennant & Lowe’s ‘The Performance Of My Life,’ the sentiment was so close to home that it made her cry.

Arnold co-wrote two songs for ‘The Performance’ himself, one with David McAlmont and the other with La Bassey’s old friend Don Black. He’s known her since around the time she exploded onto the UK chart scene of the late 1950s, when she swiftly up half a dozen top ten hits amid many other great recordings.

Close to 40 years after Black and another all-time great English composer, John Barry, wrote ‘Diamonds Are Forever’ for her, back they came with a new co-write, ‘Our Time Is Now.’ It already feels like a new Bassey classic, but then so many of these songs do.

Barlow himself had come to Arnold’s studio to sit at the piano and play her ‘This Time.’ Talk about An Audience With Dame Shirley. They later joked about which of them was more nervous, but neither need have worried: it’s a brilliant piece of contemporary writing that fits the Bassey treatment so perfectly, you’d think they’d known each other all their lives.

The story of Dame Shirley Bassey is itself the stuff of fairytales, and any attempt to condense it into these dimensions would be insulting. Suffice it to ask whether you can think of any other current recording artists who hung out backstage with Elvis Presley, or took part in one of the greatest comedy sketches of all time with Morecambe & Wise, or played every stage worth its salt from London to Las Vegas, or every gala TV event from the Royal Variety Performance to two “Audience With” specials and the “This Is Your Life” treatment, or sung for the presidential inauguration of John F. Kennedy.

When ‘The Performance’ makes its arrival as a new chapter in an incredible fable, it will only enhance some already spectacular statistics, two years after ‘The Living Tree’ gave her the 28th UK Top 40 single of her career, a 50-year span of hits and made her the first-ever solo female septuagenarian to hit the charts.

Having won standing ovations for 50 years – the proper, spontaneous, never-ending kind, not the enforced adulation of later and lesser stars – Dame Shirley Bassey is ready for another close-up. As ever, she lives by her public.

“I live for the moment. If it’s a big success, I go with it,” she says. “I was explaining the album to my daughter over the phone and she said ‘I’m getting so emotional, the fact that all these writers have written for you and you’re going to sing their songs. But I want to wait for the audience reaction.” It’s coming soon, and the applause will be endless, because Bassey Is Forever.

Editor's note:
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