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Album Review: Dame Shirley Bassey – Hello Like Before

2 min read

Gollllllld-FIN-GER! – No one can belt the title of a James Bond flick quite like the lady from Tiger Bay.

A breezy, jazzy version of This Is What You Are has Bassey navigating the high notes and rapid pace with ease. It marks a suitably simmering introduction to the album. Bassey’s take on Englishman in New York is a funkier, modern blues-pop affair that relegates the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra a bit too much to the background.At 77, Dame Shirley Bassey still isn’t slowing down. Instead, she is trying her hand at songs fit for her dramatic, velvety voice that she somehow has never recorded during her 60 years in show business. Hello Like Before (her first studio album in 5 years) even has a modern retake of that very first Bond theme that launched her into stardom nearly 50 years ago.

Dame Shirley Bassey - Hello Like Before

Fever unfortunately is an unexpected disappointment as Bassey’s matured vocals aren’t subtle or breathy enough for this usually mysterious track. Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend is another misstep, as duet partner Paloma Faith’s admittedly fine vocals don’t quite gel with Bassey’s during their joint harmonies.

On the flip-side, I’m Still Here features a truly theatrical performance. The celebrated British vocalist captures feelings of weariness, regret and fury and of course, erupts at the end in her signature style. MacArthur Park is straight out of the 1970s: cheesy, corny and camp. However, it is the album’s emotional highpoint as the plaintive strings and quizzical atmosphere are bound to tug at the heartstrings. Wild Is the Wind conjures Nina Simone’s mournful, piano-led version, and adds a few sinister touches like chilling chimes and slicing cymbals. Bassey digs deep with her vibrato to bring pathos to the proceedings.

The original version of Goldfinger, according to Bassey, had a few bum notes. Despite the re-recording on Hello Like Before being in a lower pitch and less punchy than the original for obvious reasons, it is a regal, pitch perfect version. The drama is more restrained, making the build-up and cold ending pay off bigger dividends than the original. Even five decades on, Bassey shows listeners again that THIS is how to do a James Bond theme. No wonder she got a standing ovation at the end of her 2013 Oscars performance.

Hello Like Before is certainly not a quick career swansong to cash-in on Dame Shirley Bassey’s 60th year in music. Despite a few mishaps, it is evidently a showcase for Bassey’s talent and an opportunity for her to finally record songs she clearly loves. It is also further proof of why Bassey remains one of the greatest British female vocalists of all time.