Monday, February 25, 2013


Rick Rubin pointed the way.  When you have a classic performer, who still has respect, but a career that's flat-lined, don't try to make them modern.  As Rubin did with Cash, strip them back to the basics, get them to do what they do best, and people will respond.  The artist will be inspired as well.  Rubin's done that with several since, from Neil Diamond to ZZ Top, and others have employed the same strategy.  Jack White respected the legacy for Loretta Lynn and Wanda Jackson, Joe Henry worked hard for Solomon Burke.  This is now the model.

Why then, would the production team working with Petula Clark choose to try to update her sound?  What's with the treated vocals, and strange mix of new age and electro sounds?  And these new songs that were written by them, or chosen..  well.  I smell some minor talents, hitching their horses to ProTools and Petula.  Even if she's fully involved in the decisions, certainly somebody should have mentioned this won't really appeal to anyone.  There are too many inconsequential songs, most with the producer's name attached.  Then there's the blatently obvious, sombre, modern and dull retread of Downtown, her glory song, ruined in a somewhat desperate attempt to draw attention to the project.

Oddly, what works best are a couple of covers that show Clark is still a grand interpretor when handed a great song.  I say oddly, because they are two overdone numbers.  Crazy by Gnarls Barkley isn't what you'd expect from her, but playing it straight works perfectly here.  She doesn't oversing it, the instrumentation is basic, I'd play this on the radio.  And try as the producers might to wreck her take on Imagine, when they finally take the processing off her vocals, it's an honest reading, from someone who knew and respected him, a peer's version.  Now, an album of such songs, and some 60's-style production, that would work as a complete comeback disc for Petula Clark.

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