It occurs to me that I ought to do something for Petula Clark, who turns 80 (!) next month. Despite being ten years older than everybody else in the British Invasion, she sold a whole lot of records here in the States, starting with “Downtown” in 1964, though she’d been recording for at least a decade before that. So between now and the 15th of November, I’ll be tossing in the occasional Petula classic for your dancing and dining pleasure.
And now Petula has done something for us: a new album! Lost In You, due out in Britain on the 25th of this month, is the first I’ve heard from her since she turned up on the Saw Doctors’ 2011 remake of “Downtown.” The first track, “Cut Copy Me,” has already been announced as a single: heavily synthed and Auto-Tuned, it comes off, to me anyway, as something less than wonderful, although the Guardian says that “Lana Del Rey would no doubt trade her David Lynch box set to have written [it].” In fact, since it’s the leadoff track, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the whole thing is a feeble whimper augmented by electronic fudge factors.
Until you get to the second track, the title song, and you realize that the game plan was to pay obeisance to the marketing department early on and get it out of the way. From this point on, it’s the sound of a woman who has been there, done that, and isn’t jaded about any of it. The covers of “Imagine” and “Love Me Tender” are okay, maybe a little better than that, but the real revelation is her reinvention of “Crazy.” Yes, the Gnarls Barkley tune. And if Petula’s singing isn’t quite as all-over-the-staff as Cee Lo Green’s, it’s every bit as soulful.
Inevitably, there is a version of “Downtown,” but it’s a radical revision: instead of bouncy 4/4, it’s a languid, dreamy waltz. On its own terms, it’s nearly as startling as Lesley Gore’s 2005 reworking of “You Don’t Own Me” into a torch song.
We won’t be getting this album Stateside until April, but assuming you can’t wait and you don’t want to deal with Amazon.co.uk, you can have the entire album streamed in your general direction, courtesy of the Guardian music blog. I’ve already turned in my preorder for the CD.