Over her seven-decade-long career, the inimitable Petula Clark has had considerable success in Europe the USA, on stage and screen. She's danced with Fred Astaire, given peace a chance with John Lennon, been the first British woman to win a Grammy and also lays claim to the first instance of physical contact between a white woman and a black man (Harry Belafonte) on US television, to top it off, she's the biggest selling British female artist of all time. As with all truly great artists, Petula continues to explore the boundaries of her creativity as a writer and performer. Unlike Norma Desmond, (a character she has played in Sunset Boulevard more times than any other actress) Petula's focus is not on nostalgia, by her own admission she rarely listens to her old songs, but on the here and now. At 83 she remains an inspiration and is going back on the road for a series of dates in support of her latest album From Now On, a collection of mostly self-penned new material and a selection of covers.
Producer John Williams and co-producer and writer Paul Visser add a magical touch to the album by creating a wonderful mix of contemporary sounds and mellow ballads. Williams encouraged Petula to play more piano and record backing vocals which really imbues the album with a personal quality.
The astonishingly modern opening number, Sacrifice My Heart is orchestral pop at its best. It's moody, sexy, deeply memorable and so up to the minute that it could have been recorded by any of today's chart toppers. An equally à la mode track is Sincerely, in which Petula instils a subtle sexuality against an enchanting dance beat and ghostly strings. Lennon and McCartney's Blackbird is delivered with the beauty and simplicity that you would expect from a performer of her standing. Peggy Lee was always an influence on Petula so it's a treat to hear Fever given a trendy soft rock make-over. This new version is delivered once again with characteristic perfection and precision.
Elsewhere on the album, there are some beautiful tracks including A Miracle To Me, Pour Etre Aimee De Toi (To Be Loved By You) written by Petula and fellow singer Charles Aznavour. Petula's fluidity of the Romance language reminds us of why she was taken into the hearts of the French all those years ago. The titular track From Now On continues the moody, longing and hopeful undercurrent of the album. Happiness, sees an emotional Petula playing the piano on the haunting yet uplifting closing chanson. From start to finish this album is full of surprises, poignant lyrical sentiments and satisfying vocal lines, more than enough to please any 'Pet' fan or newcomer who has been drawn to her bewitching hold over a melody.
And what of Petula's unique voice? It may be a little thinner in places than her younger days, but no less magnificent in tone. Her ability to convey deep emotion pours out of every song and her phrasing and timing are second to none. Nobody can hold a tune and captivate quite like the first lady of the British invasion, she's pure class and a total one off.
Groupie Rating 5/5