The 12 tracks released on Warner Bros. in 1969 are tremendous Petula Clark selections, from Andy Williams' "Happy Heart," splashed on the cover under the title, to versions of "My Funny Valentine" and "The Windmills of Your Mind," which has "from the United Artists motion picture The Thomas Crown Affair" written prominently on the vinyl label (although Noel Harrison sang the Academy Award-winning soundtrack version, and Dusty Springfield had the Top 35 hit with the tune). Speaking of Dusty Springfield: concept-wise, the orchestration here is very much like what Springfield sang to on Where Am I Going. Both singers were moving to what they may have considered the "legit" market for the day; years later, this "legit" market for both women would turn out to be the wonderfully snappy pop hit singles they blessed listeners with. Where "When I Give My Heart" is exquisite here, Clark doesn't quite master "Lovin' Things" when she has to hit those high notes and battle the big band. Sure, it's a stretch, and a good one at that, but where it brought significance to Springfield's catalog, the sound is merely a pleasant and somewhat welcome addition to Clark's work -- many of her Tony Hatch hits had mega-orchestration anyway. Essayist Stan Cornyn simply puts "S.C." on the back of the album, written March 10, 1969, declaring that the "girl" has become "Woman." Ridiculous liner notes -- Clark is a pop star, pop is what she does best, and the orchestration works here when she sings "Let It Be Me," the many instruments augmenting, not battling, the singer's unique and familiar pipes. She does take the tempo of Andy Williams' "Happy Heart" down a bit (where Springfield took Vanilla Fudge up a piece on her orchestrated outing), and "Some" is just beautiful, worth the price of admission on its own. There are more highs than lows on Portrait of Petula, and "My Funny Valentine" is charming and sweet (listen to Tony Hatch oversee her on Harold Arlen's "Come Rain or Come Shine" on the I Couldn't Live Without Your Love album for comparison). "Windmills of Your Mind" is an intriguing version, sophisticated somewhat like Noel Harrison's, but bringing the fan of Clark back to the fact that, as with Springfield, her gems like "It's a Sign of the Times" are where she wins over listeners completely. For those who want a change of pace from Clark's greatest hits, this is it.
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