Shirley Bassey

Send in the Clowns

Composed by Stephen Sondheim

Song Review by

Arthur Greenslade created the over the top arrangement for Shirley Bassey's "Goldfinger" and returns for an understated three minutes and twenty-two seconds of the singer's very studied vocal presentation of "Send In The Clowns". Stephen Sondheim's Broadway show and 1977 film A Little Night Music contained this composition covered by many of the greats from Elizabeth Taylor in the movie to Frank Sinatra, Barbara Streisand, Vic Damone, Bing Crosby, Mel Torme, Glenn Close, with the Top 40 hit going to Judy Collins on Elektra in July of 1975 - hovering around the bottom portion of the charts - the same single with the same catalog # coming back in October of 1977 to reach the Top 20 second time around.

It is one of those songs that crooners and divas embrace to the point where the multiple versions become redundant. That is except for Miss Bassey. Produced by Martin Davis the orchestration stays way in the background allowing for one of Shirley's most tender explorations. Known for belting songs like "I (Who Have Nothing)" out of the park and beyond it is the texture of her earthy meets silky vocal tones which captivate dropping each word slowly over the accompaniment. Usually the musicians do battle with Shirley to get some of the listener's attention, and that ongoing conflict is what makes her other recordings so much fun. The formula is reversed in this passionately casual moment, the singer softly overpowering the instrumentation. Not to say that her voice is as naked as Janis Joplin's on the acappella "Mercedes Benz" - the strings, piano and horns simply flavor the moment, not compromising, complementing a brilliant performance, adding to the song's mystique and Bassey's legend.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Something [EMI] 1970 Remember Records
No Image 1975 United Artists Records
I Am What I Am 1993 Legend
Her Greatest Hits 1995 Woodford 3:23
Diamonds Are Forever, Vol. 1 [Disky] 1997 Disky 3:21
Birthday Concert 1998 Disky 3:21
Let Me Sing and I'm Happy 1998 EMI Digital
Great Shirley Bassey [Riviere] 1999 Riviere International Records 3:53
40 Great Songs 2000 Import 3:22
Totally Easy 2000
Various Artists
EMI Music Distribution 3:21
Back to Back Hits 2001 EMI Music Distribution 3:21
Sings the Standards: Best of Shirley Bassey 2001 Parlophone 3:23
Legendary Performer 2002 Audiophile Legends 3:55
Finest Collection 2004 EMI Music Distribution 3:22
Simply the Best 2005 Disky 3:22
Platinum Collection 2005 Prime Sound 3:55
Never Never Never/Good, Bad But Beautiful 2005 Beat Goes On / BGO 3:22
An Introduction to Shirley Bassey 2006 Fuel 3:53
Very Best of Shirley Bassey [Double Classics] 2008 Double Classics 3:53
That's What Friends Are For [Success] Success
No Image EMI Music Distribution 3:21
blue highlight denotes editor's pick