Petula Clark

Today

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In 1971, Petula Clark's long relationship with Pye Records, which dated back to before the company's founding, to 1949 and the Polygon label that had preceded Pye, finally ended. She left the company and signed with Polydor Records, continuing her career apace. Meanwhile, Pye Records dipped into its vaults and assembled a "new" album from songs that had been unissued by sessions going as far back as 1969. The album, rather ironically entitled Today, was an astonishingly strong release, despite its hodgepodge origins and the fact that ten of its 14 songs were Jackie Trent copyrights (nine of them collaborations with Tony Hatch) that had not made the cut over the previous two years' worth of albums. Regardless of its title, there were no covers of contemporary or near-contemporary hits -- the "Close to You" here isn't the familiar Bacharach/David song but a perfectly fine ballad with a gorgeous chorus by Hatch and Trent that has a very Gallic feel to it -- indeed, one suspects that had Clark done it on Vogue Records with French lyrics, it could have been a monster hit in France. And apart from Clark's version of Charles Chaplin's "This Is My Song," there's not a familiar pop standard here. There are some fine performances, including the breezy "City Lights," which recalls "Downtown" in spirit and theme, and also a few brilliant songs, of which perhaps the most striking is "Spring in September," a very poignant Hatch/Trent number dealing with old age and love that might not have found an audience in 1969 (though with Clark's soaring vocal on the chorus and her sensitive handling of the lyric, and Hatch's dazzling music direction, it just might have made it). "After You" was where Hatch and Trent crossed paths and swords with Jimmy Webb, and Clark rises to the challenge of the song's emotional depth and richness with one of the best performances of her career. And "I've Got to Know," with Clark's lung-bursting performance, is worth the price of the album or the CD. The 1997 reissue features significantly improved sound and extensive annotation by Richard Harries, and adds three bonus tracks -- "Look to the Sky," "I've Got Love Going for Me," and "Every Time I See a Rainbow," which had been issued on singles during the 1960s but never previously anthologized.

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