Claudine Longet

We've Only Just Begun

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French pop singer Claudine Longet was never known for her strong vocals. A pretty face, Andy Williams' wife, and later a marksman of deadly skill, but never a great singer. 1969's We've Only Just Begun features Longet's fragile wisp of a voice trailing gently through some of the biggest soft pop hits of recent vintage as well as a few obscure tracks. The musical backing is cotton-candy sweet, overflowing with strings, gently strummed guitars, and waves of backing vocals in order to give listeners something other than her voice to focus all their attention on. Strangely it all adds up to a pleasurable listening experience. A little ironic but still better than it has any right to be. Longet's stilted phrasing and inability to emote even a little give the record an otherworldly feel that elevates the proceedings a notch above the easy listening norm. For some reason she sounds best on up-tempo tracks like "Ain't No Mountain High Enough," "Make It With You," and Donovan's obscure "Electric Moon." Her take on Bobby Goldsboro's "Broomstick Cowboy" is almost exciting even. The ballads are decent enough, though she proves herself to be no Karen Carpenter on "(They Long to Be) Close to You" and "We've Only Just Begun." Where the albums falls apart is on the tracks like "Cry Me a River" or "What Have They Done to My Song, Ma," where they take an overly cutesy novelty approach. Nobody really needs to hear a riverboat jazz version of "Cry Me a River." Ever. Still, if you skip that song the record is quite enjoyable.