“Je veux changer d’atmosphère”... 30 years or so into a career that has seen her win two Olivier awards (so far – I’d watch out for her to be at least nominated for Follies, if not more), it seems remarkable that Janie Dee at the BBC is actually Dee’s debut album. But though there may not be recorded evidence, she is a highly accomplished and experienced cabaret performer among her many skills, and it is from these shows that the material has been drawn for this record.
Recorded at BBC Maida Vale Studios with Auburn Jam Records, the track-listing thus embraces a broad array of songs and styles, all connected by the smooth consummate skill of one of our more under-rated Dames-in-the-making. From Kander and Ebb to Bacharach and David, Stevie Wonder to Spike Milligan, Dee takes us on a journey of hugely sophisticated charm that proves mightily hard to resist, marshalled by MD Steve Clark.
There’s a real affinity for Kander and Ebb, represented by thee numbers here, the best of which is the purred version of ‘There Goes The Ballgame’ from And The World Goes ‘Round with its elastic bassline (played by Eric Guy) and delightful matter-of-factness. Real passion is draped over the slinky groove of ‘Jardin D’Hiver’ and the bossanova rhythms of ‘Samba de Uma Nota Só’ and if the comic numbers are not necessarily my cup of tea, Alan Ayckbourn & Paul Todd’s ‘Copytype’ is gorgeously detailed in its humour and character study.
But it is the simple purity of her interpretations that really shine through and prove deeply impressive. A relaxed piano accompaniment makes ‘Alfie’ an uncomplicated joy, delicately strummed Spanish guitar chords adorn the gorgeous ‘Never Let Me Go’ (popularised by Nat King Cole), a jazzy take on the Gershwins’ ‘Our Love Is Here To Stay’ demands you finger-click along, it’s all just so easy to listen to without ever .
For me, it is the considered intelligence of her version of Keane’s ‘Somewhere Only We Know’ that is the album’s standout moment. A lyric that really benefits from a performer who has lived a bit, Dee delivers its yearning sentiment with such conviction whilst always knowing that less is more, no amount of adlibbing could be as emotionally affecting as this, a lesson many a younger singer would do well to heed. Gorgeous.