2007   MAY 10   #130

Barbara Cartland's Album of Love Songs

01. I'll Follow My Heart (3:32)
02. Desert Song (2:56)
03. A Nightingale Sang In Berkely Square (3:48)
04. How Deep Is The Ocean (3:43)
05. If You Were The Only Girl (3:21)
06. I'll See You Again (2:54)
07. Mr Wonderful (2:46)
08. Dream Lover (3:04)
09. Love Is My Reason (2:57)
10. Always (3:06)
11. If You Are But A Dream (3:21)
12. Goodnight Sweetheart (2:38)

Dame Barbara Cartland is best remembered for her endless stream of trashy love tomes which, even after her death were still being released, earning her the title The Queen of Romance. She was also famous for her connection with the British Royal Family as step-grandmother to Princess Diana (her daughter Raine McCorquodale married Earl Spencer, Diana's father). But what is not so widely known is that in 1978 she swapped pen for microphone when she record her own album of love songs making her the only (albeit distant) member of the Royal Family to have made a record.

The album was issued the State label that was better associated with bubble gum pop and soul acts like The Rubettes and Mac and Katie Kissoon. Sadly Babs didn't go in that direction but chose a set of romantic-themed standards backed by a lush wash of strings and angelic vocals. The Mike Sammes Singes were a respected close harmony vocal group who had backed everyone from The Beatles to Streisand and Sinatra. The Royal Philharmonic was one of the country's top orchestra's conducted by Brian Fahey known for his long association as arranger/orchestrator for Shirley Bassey. So we have the makings of a classic easy-listening album. But with Babs on board it's tuned into something quite different and how the musicians and singers all kept a straight face during the recording is a miracle!

Each pean to passion is graced by a special spoken word pre-amble (or Poem as Babs likes to call them) which are unintentionally comical. 'A Sheikh is a dream mirage for women who are soft, sweet and feminine, and want to be conquered by a strong masculine man' she chirrups like an exited banshee on her take of The Dessert Song. While Love Is My Reason sees her boasting 'My ideal lover has always been tall, dark and handsome and disillusioned with life until he meets me'.

However, while hard to swallow, these words of wisdom are preferable to what follows where across the mesh of silken strings the Ronald McDonald look-alike attempts to sing. She might just have got away with it were they disco tracks (or even a rap) but with such a lushly orchestrated backing her limited vocal abilities stick out like a bookmark in a well-thumbed novel.

Her feeble efforts to stay in a key entirely unsuitable for her result a curious strained whimper, not unlike the howl of her trademark lapdog when it's past dinner time. Every time she opens her pan stick covered mouth to sing she's straining to reach the note like she's suffering from acute constipation. I think she was the inspiration for Howard Goodall's comic falsetto songs which close each episode of the Rowan Atkinson period-sitcom 'Blackadder II'.

In this case we should judge this book by its cover. The vanity sleeve portrait on the front matches those found on the covers of her novels. But flip it over and you'll see the real Barbara Cartland - like Dorian Gray but the other way round. Listen at your peril...

- Contributed by: David Noades

Images: Front Cover, Photo

Media: Album
Label: State
Catalog: ETAT 22
Date: 1978
Credits: The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and The Mike Sammes Singers. Orchestrations and Musical Direction by Brian Fahey, Original poems by Barbara Cartland. Produced by Norman Newell, Associate Producer Gil King.


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