Album Review: WHAT WOULD PETULA DO? (Maxine Linehan)

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by Tony Frankel on September 16, 2021



From sunny, optimistic, and ebullient to kittenish to a grande dame chanteuse, Irish singer and performer Maxine Linehan offers a true homage to the great Petula Clark. While know best for her enduring mid-60s upbeat classic pop song (many written or co-written by Tony Hatch and future wife Jackie Trent), Clark began as a child entertainer during WWII on BBC Radio, had roles in British films, and a prolific career in recordings (her dad was a co-founder of Polygon Records!). After her international career took off with “Downtown” and other great tunes, Clark turned to theater, including a stint as Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard (I saw her turn the lousy score for Blood Brothers into theater magic). Still recording to this day, Clark continues at 81 to tour and encourage young talent.

That’s a tall order for one concert, which was recorded live at the Théâtre Du Châtelet in Paris — an apropos location as Clark is fluent in and sings in French. The set is mostly in English with French added to great effect for “Ceux Qui Ont Un Coeur” (“Anyone Who Had a Heart”) and “La Nuit N’En Finit Plus” (“Needles and Pins”). Linehan successfully takes us through Clark’s career, from the early years through theater. And I’m here to tell you that Linehan offers one of the lightest, sweetest renditions of “The Sound of Music” I have ever heard. Listen how she effortlessly charts her way from low to high notes without any switch in vocal resonance; she’s as sweet in high soprano as she is in the lower register.

Other musical standards “With One Look” and “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina” are refreshingly free of belt as though I never heard them before. Since she is not going for character, her voice simply wafts through the room with a heartbreaking ease. And I love her “Old Devil Moon” from Arlen and Harburg’s Finian’s Rainbow, the film of which Clark became Fred Astaire’s final film dance partner. Here it is sultry and enticing with a sensuous beguine.

The newly released What Would Petula Do? has Linehan backed by an emotional but non-overbearing 12-piece orchestra utilizing delicious orchestrations, arranged by Gerald Stockstill. She begins her tribute with those great Tony Hatch songs, “I Know a Place,” “Don’t Sleep in the Subway,” and “Call Me” retain a bounce but with grace and charm. It’s clear that these are not trying to be recreations, but brand new interpretations, giving the songs a special appeal with more vocal control than Clark. Even an original song — “What Would Petula Do?” by Stockstill and lyricist Kenneth Jones — has that 60s appeal, ending in “Do-do-doodledy-do.”

Considering Linehan was performing in front of 2,500 people, the audience applause is terrifically muted and fades fast between the 19 tracks, avoiding the intrusion of noise heard on so many live recordings. A lovely album!


What Would Petula Do? A Tribute to Petula Clark
Honey Bun Records
19 tracks | 68:56 | released September 10, 2021

Set List:

1 – “I Know a Place”
2 – “I Couldn’t Live Without Your Love” / “You’re the One Don’t Sleep”
3 – “In the Subway”
4 – “Call Me”
5 – “Ceux Qui Ont Un Coeur” (“Anyone Who Had a Heart”)
6 – “You’re My Destiny”
7 – “What Would Petula Do?”
8 – “La Nuit N’En Finit Plus” (“Needles and Pins”)
9 – “Color My World”
10 – Musical Interlude / Optional Intermission
11 – “Old Devil Moon”
12 – “Walk Through the World”
13 – “The Sound of Music”
14 – “Tell Me It’s Not True”
15 – “With One Look”
16 – “Chanson d’Evita” (“Don’t Cry for Me Argentina”)
17 – “This Is My Song”
18 – “I Love Paris”
19 – Encore: “Downtown”


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