REVIEW: Janie Dee Live at the BBC ★★

Janie Dee has graced the stages of Britain for over forty years with a career as solid and shiny as the awards glistening on her mantlepiece. The actress amongst other monumental feats, has achieved the Olivier Award for Best Actress, Evening Standard Award and Critics’ Circle Theatre Award amongst many more. As such a seasoned professional, it is surprising that this is her first CD release.

Recorded at the legendary BBC Maida Vale Studios, the album features 13 tracks of varying songs. From classics such as ‘Isn’t she lovely’ (Stevie Wonder) and ‘Alfie’ (Burt Bacharach & Hal David) to more modern numbers like ‘Somewhere Only We Know’ (Keane). Dee states the album was conceived at her cabaret Janie Dee and the Gentlemen at The Pheasantry, Chelsea. Members of the audience would ask to buy her CD which prompted the idea of recording her favourite pieces in a similar cabaret style.

The Maida Vale Studio seemed the perfect place for a project of this nature, particularly for an actress who has recorded several soundtracks (The Gay Divorce, Carousel and Finian’s Rainbow) there in the past. Accompanying Dee’s vocals are the BBC Symphony Orchestra in a collection of songs aiming to encapsulate ‘Live’ atmospheric sound.

Overall, the album doesn’t quite deliver the lively experience it promises. All the songs fall fairly flat and are ultimately forgettable. The band play with expected dexterity despite some of the arrangements lacking imagination and feeling stale. Dee’s voice is ample in classical technique, however her precision often manifests itself as a lack of freedom. ‘Alfie’ is a highlight, as Dee’s voice soars with poignant echoes of Cilla Black. Whereas, songs such as ‘Copytype’ and ‘Isn’t she Lovely’ don’t quite suit her RP eloquence and ultimately feel clunky. Bizarrely, ‘Can you hear me, God’ and ‘Cigarette Scientist’ are both just over a minute long and seem to end just as they have started – arguably an unsuitable choice for an album.

Janie Dee is an actress who commands deep respect and her career speaks for itself. It is a shame, then, that this album ultimately fails to live up to a name with such reputable acclaim.

Reviewed by Nicole Darvill-Batten