Open Your Heart / Portrait of Petula Clark
If one woman summarized ’60s girl pop, it would be Petula Clark. With her innocent good looks and bubbly singing style, she erupted out of the Swinging London scene and conquered pop music. Mega hits like “Downtown,” “Don’t Sleep in The Subway Darling,” and “A Sign of The Times” ate up the charts, and after this initial success, she settled into a long if less chart-topping career in France, and currently hold the Guinness Record for biggest selling British pop star. Collectors’ Choice has released this twin pack of Petula goodness with a CD of her later works, and a surprisingly entertaining NBC special from 1969 on DVD.
Open Your Heart features her post-1972 recordings, and while none are oldies radio staples, all of them are consistently listenable and have that “I’m sure I heard that somewhere” quality that comes from her solid performance style. There’s a loungy redo of “Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You,” but potential standards “Walking on Air” and “Little Bit of Lovin'” keep the disc surprising. There’s no filler in any of these 21 cuts.
The DVD, complete with the old NBC Peacock intro, is not only a good look at Petula, but a vibrant time capsule of network television production values from 40 years ago. The variety show, a long-eared holdover from vaudeville still brought in the ratings — singing, dancing, skits, and corny humor satisfied America’s entertainment needs before the dozen of cable channels began narrowcasting to thinner and thinner demographics and splintered America viewing habits. Crooner Andy Williams joins Ms. Clark, along with French heartthrob Sacha Distel and London stage actor Ron Moody fresh from his triumphant role as Fagin in Oliver. She sings “My Funny Valentine,” “This Girl’s in Love With You,” and “I Know A Place” along with a duet of “Visions of Sugar Plums” with Mr. Williams. Second Unit footage shows her with her identically dressed twin daughter at their French home, on London streets, and other semi-exotic locals. While there’s a certain amount of corn (Williams sings “You Can’t Roller Skate in a Buffalo Herd”), the show engages and rarely are you tempted to fast forward. Either of these history lessons is worth a look, and Petula Clark might be as close to timeless as a British invader can ever be.