Jane Horrocks’ portrayal of fellow Lancastrian Gracie Fields in the BBC4 biopic Gracie! – a drama depicting the life of the singer during World War II and her relationship with the Italian-born director Monty Banks – must be counted among the television highlights of 2009.
Now Jane takes her empathy a stage further by actually duetting with Gracie herself! In 1948 Gracie scored her greatest-ever chart success with the lilting Maori song of farewell Now Is The Hour. This was a huge hit, spending nearly six months at the top of the British hit parade. From here it crossed the Atlantic – one consignment of 24,000 records (weighing six tons!) was the biggest single shipment of foreign records ever to hit Manhattan. It spent 21 weeks in the US charts, reaching No.3.
To that original recording Jane has now added a new introduction, then harmonization to Gracie’s vocal line. Through the miracles of modern audio technology this has been seamlessly blended together to produce a truly magical new version. Jane’s remarkable natural ability for capturing the voices and personas of famous entertainers, familiar from The Rise And Fall Of Little Voice, proved ideal for recreating the decidedly ‘big voice’ of Lancashire’s most celebrated daughter. As Jane says: “This was a role I wanted to play for a long time . . . Gracie was such a fantastic draw when she was around, and such a positive, wonderful person.”
Jane’s Now Is The Hour is to appear as a bonus track on the new Decca album: Our Gracie – The Best Of Gracie Fields due for release on Monday (22nd February), 30 years after the death of Britain’s best-loved female entertainer. To a unique compilation, already enhanced by five never-previously-issued tracks from Fairy Soap broadcasts, a special touch is now added from one of today’s leading comedienne-actress-singers: Jane Horrocks.
Covering the extremes of audio technology, Our Gracie – The Best of Gracie Fields will be available not only as a CD, and a digital download, but also as a cassette. Since the nostalgic success of Vera Lynn’s recent album there has been demand for a version to be available for people with cassette players in their homes and in their cars.
Now Is The Hour – and 20 minutes – of pure Gracie… and Jane.