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Not the Greatest, But It'll Do
on February 6, 2007
This is a 1999 compilation of Dusty Springfield's biggest British and American hits, with the glaring exception of "Son of a Preacher Man." The market seems to have decreed that considering this lack, and the muffled sound of this CD, it's best to spend a few bucks more on one of the other compilations, and the market is generally right. Still, if you love the greatest pop diva produced by the United Kingdom-- and the finest white, blue-eyed soul singer of her generation, the late 1960's-early 1970's-- there's plenty to recommend here.
Springfield had a big strong sensual voice, great power, yet sensitivity. She delivers an exciting, big beat, Phil Spector-sized, wall-of-sound, pounding-drum opening "I Only Want To Be With You," that can match Spector's wife Ronnie for aggressive sexuality. Then she does a sophisticated, seductive "Look of Love;" Burt Bacharach wrote it for her, and Dionne Warwick never forgave her for it. She's out there again sexually on "Wishin' and Hopin'," and "You Don't Have to Say You Love Me." She was, as an artist, always very aware of what her American cohort was doing: in addition to Spector's girl groups, she greatly admired the Motown girl groups, particularly Martha and The Vandellas; and then there was her venture into country, the unforgettable "Dusty in Memphis." She is also surprisingly emotionally open -- for a Brit; perhaps as a result, her songs retain their emotional resonance still. But she was unable to read or write music and therefore dependent on others for her material, her arrangements: this led to some recording sessions of legendary frustration.
Dusty was the childhood nickname of the tomboy Mary Catherine O'Brien, born in Ealing, West London on April 16, 1939. She had big hair, raccoon eyes, and several British television shows. She was also relatively open, for her time, about her sexual ambidexterity. She was once deported from South Africa for refusing to perform to a segregated audience. She had her emotional problems: the 1970's saw chronic drug and alcohol abuse, suicide attempts, and hospitalizations, as a result of which she was artistically inactive for a couple of decades. But she came back big with the Pet Shop Boys in the 1990s. She died, unfortunately young, of breast cancer, on March 3, 1999, just about the time she was being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and being given the British honor,an OBE.
Some of us have loved her work, all along, in real time; and, for us, this compilation will certainly do.