Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Dusty Springfield Dusty In Memphis 1969 and various compilations

Much has been written about Dusty In Memphis, and if any record ever deserved the press, this one does. It makes everyone's list of best albums, and for good reason. First, the songwriting is impeccable, with Randy Newman, Mann and Weil, Goffin and King, Bacharach and David all contributing. Next, the recording is beautiful, with Dusty riding over a perfect soul-pop backdrop. Dusty didn't so much adjust to Memphis, as Memphis adjusted to her. Perfectly. Third, well, Dusty sings her heart out. You should own this record. If I have to tell you that, where have you been? Available in all your premium formats, and worth every penny.

But Dusty Springfield had quite a long and hit-filled career before this classic arrived, and continued to make some good music into the eighties at least. There are numerous compilations available, and they are tempting. But which one? Well, looking things over, the best of the single-disc jobs would be Silver Collection, a reasonably-priced import release. But who really wants a single disc by Dusty? For the 2-disc set there's Gold, also an import at an unusually good price. The American released Gold, with a different cover (Dusty on a blue background), has many fewer songs and costs more.

A more microcosmic look can be had with the Complete A And B Sides 1963-1970. It's another 2 disc set, but focuses on her post-Springfields sixties hit-making period, and the B sides hold a few treasures. Many are unavailable anywhere else (other than the original U.K. released 45s)

For those of you willing to make a commitment, there's The Dusty Springfield Anthology, a three-disc set that includes just about all the important material. I'm repeatedly surprised at how often I can listen to at least the first or second discs clear through. The last disc gets a little shaky, and there were some bumpy times for Dusty in the eighties, but there's also a few pearls. This compilation really lets you experience everything she did, even some of the less successful, but no less sublime, moments.

I can't end without mentioning one other single disc. And that would be Cameo, from 1973. An overlooked gem, this is an excellent record, not unlike Gladys Knight's work around the same time. Not perfect, but perhaps Dusty's last great record in it's whole. Usually pretty easy to find in used vinyl. Side one is perfection.

So there you go. My advice is the whole enchilada: Dusty In Memphis and The Dusty Springfield Anthology. Yes, the Anthology has six songs from Memphis, but the other five, well, the record just doesn't work without them.

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