Dusty Springfield, “The Complete Atlantic Singles 1968-1971”

Dusty Springfield
The Complete Atlantic Singles 1968-1971
REAL GONE
9/10

After Dusty Springfield’s smoky cocktail of Bacharach-meets-Bond, bouffant-stylized pop, the finest vocal interpreter that the mid-’60s ever embraced was ready for a little adventure. So the West Hampstead, London-born singer known for her prickly perfectionism and mood-enhancing mezzo-soprano packed up her bag of bassoon-y vocal tics and subtly emotional catches and headed to America—namely Memphis (well, Manhattan, as she didn’t sing her parts in Tennessee) and Philadelphia—toward rougher-edged R&B and satin-lined soul for Dusty in Memphis and A Brand New Me, and partnerships with Jerry Wexler, Tom Dowd, and Arif Mardin in the first town, then Kenny Gamble, Leon Huff, and Thom Bell in the latter.

The legends of who Springfield may or may not have been (a neurotic perfectionist who peeled through some eighty songs before arriving at the initial eleven on Memphis, a beloved public figure afraid of being outed as a lesbian) have long littered both of the albums and era-revolving tracks that fill the Real Gone package’s The Complete Atlantic Singles 1968-1971. Such a studied approach to her songcraft—and herself—might make Springfield seem pent-up and frozen. Instead, ultimately, these selections of Southern-rubbed and Philly-styled music open the vocalist up to a freedom she never experienced before or after. “Since I met you, baby, I got a brand new style,” she intoned throughout the title track to A Brand New Me.

From a swampy cover of Tony Joe White’s “Willie and Laura Mae Jones” to the rhythm-riding groove of John Hurley and Ronnie Wilkins’ “Son of a Preacher Man,” from the whirring, tender jazz of Michel Legrand’s “The Windmills of Your Mind” to the mesmerizingly sensuous “Just a Little Lovin’;” from the effortless instrumentation and conversational backing vocals of The Memphis Boys and The Sweet Inspirations to the hot-to-the-touch production from each team—radically different from the other—all with the caramel-and-coffee drenched sexuality of Springfield at her most unwound and unbound, this collection is the textbook, bible, and all the psalms of blue-eyed soul rimmed in thick black mascara.

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