This series of pages offers a guide to those who are just beginning to discover the rich and varied musical legacy of the late, great Dusty Springfield. Here you will ascertain one person's highly subjective view of the essential Dusty Springfield CDs, books, videos, and DVDs. Enjoy!

Michael J. Bayly.



Looking for a single "greatest hits" CD? Look no further than the UK realease Goin' Back: The Very Best of Dusty Springfield 1962-1994 (Philips 848 789-2). Music Week noted in June 1994 that "this superb compilation brings together the cream of Springfield's output, not only with [the] Philips [label], but also with EMI, via her Pet Shop Boys collaborations." Goin' Back features 25 digitally remastered tracks including three tracks with the Springfields and Dusty's 1987 hit with the Pet Shop Boys, "What Have I Done to Deserve This?"

Dusty's 1968 album Dusty in Memphis, is regarded as her finest and a sixties classic--spurring the sultry "Son-Of-A Preacher Man" up the international charts. Peter Kane writing in the British music magazine Q in 2002, noted that "More than 30 years and several helpings of hindsight later, [Dusty in Memphis's] reputation is probably more secure than ever. Recorded at Chips Moman's [and Don Crew's] American Studios with Atlantic Records' biggest wigs (Jerry Wexler, Arif Mardin, Tom Dowd) handling production, the hope was that some of the Tennessee magic dust that had recently enthused Aretha Franklin would rub off on Springfield too. Handpicked songs from Goffin & King, Bacharach & David and a young Randy Newman plus some effortless Memphis musicianship made sure that's exactly what happened."

In the early 1990s, Jerry Wexler, co-producer of Dusty in Memphis, recalled in Rolling Stone magazine the making of the album: "Dusty is the incarnation of white soul," he said. "I don't know a singer with better intonation--she never hit a wrong note. She's certainly not a rhythm and blues singer, but she is soulful as hell."

Mercury UK's 2002 special reissue of Dusty In Memphis (063 297-2) boasts a sound quality superior to any previous vinyl or CD release of this landmark album recorded in 1968 and first released in 1969. Mercury's "special reissue" also adds mono mixes of eight of the original album tracks.

Rhino Records' 1999 deluxe edition of Dusty in Memphis (R2 75580) adds 14 bonus tracks of varying quality to the album; 10 previously unreleased. Critic Peter Melton notes that "if you're a Dusty fan, the more the better, but Memphis was a model of clarity, 11 songs that made a satisfying, complete statement, a rare thing in these days of CD overload . . . [Rhino's 'deluxe edition'] may thin the soup too much." The majority of bonus tracks are from an unreleased Jeff Barry-produced album from 1971. To have been entitled Faithfull, this long-lost album would have been Dusty third with the Atlantic label.

Goin' Back coupled with Dusty in Memphis provides the essential starting point for exploring the musical legacy of Dusty Springfield. From here I'd suggest the following CDs:

Dusty's 1990 album Reputation (Parlophone CDP 79 4401 2), co-produced by the Pet Shop Boys, remains her biggest selling recording since the sixties--aside from compilations of her greatest hits.

In her biography of Dusty, Lucy O'Brien notes that "Reputation lightly plays on the themes of scandal and notoriety that have colored Dusty's career." Musically, the album displays a range of influences and styles. The title track has a seventies-soul tinge, while "In Private" pulsates with a distinctly Motown-esque beat. On "Occupy Your Mind," a mesmerizing house anthem, Dusty embraces a post-acid rave-style. She even raps on "Daydreaming," producing a sensuous and worldly-wise discourse, permeated by a haunting quality of sadness and regret.

Reputation garnered generally high praise upon it's release in Britain (it is yet to be released in the US). The London Times suggested a comparison to Tina Turner's recent return and referred to the album as "polished and sure-footed." Q magazine described Reputation as "a positively engrossing record," the Daily Telegraph, "an impressive return by a true original," while New Musical Express called the album "a thing of dignity and great charm; the sound of two decades colliding and nobody getting hurt." Dusty herself remarked that "The record is fairly eclectic in tempos. I would be somewhat distraught to have to go and make a dance record with somebody more frivolous than the Boys because it really wouldn't work. With them, there's always something slightly off-centre that I like. I'm a bit off-centre as well. We get along fine."

In 1997 Reputation was reissued as part of the EMI label's "Gold Collection" series. Reentitled Reputation and Rarities (7243 8 59882 2 6), the reissued disc contains three additional tracks recorded at around the same time as the album tracks--"Any Other Fool," "When Love Turns To Blue," and "Getting It Right"--plus the 12" version of the album track "In Private."

Mercury UK's 1996 2-disc compilation album Something Special (528 818-2) contains a wealth of rare Dusty recordings along with some of her most popular love songs--including "The Look of Love," "Tupelo Honey," "This Girl's In Love With You," "I Think It's Gonna Rain Today," "Something In Your Eyes," and "If You Go Away."

Dusty's debut album as a solo artist was 1964's A Girl Called Dusty. In an August 2002 interview which I had the honor of conducting with Simon Bell, Dusty's friend and colleague, Simon noted that "white 'girl singers' before Dusty were rooted in the fifties image of people like Brenda Lee . . . In a similar way to Elvis, Dusty brought the influence of Black music into what was acceptable for a white girl singer [to sing]. After A Girl Called Dusty, all the other girls were covering U.S. soul hits, but no one did it as convincingly as Dusty."

Dusty's early British albums were released in the United States in repackaged and re-titled formats--a fact that can cause confusion for those attempting to collect her recordings. In 1999 Mercury/US reissued Dusty's American-released '60s albums on CD. An excellent review of these reissued albums by Serene Dominic is helpful in relating them to their original British counterparts.

Dominic observes that "with the addition of singles, EP tracks and B-sides, crafty Americans managed to squeeze two LPs out of Dusty's European debut A Girl Called Dusty. [Like the original British album cover] both U.S. album covers feature Dusty in a dungaree shirt with rolled-up sleeves, looking like Samantha on Bewitched about to nose-twitch and skip out of housework. But make no mistake, Dusty works hard for the money. Showing more in common with male vocalists than most 'girl singers' of the day, Dusty identified the peak and valleys of her vocal range and sang against those boundaries, allowing breaks and cracks to show through. It's hard to imagine any single white female shouting herself hoarse attempting to do a Ray Charles tune, and Dusty invests 'Don't You Know' with Little Richard yowls and wolf calls that will disappear in her later work."

The two American albums which between them contain the tracks of A Girl Called Dusty, are entitled Stay Awhile/I Only Want To Be With and Dusty. The latter, notes Dominic, contains A Girl Called Dusty's "notorious cover of Gene Pitney's 'Twenty Four Hours from Tulsa,' reputedly the first time a female pop singer covered a man's tune without radically altering the lyrics."

Dusty herself noted that "'Twenty Four Hours from Tulsa' was one of the first times a woman took a song that was essentially male and by singing virtually the same words, it became a different song. Now it would be nothing but then, it was basically . . . if you turned it around and a woman sang it, it was driving off into the night and being picked up at some gas station and . . . this, that and the other . . . and it was actually quite outré."

Both the US albums I Only Want To Be With You/Stay Awhile and Dusty have been reissued on CD format--together on a single disc in 1997 by Taragon Records (pictured above at right) and singly in 1999 by Mercury US.

Good Times (Zone X003) brings together on two CDs the best of Dusty's BBC TV performances from 1966-1979. Recordings include "Gonna Build A Mountain," "The Water Is Wide," "Get Ready," "Nowhere To Run," "People Get Ready," and "Up On The Roof." This is a truly essential collection of Dusty recordings though only available through the Dusty Springfield Bulletin (DSB) with all proceeds being donated to the Royal Marsden N.H.S. Trust.

In January 2002, I had the honor of interviewing Paul Howes--editor of the Dusty Springfield Bulletin (DSB), author of The Complete Dusty Springfield, and the driving force behind producing Good Times and three other exceptional CDs available exclusively through DSB. In this interview, Paul talks about the experience of working on the various DSB-produced CDs and the writing of the authoritative The Complete Dusty Springfield. My interview with Paul can be found here.

Dusty in London: Dusty Springfield's Lost British Recordings (R2 75581) is a compilation of songs Dusty recorded in Britain with the Philips label while concurrently signed with Atlantic Records in the States. Contrary to the album's subtitle, these tracks (with perhaps the exception of one) have never been "lost". As the liner notes themselves acknowledge, all but the second-last track, "Sweet Inspiration," have been available on various British releases for years.

Dusty in London was released by Rhino Records as a companion set to the label's 1999 "deluxe edition" of Dusty in Memphis. Music critic Serene Dominic notes that Dusty in London "collects most of See All Her Faces (1972) and Dusty . . . Definitely (1968)--albums [Dusty] released to the rest of the world before and after [her] Atlantic tenure."

Tracks include "Take Another Little Piece of My Heart," "This Girl's In Love With You," How Can I Be Sure?" "Crumbs Off the Table," "Wasn't Born to Follow," "What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life?" "I Will Come to You," "Morning," and "I Only Wanna Laugh."

In the fall of 1969, Dusty travelled to Philadelphia to record her second album with Atlantic Records and the follow-up to Dusty in Memphis. In Philadelphia she worked with the up-and-coming producer/songwriter team of Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff. From the start, Dusty loved the trademark sound of Gamble and Huff--a sound she referred to as "melodic R&B" and which music critic Jim Feldman described as "a heady blend of a propulsive beat, a buoyant, distinct rhythm section, and slick orchestral flourishes." It was a sound that would later dominate the seventies and become known as "Philly Soul."

On her Philadelphia album, 1970's A Brand New Me (R2 71036)--released in Britain as From Dusty . . . With Love--Dusty makes the most of her startling versatility as a vocalist. Indeed, as Feldman notes, with all tracks co-written by Kenny Gamble and consequently sharing a similar, smooth pop-soul flavor, "Dusty had to rely more than ever on her vocal and interpretive resources to give the album a sense of variety."

Throughout the album notes Dusty's biographer Lucy O'Brien, "Dusty projects a laid-back funky persona that suits the material. 'The Star Of My Show' for instance, elicits from her a fine funky performance, with an abrupt orchestrated rift punctuating each refrain. 'Let Me In Your Way' finds her muted and ironic, adding a languid shading and toning to the flutey soul girl backing chorus, while 'Never Love Again' is a reflective ballad that has the trademark plangent Gamble and Huff bassline and emotive crescendo."

In his commentary for 1997's The Dusty Springfield Anthology, Rob Hoerburger concedes that the songwriting on A Brand New Me wasn't "quite up to the mastery of the Memphis set." Nevertheless, Dusty's rapport with her producers and "the rest of the cats at Sigma Sound in Philadelphia . . . added up to more than notes and words on a lead sheet." A Brand New Me, Hoerburger states, is "after-hours music made by musicians for one another's sake"--a sound that suggests "the Philly boys uncoiling their sweet grooves and insistent riffs, and Dusty singing, shoes off, hair down, make-up smudged, a couple of drinks past midnight, landing in that place somewhere between sobriety and inebriation where you can't help bumping into your true self."

Rhino Records' 1992 reissue of A Brand New Me includes nine bonus tracks--seven of which had been previously released only as US singles and two previously unreleased tracks. As Jim Feldman notes in the CD's liner notes, "The 1971 A-side 'What Good Is I Love You' was co-written and co-produced by Ellie Greenwich; it represents the rare studio teaming of Dusty with this Brill Building legend . . . 'Haunted,' 'Nothing Is Forever,' 'Someone Who Cares,' and 'I Believe In You,' which comprised two later '71 singles, were all produced by Jeff Barry, Ellie Greenwich's former husband and songwriter partner."

In February, 2001, US-based Hip-O Records released Dusty's 1973 albun Cameo along with all but one of the never-before-released 1974 Longing album tracks on a single CD entitled Beautiful Soul: The ABC/Dunhill Collection (088 112 477-2).

Recording of Longing--Dusty's second album with ABC/Dunhill--began in the summer of 1974. Originally to be called Elements, the title was changed to Longing just prior to the entire project being abandoned--due to personal problems Dusty was experiencing at the time. Had the album been completed, says Paul Howes, author of The Complete Dusty Springfield and editor of The Dusty Springfield Bulletin, it would have been a highlight in her recording career. "It has an intimacy only hinted at on other recordings," he says.

Critic Jim Pierson notes that "recording sessions for [Longing] began in early July [1974] at [producer Brook] Arthur's 914 Studios, about an hour north of New York City. It was a heady period with Arthur also producing Janis Ian's acclaimed Between The Lines album and Bruce Springsteen recording at 914 as well, where he could be seen watching and admiring Dusty at work. Arthur decided to emphasize deeply personal material, on the grounds that these songs would best show off Dusty's richly vulnerable timbre. Singer-songwriters were experiencing a heyday, and Arthur chose from among the very best of the genre in his attempt to give Dusty a contemporary sound. Arthur recalls, 'Recording Dusty, with her grainy vocal quality and her expressionistic body language, was like viewing a magnificent black-and-white photograph'."

For many, the closing track "Beautiful Soul" is the album's highlight. As Pierson observes, "The emotionally-charged Margaret Adam composition explores a progressive premise for 1974--love between two women. Dusty handles the delicate material with her typical sensitivity and a trace of sadness."

Paul Howes notes that the song "Beautiful Soul" is "a declaration appropriate to the period in Dusty's life when the recording was made." He goes on to say that "the song is a statement by a woman to a woman, but Dusty's rendition can also be taken as introspection, the reflections of a lonely and depressed person . . . The recording is sublime, though Dusty's vocal is so pained and private it seems almost instrusive to listen to it."

White Heat (Mercury 586 008-2) is one of the great "lost" albums of the 1980s. Emerging from one of Dusty's low periods--personally and professionally--1982's White Heat is the most experimental and daring album of Dusty's career.

Paul Howes in his book "The Complete Dusty Springfield," also notes that "White Heat contains the most diverse selection of tracks to be collected on any Dusty Springfield album (compilations excluded), ranging from hard rock to techno pop to ballads, and truly displays Dusty's vocal dexterity and versatility." Dusty's performance on the rocker "Blind Sheep" is, according to Howes, "truly magnificent and a match for any female rock singer of any period."

Produced in Toronto and Los Angeles by Howard Steele and Dusty herself, White Heat sees Dusty largely abandoning the genteel vocals she employed on her two previous albums (1978's It Begins Again and 1979's Living Without Your Love) and embracing instead a world-weary snarl with which she explores the darker side of sexual relationships. New Musical Express noted in 1983 that White Heat was for Dusty a personal risk, "a huge leap away from the relative security of the cabaret circuit into the dangerous currents of pop commercialism. On White Heat, the force of those great '60s melodramas has been re-ignited in an '80s context of syths, voice treatments and upfront sexuality."