Simply… Dusty – Dusty Springfield

While the singer’s fans may wait in vain for CD reissues of many of her original albums, the market is seemingly flooded with Dusty Springfield compilations. The sixties albums are largely available – and Rhino did a fine job with reissues of Dusty In Memphis and a compilation of tracks previously only released in the UK, Dusty In London – but most of the material recorded between the early seventies and Springfield’s Pet Shop Boys collaboration What Have I Done To Deserve This? remains unavailable. Along with Rhino’s US released 3CD Anthology and Mercury’s Something Special, this collection goes a considerable way towards filling that gap. Significantly more comprehensive then Anthology, Simply…Dusty includes all the hits and a considerable amount besides. Eschewing such familiar – if popular – non-single material as "My Colouring Book" and including only three tracks from the ubiquitous …In Memphis album, it compiles a wealth of rare and unreleased material which will delight aficionados.

The first of four CDs kicks off with Blossom Dearie’s pretty tribute, "Dusty Springfield," before proceeding – via an early home recording, the Lana Sister’s "(Seven Little Girls) Sitting In The Back Seat" and four tracks by The Springfields – to Dusty’s first solo hit, "I Only Want To Be With You." This is a followed by a variety of b-sides, album tracks and all the hits up to and including the classic "You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me" from 1966. Highlights of the second CD include the singles "Goin’ Back" and "I Close My Eyes and Count To Ten," rarities "It’s Over" and "Sweet Lover No More" and a beautiful live recording (from her first BBC series) of "Poor Wayfaring Stranger."

The real gems are to be found on the third CD. There are several tracks from Dusty’s 1971 sessions with Jeff Barry, most of which went unreleased at the time, obscurities such as Michel Legrand’s "Sea And Sky" and the haunting "Hollywood Movie Girls," a superb track from 1978’s "It Begins Again" which has, mystifyingly, remained unavailable on CD until now. However the collection’s real ‘finds’ are three tracks from the legendary unreleased Longing album. Recorded in 1974 and produced by Brooks Arthur, the album was advertised in the US music press but never appeared, possibly in part due to the disappointing sales of its predecessor, Cameo, and Dusty’s fragility at the time. Certainly some of the vocal tracks were never finished and only one song, "I Am Your Child," has appeared before, even then with a re-recorded vocal. Two songs, "Exclusively For Me" and a version of Melissa Manchester’s "Home To Myself" feature delicate arrangements by Ron Frangiapane. The third, an extraordinary version of Janis Ian’s "In The Winter," is revelatory. Dusty’s voice shows signs of wear but her emotional connection with the material is devastating. If further proof of her greatness were required, here Springfield demonstrates that she shares the ability of a Garland or Holiday to transcend diminished technical resources and still produce superlative music.

Alongside a couple more unreleased tracks, the fourth CD compiles music from Dusty’s final four albums. There are the usual Tennant/Lowe numbers, several from 1995’s disappointing swansong, A Very Fine Love and three from White Heat which are different from those which appear on Anthology. It is good to have the slightly naughty "Closet Man" from Living Without Your Love but a shame that the 1979 album’s best track, "Get Yourself To Love," has been passed over once more in favour of the oft-heard "I Just Fall In Love Again." The collection closes with two more must-haves for fans. The first is a live recording of Peter Allens’s "Quiet Please There’s A Lady On Stage" from 1979 and the final track is Dusty’s last ever recording, a fragment of the Gershwin’s "Someone To Watch Over Me," recorded in 1995 for a TV commercial. The tune – with solo piano – is almost unbearably poignant and provides a touching conclusion to a fine compilation.

Simply…Dusty is beautifully packaged and includes sleevenotes from Christian Ward and Chris White and an excellent track-by-track commentary by Paul Howes. Fans who already possess Anthology will be delighted by the amount of unduplicated material. Either collection is a fine tribute but the present one has the edge on less familiar material and shows Mercury UK finally making a real effort to match US labels in their presentation of one of the 20th century’s finest voices.

– Mark Jennett