Dusty Springfield ‘Dusty in Memphis’

Today’s Cool Album of the Day (#927 in the Series) is Dusty Springfield, Dusty in Memphis

The stable of Blue-Eyed Soul fillies from across the pond has been Kentucky Derby quality over the last 10 years.

Duffy, with her 2008 release Rockferry has more of a sensitive delivery than her more bombastic contemporaries that should serve her well with the AOR crowd as her career progresses.

Joss Stone burst on to the scene in 2003 with The Soul Sessions, an unabashed tribute to the soul singers of the past sounding more like Carla Thomas or Aretha Franklin than a sixteen year old girl recording her eponymous album.  But even though her later releases seem to lack direction and continuity and stray pretty far from her core sound at times, her ballsy style and strong pipes should carry her as long as she continues to make interesting and eclectic collaborative choices like her vocal turn on Jeff Beck’s recent  Emotion and Commotion album, with a splendid rendition of “I Got a Spell on You”, along with an upcoming album release as part of the Band Super Heavy with Mick Jagger, Damian Marley, and Dave Stewart.

UK Cover

Adele is the latest “Real Deal” and she is all of that and more. She made her debut at age 19 and released the appropriately titled album 19, and won a Grammy for best new artist and Best Female Pop Vocal Performance.   Her latest album 21 is currently roaring up the charts and her single “Rolling in the Deep” shows her versatility and ability to switch from soul to gospel at the drop of a hat with a little bit of disco mixed in for good measure.

And then there’s Amy Winehouse.  She burst on the scene with such promise with her debut album Frank that she drew comparisons to Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughn, and Dionne Warwick. Unfortunately, her brash behavior and Courtney Love meets Nancy Spungen off-stage antics have derailed her career and made her a lightning rod for the tabloids. Her 2006 release Back to Black charted higher in America than any previous British female singer before her.  The album immediately transferred her from jazz singer to soul siren and included the ironically titled mega-hit Rehab.

Like the platypus can be traced back to the dinosaur, KISS can be traced back to Alice Cooper, and Justin Bieber can be traced back to………well who cares, the “brit-brigade” of seductive sirens all should bow at the feet of the ONE, the ONLY, Britain’s undisputed greatest pop Diva Dusty Springfield.

From the beginning of her career with her debut single, “I Only Want To Be With You” which had a distinct Phil Spector Wall-of-Sound quality, Dusty’s career was on the fast track. Her subsequent collaborations with Burt Bacharach and Hal David including “Anyone Who Had a Heart”, and “I Just Don’t Know What  to Do With Myself” firmly established the songstress as the biggest English export since the Beatles and muffins.

Throughout the 1960’s Springfield established herself as a “playboy after dark” siren in the Peggy Lee, Julie London, Eartha Kitt, mold, all of whom she idolized as well as emulated. In 1969 she left England for Memphis to record with producers Jerry Wexler and Tom Dowd who is known mostly for his work with The Allman Brothers. The resulting album, Dusty In Memphis, even though it was thought to be the perfect marriage of rock and soul and included the classic single “Son of a Preacher Man”, was not warmly received on either side of the Atlantic. It was only later on as listeners became more refined and nothing of any consequence was following this under looked recording, that this recording entered into the “classic” status that it deserves.  Depending on which way you swing and which list you prefer this album is considered:

  • No. 89 in the Rolling Stone top 500 Albums of all Time.
  • No. 9 in the list of Rolling Stones 50 Coolest Records.
  • No. 3 in the list of Rolling Stones Women in Rock, Top 50 Albums.
  • No 58. In the list of VH1’s 100 Greatest Rock & Roll Albums.
  • No 54 In the list of NME’s Top Albums of all Time.
  • Included in the book 1001 albums you must hear before you die.

In other words The Mona Lisa is a “good” piece of art, Dusty in Memphis is great.

The tone-setter for the proceedings is “Just a Little Lovin”, a jaunty little song in the Dionne Warwick mold.  It is kind of like that girl with the Lisa Loeb glasses and turtle neck sweater. The sound is pretty, on the way to being sexy, but you know there is a lot more fun underneath. “Just a little lovin’ early in the morning beats a cup of coffee for starting out the day”.  Enough said.

The second song “So Much Love” is probably the least my least favorite on the album.  But complaining about this fine Diana Ross sound-alike song is like marrying Miss America and complaining that her feet are too small.

The third song of the set is the Classic “Son of a Preacher Man”.  If you don’t like this song you just don’t like music.

Batting cleanup is the somewhat melancholy “I don’t want to hear it anymore” about unrequited love and the chatter and gossip that follows is classic Billie Holiday with beautiful string arrangements.

“Don’t Forget About  Me” brightens the mood and picks up the pace quite nicely. The horn section kicks in at the right times and Dusty does some funky “soul struttin”

Now forget about everything you have just read, and print the lyrics to song number six “Breakfast in Bed” it is a sultry scorcher. Around 10:00 in the morning cook up a nice breakfast for your significant other, or if you are like me and can’t cook a Jack in the Box breakfast burrito will do the trick quite nicely.  Take a yellow hi-lighter and highlight the key verses.  You will know which ones they are when you come to them.  Bring the lyrics to her and start the cd on track number six.  Now listen outside the door and at the appropriate moment, timed to the lyrics, bring the breakfast to her in the boudoir (that’s French, chicks dig it when you speak French).  Have her recite the lyrics in time with the song….and Voila! You can thank me later.

“Just One Smile” follows “Breakfast in Bed”. The only truly great sequel is Godfather II, and this is no exception.  You might want to use this song to relax and finish your cigarette.  The song, interestingly enough, was written by Randy Newman.

“The Windmills of your Mind” puts Dusty back in Billy Holiday mode, that is singing to you table side in a French Café along the Champs Elyse.  This song could be in a James Bond film with a nice orchestral flourish at the end.  This song will leave you shaken, not stirred.

“In the Land of Make Believe” once again shows the versatility of an artist in her prime.  Like a sexy  Joni Mitchell, this song has a jazzy-folk feel to it similar to Joni’s “A Free Man In Paris”

The album ends with two Goffin/King selections “I can’t make it alone” and “What Do You Do When Love Dies” If you have heard the album Tapestry You know what these songs sound like. And that is not a bad thing.  The production value and the background vocal layering makes these songs stand out.  The final song is a multi tempo number with an interesting vocal cadence that is not present in the rest of the album.  Once again, every song is unique on this album.

That record has everything I love in an album, excellent  songwriting, varied tempos and vocal styling, along with pristine production values.

A definite classic.  Put it on your list.

— Walt Falconer

Track listing

Side A

  1. “Just a Little Lovin'” (Barry Mann, Cynthia Weil) – 2:18
  2. “So Much Love” (Gerry Goffin, Carole King) – 3:31
  3. “Son of a Preacher Man” (John Hurley, Ronnie Wilkins) – 2:29
  4. “I Don’t Want to Hear It Anymore” (Randy Newman) – 3:11
  5. “Don’t Forget About Me” (Goffin, King) – 2:52
  6. “Breakfast in Bed” (Eddie Hinton, Donnie Fritts) – 2:57

Side B

  1. “Just One Smile” (Randy Newman) – 2:42
  2. “The Windmills of Your Mind” (Alan Bergman, Marilyn Bergman, Michel Legrand) – 3:51
  3. “In the Land of Make Believe” (Burt Bacharach, Hal David) – 2:32
  4. “No Easy Way Down” (Goffin, King) – 3:11
  5. “I Can’t Make It Alone” (Goffin, King) – 3:57


  • Dusty Springfield – vocals
  • Arif Mardin – producer, arranger, strings arranger, horns arranger
  • Tom Dowd – producer, arranger, horns arranger, engineer
  • Jerry Wexler – producer
  • Gene Orloff – conductor, arranger
  • The Sweet Inspirations – backing vocals
  • Reggie Young – guitar, sitar
  • Tommy Cogbill – guitar, bass guitar
  • Bobby Emmons – organ, piano, electric piano, congas
  • Bobby Wood – piano
  • Gene Chrisman – drums
  • Mike Leach – congas
  • Terry Manning – assistant engineer
  • Ed Kollis – harmonica


Posted by Larry Carta

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