A fantastic, deluxe collection from one of pop’s greatest ever vocalists.
David Quantick 2011
There’s something odd about Dusty Springfield’s (rightly earned) position in the pantheon of great female vocalists. She’s up there with Aretha Franklin and all the best soul singers, but she began her career as a pop folkie with her brothers in The Springfields. She’s cited as an influence on the new generation of gutsy stars like Adele and the late Amy Winehouse, but she was a model of vocal restraint and subtlety. And, in a medium where honesty and passion are almost slightly overrated, Dusty was discreet about her feelings and her life to the point where her Pet Shop Boys-produced 1989 hit In Private might have been about her entire life.
Despite, or because of or nothing to do with, these contradictions, the former Mary O’Brien was one of the best singers of her era – which was a decently long one, from her recordings with The Springfields to the great duet What Have I Done to Deserve This. And, as this new box set indicates, she was a singer very much rooted in a showbiz tradition that’s come round again to some extent. On disc one are all the hits – the extraordinary melodrama of You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me, the pop surge of I Only Want to Be With You, and the sheer beauty of Goin’ Back and I Close My Eyes and Count to Ten (at this point, in the late 1960s, only Aretha was being given songs of this quality and timelessness). Disc two collects rarities, demos and live stuff, and the third is "at the BBC", a set of often bootleg-quality versions of songs your gran would like. Disc four is more fun, featuring songs from shows and musicals, ending with Dusty’s last recording, a beautifully husky Someone to Watch Over Me. The set is completed by a trio of DVDs, featuring a wealth of visual extras.
It’s a lot to work through, like a particularly tasteful buffet, and you would only want the bits off the telly if you were a keen fan. But for the hits, the album tracks (and the material from the great Dusty in Memphis), this is a very good collection indeed.