Friday, August 3, 2007

No. 89: Dusty In Memphis

Band: Dusty Springfield
Album: Dusty In Memphis
Why Rolling Stone gets it right: Dusty Springfield's sultry voice, originally cast in pop music, gets better served with session players from the backing bands of Aretha Franklin and Otis Redding.
Why Rolling Stone gets it wrong: The album just isn't all that good. Save for a couple of tracks, the record is in the ether between pop and soul. Not in a good way.
Best song: I think it's pretty clear that "Son Of A Preacher Man" is the best song on the album.
Worst song: "The Windmills of Your Mind" isn't very good.
Is it awesome?: I'd say no.

Well, first off, Dusty Springfield was so overcome with fear in Memphis, she wasn't able to record her vocals properly. Legend has it that she was intimidated by the players in the band (who'd come from Aretha Franklin and Otis Redding records), so she had to overdub her vocals in New York.

So, the record isn't even really Dusty in Memphis. That stinks.

Overall, there are some decent songs, but the sappy strings that dot 3/4 of the album take a lot of the rawness out of the soul of Springfield's voice. The opening two tracks ("Just A Little Lovin'" and "So Much Love") are soaked in strings to the point of over saturation.

Of course, it's mostly wiped clean by the third track, easily the most identifiable from Dusty. "Son Of A Preacher Man" is a sexually frank song that really sounds sultry. Instead of the strings that occupy other tracks, the horns that accent Dusty's voice are much more, well, direct.

Sadly, the record falls downhill from there. It's mostly an amalgam of ballads and cheesy love songs. Not awesome, not the 89th best album of all-time.

1 comment:

padraig said...

oh dude, I really have to disagree with you. 89's a little high but this is a classic. Dusty's voice is, of course, pretty unassailable. and sure, it threatens to slip into Brill Building schmaltz at times but the backing musicians are just so goddamn good that I think they almost always overcome the sappiness (except for "Windmills of Your Mind", that song just can't be salvaged). Reggie Young, Tommy Cogbill - for my $ that band at American Studios was nearly as good as its' contemporary at Stax.

Even though Willie Mitchell wasn't involved with this album (at least I don't think he was), I think some of the arrangements on this album, especially the strings, foreshadow his amazing run in the 70s w/Al Green, Ann Peebles, etc. and the transition of Memphis soul from Stax's hard, raw approach to the more laid-back but still deep and soulful sound of Hi. I personally love both styles. it seems like you prefer the former.