Dusty Springfield

Dusty Springfield

Beautiful Soul: The ABC/Dunhill Sessions

Hip-O/Universal

The album title and its subheading tell only part of the story. These 1972 and 1974 sessions have been difficult to find — only a few have been released on Dusty’s 1998 triple disc box — and many have never before been heard. In the early ’70s, Brit Springfield signed with the American-based ABC imprint and moved to California to work on her US career. Only one album was released from those sessions, 1973’s Cameo, which makes its CD debut here in its entirety. Additional work was done for a prospective follow-up, Longing, but the results — some of which were rough mixes — were shelved. Those nine tunes make their first appearance here, pushing the disc to 20 tracks and over an hour of music.

But it•s not quantity, it’s quality, and although this isn’t Springfield’s most rootsy work, on par with her ’60s classic Dusty In Memphis, it’s perhaps a more typical musical portrait of the singer. With lush orchestrations, top session players • including a young Barry Manilow, who also pens some touching liner notes • and sympathetic production, Springfield applies her emotional, honey-sandpaper voice to a wide variety of songs written by Van Morrison, Ashford and Simpson, The Zombies’ Colin Blunstone, and the popular ’70s songwriting team of Dennis Lambert and Brian Potter. While some of the production is a bit heavy-handed, Dusty’s phenomenal vocals and heartfelt delivery make even the least impressive tunes worth hearing. Like Aretha Franklin, anything she sings takes on her distinctive trademark, and even on the few rough, unfinished takes, she exudes an affecting honesty.

Certainly not the place to start a Dusty Springfield library, Beautiful Soul is an essential and previously missing link in the singer’s phenomenal 30-year career. Its smooth, typically ’70s pop style takes some getting used to, but the album proves that the incredible Springfield was always a little better than her material. It remains an enjoyable and fascinating window into the soul of one of the era’s best and most underappreciated artists.

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