40’s Insights – Dusty in Memphis

Dusty Springfield

Preconceived Notions: I’ve heard “Son of a preacher Man”, it’s nice….not necessarily my thing, but not horrendous.  I don’t really remember her voice, so I guess I’m about to get reacquainted.

After Listening: There’s some sizable production on this record. From having to capture the wide variety of instruments: sitar, organ, harmonica, violins etc…to the subtle stereo imaging (drums on the “right) there was a lot of thought put to the overall arrangements on here.  I have to say at times, it’s a bit too much – whereas  the “hit”  Son of a Preacher Man has a nearly gritty guitar line, with punchy horns for accents – at the same time it lends enough room in the soundscape to showcase Dusty’s voice.   That can’t be said for all of the album however, particularly on those tracks where the string sections have prominent roles.  This is a vocal work primarily and where I think it lacks somewhat is when Dusty’s voice gets a little lost in dense, slow tempo arrangements.  If she’s really the “white queen of soul” feature her voice on songs that show off depths, and some works with edge…half of the songs on this are standard torch songs which musically are boring.

Favorite Tracks:
“I Don’t want to Hear it Anymore” – One of the 1st, and sadly one of the few songs on this album to actually sound like it has a bit of soul.  From the Motown style backing singes, to the full bassline, to the piano we get the full treatment of an emotional piece.  The subject matter and Dusty’s full voice on the chorus provide some real depth people can find connection with…
“The Windmills of Your Mind” – this is how I wish more of the album came out.  Latin guitar lines and rhythms,  and that compliment strings that are prominent, but not overpowering.  There’s enough breathing space here to really here all the emotions of Dusty’s voice.  There’s even *shockingly* a tempo change in this one.  Bravo.
“In the Land of Make Believe” – a perfect followup track to Windmills….sitars, congas, and an even more stripped down sound.  Her voice is soft and nearly mournful on this, but the rhythms spur her on to something almost bright.  Just a nice contrast between the music and the vocal line.

Least Favorite:  “Just One Smile” for a song under 3 mins, this thing seems like an eternity.  Just fairly stagnant, with an overly reliance on its chorus and not much development other than that.

Overall 2.83 This just isn’t my thing.  I like my soul music a little less “torch” and a splashed with a touch of “funk”.  I felt like on this album I was reminded more of Patsy Cline, than Etta James.  Dusty’s voice is certainly capable, and the actual pieces of a great record are all here – variety of instruments, great vocalists, quality recording and mixing.  But something is just “off” here, most of the songs feel too static- they seem to bury Dusty instead of promote her, they feel forgettable and long winded even though most are under 3 and ½ minutes.  I could see why people identify and enjoy Dusty- I just don’t hear enough on this album to agree with a classic status.

40 (45 Posts)

40 has had training enough in classical theory to know roughly what he's talking about. As for talent, he considers himself a crappy guitar player. He has a BA in Audio & Sound Recording BA, so not only does music creation intrigue him, but also music production. He believes that expression takes all forms, and it has to be remembered that music is an art form and is ultimately about connection, communication, experimentation, creativity, freedom, emotion, and 100’s of other things.

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