The Essentials: Dusty Springfield – Complete A and B Sides 1963-1970

(As noted in my first Essentials entry, this is an occasional series in which I spotlight albums that, in my estimation, everyone should experience at least once in their life. Also, although the primary focus is on unique albums, from time-to-time must-have collections – such as the one below – will be spotlighted.)

By my count, some 34 Dusty Springfield compilations have been released through the years, with about a half dozen still being in print. Most, obviously, collect her hits; others, such as the box sets or double-disc collections, mix in pertinent album tracks and/or rarities; and yet others hone in on specific years or recording sessions, such as the delightful Come for a Dream: The U.K. Sessions 1970-71.

The Complete A and B Sides, which was released in 2006, takes a different tack. Compiled by Saint Etienne’s Bob Stanley, it features Dusty’s original British singles on Disc 1 and the original B-sides on Disc 2 – and most feature the original mono mixes.

Mono, of course, uses one channel so that what one hears out of each speaker will be exactly the same. Stereo, on the other hand, expands the soundscape to two channels – a right and a left. A guitar may be heard coming from the right speaker and not from the left, for example. One isn’t intrinsically better than the other, though – these days – stereo is the norm.

The further back in time one travels, however – like, say, to the 1960s – the more likely it is that the original release was mono; and that stereo versions of the same recordings, if available, were afterthoughts. The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band is probably the greatest example: John Lennon and Paul McCartney were hands-on for the mono mix, spending about three weeks to get everything exactly right. The stereo mix, however, was created without their input over the course of two days.

While Dusty’s productions never matched that of Sgt. Pepper, one can argue that her emotional acumen did, in fact, rival theirs. And the original mono mixes of her material are – as the back cover says – “punchy.” They just sound more alive. (That’s not always the case, however; though some tracks sound as good as their stereo counterparts, as a whole the mono Dusty in Memphis sounds flatter and duller.)

Anyway, that’s really getting beside the point of this essential pick: Each disc is a great set unto itself. Yes, the A-side half lacks a few of her stateside hits, such as “Wishin’ and Hopin’,” because they weren’t released as singles in Britain; but the B-side half more than makes up for it with such overlooked wonders as “Summer Is Over”…

…“Don’t Say It Baby”…

…and “I’m Gonna Leave You,” the flip side to one of her greatest singles…

…the Goffin-King classic “Goin’ Back.”

(That’s the stereo version above, I should mention; YouTube doesn’t have the mono. For shame, YouTube. For shame!)

Here’s another oft-overlooked A-side:

Here’s the track listing in full:

 

Today’s Top 5: Cool Sounds, Vol. Whatever

On Tuesday, a former supervisor mentioned to me that she’s been obsessing over Jason Isbell’s latest album, The Nashville Sound.

I wasn’t aware that he had a new album out. 

In my defense: I’m not overly familiar with Isbell, his oeuvre or that of his former band, the Drive-By Truckers. Diane is, however, and informs me that we actually had tickets to see the Truckers during the Isbell years, but didn’t go because one of us was ill. In 2015, we saw him accompany his wife Amanda Shires on three songs at the World Cafe Live, when she opened for Lee Ann Womack – well “see” is being generous. Our seats were to the right of the soundboard, blocking the left half of the stage – where he stood, more or less.

Shires is another of Diane’s artists. Just as, say, First Aid Kit are one of mine.

Until this summer, when we consolidated for air-conditioning purposes, our desks and computers – where we both do much of our listening – have been in separate rooms for decades. So while there is plenty of music we enjoy together, there’s much that we each like that the other knows primarily from osmosis, if at all. Back in the pre-Internet era and our 5-CD player, that was far less frequent. Oh, we both had artists we enjoyed more than the other, but nights-long Acquire or Tetris tournaments ensured that we heard just about everything the other was listening to.

Which is a longwinded way to say: I could and probably should have been familiar with Isbell long ago.

And with that, here’s today’s Top 5: Cool Sounds, Vol. Whatever.

1) Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit – “Last of My Kind.” So, Tuesday, I pulled up Nashville Sound in Apple Music and listened to it on my commute home from work; and this, the opening track, sent not the proverbial chills up or shivers down my spine, but a flash of recognition through the synapses of my soul. True, the song charts an experience far from mine – that of a country kid in a big city – but the haunting refrain is a universal lament for any of a certain age.

We, the children of the ‘70s and ‘80s, are indeed the last of our kind.

2 First Aid Kit – Glastonbury, 6/21/17. Klara, Johanna and band deliver a great set at the annual Glastonbury Music Festival in Somerset, England. Among the highlights: “Ghost Town” and a song from the ‘70s…”The Gambler.” (Yes, the Kenny Rogers hit.) Also, in an interesting development – Johanna has traded the keyboards, which is what she primarily played on the 2014-15 tour, for bass guitar. There’s only one drawback…

3) First Aid It – “My Silver Lining.” …which is, if you watched all 45+ minutes of the above, you’ll have suffered concert interruptus due to the exclusion of the set’s last song, “My Silver Lining.” But it’s okay: BBC Music posted it.

4) Beau + Luci – “Muddy Water.” Here’s another sister act, this one from the swamplands of southern Georgia. (For more on them, see my Q&A with them.) This is another gem from their recent Fire Dancer EP.

5) Kasey Chambers – “Crossfire.” So I’m still buzzed from the Kasey show we saw on the 5th – how could I not be? Here, she and the band perform one highlight (of many) from her 2001 album Barricades & Brickwalls.

And three bonuses…

6) Joe Pug & Courtney Marie Andrews – “Insider.” So Joe and Courtney are touring Down Under – and, as Joe explains here, discovered that they both like Tom Petty. (How could anyone not?) Here, he plays Tom to Courtney’s Stevie Nicks on this classic song from Petty’s 1981 album, Hard Promises.

7) Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers – “Something in the Air.” So Diane and I saw Tom & Co. way back in 1989 – a great show that included their cover of this Thunderclap Newman classic. Here’s their Live Anthology rendition of it…

8) I’m With Her – “Little Lies.” Sarah Jarosz, Sara Watkins, and Aoife O’Donovan band together in a wondrous folk collective they call I’m With Her. Beautiful work.

Beau + Luci: A Q&A

Forget the wider world. Some days, weeks and/or months, it can feel like the earth is giving way beneath our feet. Maybe it’s a family-related crisis, maybe it’s something at work, maybe…well, fill in the blank. Life is life, and even those leading the most charmed existences have to face ugly realities at some point.

While music makes the good times better, its true power comes in those down moments. We turn it on, turn it up and slip away into the melodies and wordplay, in the vocals and harmonies, in the guitar solo at the bridge…

That’s Beau + Luci, two sisters from the swamplands of southern Georgia.

I spotlighted them in a Top 5 last month, and have to say – the more I listen to them, the more I love their sound. They, along with a slew of younger acts known and unknown – such as First Aid Kit, Courtney Marie Andrews, Erin O’Dowd and Rylie Bourne – are proof positive that a love for and respect of music past results in gloriously cool music present. Their Fire Dancer EP, for example, is not a one-and-done affair; crank it up in the morning and you’ll be hitting repeat all day.

They were kind enough to field a few emailed questions from me and also supply some very cool pictures.

What’s the first album you purchased (or appropriated from your parents)?

Luci: Our dad had an incredible collection of classic rock, so we were surrounded by that from a very young age! I’m not really sure what the first CD I purchased was, but I do know that the first vinyl I ever bought was the Beatles’ Abbey Road!

Beau: I don’t remember what the first album I actually bought was, but I definitely stole a few of my dad’s Allman Brothers albums after hearing them. I absolutely had to have them, luckily he didn’t mind too much!

What’s the last album you purchased?

Luci: I just got the Rolling Stones’ Some Girls and Wings’ Wings Over America on vinyl.

Beau: I lost my copy and just repurchased the White Stripes Elephant record.

Are you into vinyl? Prefer CDs? Or just downloads/streaming? (I’m a mix of all three, myself.)

Luci: If I had to pick, it would be vinyl. There’s just something about holding a record in your hands that makes it sound and feel so much better to me. It’s tangible, and it may be mostly in my head, but I do believe music sounds best on vinyl. But at the same time, I appreciate the ease and access of digital downloads and streaming, and the opportunity it gives you to discover new music. I honestly don’t use CDs very often…it’s either vinyl or digital!

Beau: I love vinyls and we have a lot of them, but with as much as we’re traveling, it’s more convenient to have a copy on iTunes to play on the go!

Who are your musical heroes? And why?

Luci: I think I can answer for both of us when I say this could shape out to be a long list! We both grew up with such a variety of music, and so many musicians have played a massive role in our artistry. The Allman Brothers, Fleetwood Mac, Emmylou Harris, Led Zeppelin, the Rolling Stones, the Beatles…they’re all a part of me. I admire them for their artistry, their innovation, the soul that they put into their music. They never sacrificed their musical values, they constantly pushed to be better, and they made a legacy for themselves.

Do you like Emmylou Harris?

Luci: Yes! She’s one of our greatest inspirations.

Beau: We adore her. One of our favorite songs to play is her song “Deeper Well”!

What new(er) artists do you listen to? First Aid Kit? Courtney Marie Andrews? (Both well worth seeing in concert, for what that’s worth.) Others?

Beau: First Aid Kit are amazing! We absolutely love them but haven’t seen them in concert yet. Ryan Adams, Jack White/White Stripes/Dead Weather/Raconteurs, the Kills, the Black Keys, Dan Auerbach, the Arcs, Tedeschi Trucks Band, the Arctic Monkeys, Jason Isbell, Gary Clark Jr., Ben Howard, Monica Heldal, The Last Shadow Puppets, Kaleo, Southern Avenue and Dawes are all on our playlists lately. We got to see Dawes and Ryan Adams in concert this year, and both shows were incredible.

On your website bio, you discuss singing in church and then leading a youth worship group. How was performing in a club different? Did people pay attention?

Luci: You definitely always hope people pay attention, and that they connect with the music on a spiritual level! When we originally started singing in church and in the worship group, we were just two kids who loved music and singing, and wanted to express that passion however we could. Just like so many other artists before us, it was an opportunity to find ourselves and our calling in the music, and there’s really no way to express how much the old hymns and spirituals have influenced us even now. You can hear it woven into our music, just like it’s part of us. But by the time we got to the point of performing in a club, we were far more aware of who we were on an artistic level. We’d begun developing our sound and growing as artists and performers, experimenting and writing and pushing ourselves as individuals and as a band.

In the bio, you call yourselves “flower children with rock-and-roll souls.” Explain.

Luci: I don’t know where we first saw that phrase, but it struck us immediately, in one of those “aha!” moments. I think it’s a perfect description of us, and I love the juxtaposition: the hippie side of me meets the rock and roll lover. There’s definitely a good bit of nostalgia in the phrase as well. I would give anything to have been around the rock scene during the late ’60s and early ’70s. So many of my favorite bands were just starting to break out, and I know I look at the era through rose-colored glasses, but it offers so much inspiration to me.

What cover songs, if any, do you perform in concert?

Beau: We do perform cover songs, but we make an effort to find songs that we connect with on a deeply personal level, then put our own spin on them, like Emmylou Harris’s Deeper Well. Some of our favorite covers to play are “Midnight Rider,” the Rolling Stones’ “Play with Fire,” “Rhiannon,” and “In Flight” by Monica Heldal.

And, last: What one album (or two, if you disagree) would you call your North Star and why?

Luci: This is a hard question! There are so many records that are deserving of this, for different reasons. I can narrow it down to two: Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours and the Allman Brothers’ At Fillmore East. I always find myself going back to those when I need inspiration, or to find some peace, which is kind of ironic, considering the circumstances surrounding Fleetwood Mac at the time of recording Rumours. But they made what is to me a perfect record, so it worked out well enough in the long run. And At Fillmore East is pure soul. There’s no way to listen to that record and not feel something. Like Butch Trucks said, that show was almost like being in church. It’s the kind of record that leaves its mark on you.

Beau: I can’t even narrow it down to one record from the Allman Brothers, honestly the entire discography has been so influential on my life and has really shaped the way that we go about creating music. Rumours is possibly one of the most incredibly influential records of all time for SO many people across so many genres and lifestyles, so I can’t NOT mention that even though Luci got to it first! I also tend to lean on records like Elephant and Icky Thump from the White Stripes, Brothers from the Black Keys, Suck It and See from the Arctic Monkeys, and I end up listening to Ben Howard’s Every Kingdom record at least once a week, probably! But collectively between the two of us, I’d say the one we most regularly focus in on would be Rumours. It’s such a raw, honest record and has so much depth musically, lyrically, and in their performances. Definitely a timeless record that we can’t help but return to!

For more on Beau + Luci, be sure to visit their website and/or Facebook page. There’s also a great interview with them over at Middle Tennessee Music.