(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. 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 is 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: