Artist: Dusty Springfield
Example Song: Wishin’ and Hopin’
For the second in my new Tuesday series of 52 reviews from 52 consecutive years in 52 weeks, (from now on referred to as “52 Pops”), I was obliged to find an album to review from 1964. I started the search relatively early, as I still don’t feel all that comfortable with album reviews and I wanted to get a few listens in before today; I’d definitely listened to this album before, but that must be a couple of years ago now. I had a few possibilities to pick from in my iTunes, but I chose this over the easy options like the Beatles’ A Hard Day’s Night and the Kinks’ eponymous debut, since the point of this blog is after all to expand my horizons.
Dusty Springfield, who I didn’t know was from London, had been in a girl group called The Lana Sisters from 1958 to 1960 before performing as The Springfields with her brother from 1960-1963. After three relatively successful albums, Dusty (real name Mary O’Brien) decided to use the opportunity to launch her solo career beginning with A Girl Called Dusty, allowing her to be much more diverse musically than she had felt able to be before.
The album opens with “Mama Said”, a cover of a song originally performed by the Shirelles in 1961. It’s a decent soul-pop tune, signifying immediately Dusty’s new horizons as a singer. It’s followed by “You Don’t Own Me”, a cover of Lesley Gore from a year previously, which is a good song more immediately recognisable to me as an Eminem sample (Recovery’s “Untitled”). “Do Re Mi” is little more than generic pop, followed by “When the Lovelight Starts Shining Through His Eyes”, first released by the Supremes. “My Colouring Book” is a much sadder song (first recorded by Barbra Streisand) and “Mockingbird”, written as something of a novelty duet, works nicely as a solo. “Twenty Four Hours from Tulsa”, a Bacharach/David effort, is melancholy and poignant, and after “Nothing” comes “Anyone Who Had a Heart”, written by the same duo for Dionne Warwick. “Will You Love Me Tomorrow” is one of Dusty’s best-known early songs, and is definitely catchy (and also a Shirelles original). “Wishin’ and Hopin’” is the highlight of the album, written by Bacharach and David for Springfield herself, an upbeat call to women to take some action to get a man. The album is closed by “Don’t You Know”, a Ray Charles-written song that is in truth a bit of an anticlimax following the previous two hits.
Overall the album sends a strong message of female empowerment, urging women to take control of their own lives. They can get any man they want and won’t be possessed by anyone. However, there are certainly some more tender songs, dealing with heartbreak and pain, particularly “My Colouring Book”. I enjoyed the album a lot, and there are undeniably some catchy songs, but it loses some merit with me by being full of covers. It seems like there were only about 50 songs in the early ‘60s, each popping up on albums by more and more artists. “Wishin’ and Hopin’”, one of the only original tracks, is unsurprisingly the standout song on the LP, although Dusty deals with the covers more than capably. It’s a very good debut album, and it’s not surprising that Dusty’s admirably style had the staying power to last another three decades at least.
My Rating: 7.5/10