Dusty Springfield began her career as part of the British folk trio The Springfields and eventually went solo in 1969 with the R&B release Dusty In Memphis.
Under the tutelage of legendary producers Jerry Wexler and Arif Mardin, Springfield fused her pop voice with the Memphis soul style and created a unique rhythm & blues sound, resulting in one of the better albums of the year.
Side one of Dusty In Memphis
contained some of the best late 1960s rhythm and blues this side of Aretha Franklin. “Just A Little Lovin,” “So Much Love” and I Don’t Want To Hear It Anymore” all feature Springfield’s unique soul stylings while the Memphis Horns provide a background counterpoint. “Son Of A Preacher Man” is one of those perfect songs that comes along every once in a while, and her seductive vocals are singing at its best.
Side two is more pop-ish and nearly as good, except for “The Windmills Of Your Mind,” which is straight pop and the only mistake on the album, as it is out of context. “No Easy Way Down” and “I Can’t Make It Alone” are Goffin-King songs that Springfield moves in a soulful direction; rarely have the songs of Carole King been interpreted in such a unique way. “Just One Smile” is another highlight.
The 1999 re-release contains 14 bonus songs, 11 of them from a 1971 Atlantic album that was never released. “That Old Sweet Roll (Hi-De-Ho),” which was a hit for Blood, Sweat & Tears, is slowed way down and given a fine blues vocal. “What Do You Do When Love Dies” contains a pop vocal treatment on the melody and a R&B vocal on the refrain; it is an unusual and wonderfully creative song. “Willie and Laura Mae Jones” is straight out the Aretha Franklin songbook, “All The Kings Horses” and “I Found My Way” show gospel traits and “Natchez Trace” is about as rocking as Dusty Springfield gets. However, such standards as “Make It With You” and “You’ve Got A Friend” are given a typical pop treatment and pale next to the rest of the material on the album.
Dusty Springfield died at age 59 in 1999, 10 days before her induction into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame. As one of her highest achievements, Dusty In Memphis remains her masterpiece and contains some of the best music to come out of the late 60s.