It's practically a cliché to say that Dusty Springfield was the greatest white soul singer to ever come out of the U.K., but like most clichés, it's a commonplace wisdom that's based in an obvious fact. While most blue-eyed soul belters sounded as if they were determined to worry a song into submission though brute force and melismatic torture, Springfield's gift was a superb instrument and the wisdom to do its work with a careful balance of emotional force and instinctive restraint (perhaps the product of her fondness for jazz and smart pop as well as rock and R&B). Springfield was also a gifted songwriter who was a shrewd judge of material, and she knew how to match her voice to either Phil Spector
-esque bombast or a more subtle and elegant production, and anyone looking for a perspective on just how sure Springfield's instincts in the studio were should give a listen to this set. Complete A and B Sides 1963-1970
is just what its title says it is -- every U.K. single Dusty released during this eight-year stretch is included (except for a stray Yuletide release), with all the A-sides on disc one and the flip sides on disc two (except for the B-side to "Morning Please Don't Come," which was a solo track from her brother Tom Springfield
and subsequently left by the wayside). The consistent quality of these recordings is truly a wonder -- there are no throwaway B-sides, no major artistic missteps, and every tune appears to been crafted as if Springfield and her studio helpers were convinced it could be a hit (and in a wiser alternate universe, perhaps they all were). While American fans will notice that a number of Springfield's biggest U.S. hits are missing (remarkably, "I Only Want to Be with You," "Wishin' and Hopin'," and "All Cried Out" were never released as singles in Great Britain), as a document of Dusty performing at the top of her game during her golden era, this set is all but flawless, assembled with care and boasting superb audio, and anyone who loves her music will find much to revel in. Bob Stanley
of Saint Etienne
contributes a fine and informative essay on Dusty Springfield in the 1960s to the liner notes.