The only one who could ever reach Judge Steve Evans was the son of a preacher man.
Dusty Springfield, the darling of British blue-eyed soul, performs her greatest hits and a few surprises to an adoring crowd in this 1979 concert. Springfield's greatest recordings were already behind her by 1970, but the intervening years of alcoholism and drug use did not diminish her sultry voice.
Dusty Springfield may be the most soulful vocalist that England ever produced. Born Mary O'Brien in 1939 to Irish immigrants, she lived most of her early years in London. Dusty began her career with a girl group, the Lana Sisters, later joining her brother Tom in The Springfields, from which she would take her stage name. Her brother would go on to pen the catchy title tune to Georgy Girl, but Dusty Springfield became the great success of the family, scoring her first pop hit "I Only Want to be with You" in 1963. Impressed by U.S. record producer Phil Spector and his famed "wall of sound," Dusty and her crew used comparatively primitive recording techniques to achieve similarly spectacular results. Their efforts produced a string of hits that included "Stay Awhile," "Losing You," and "Son of a Preacher Man," which Quentin Tarantino would deploy to ironic effect in Pulp Fiction. But it was her rendition of the Burt Bacharach song, "The Look of Love," included on this disc, that assured Springfield's permanent place in the pop-diva hall of fame. With a smoldering vocal, she condenses a lifetime of desire, passion, and promises of scorching sex into a three-minute pop masterpiece. "You Don't Have To Say You Love Me" isn't too shabby, either.
Sadly, Springfield died in 1999 after a long struggle with breast cancer. She was 59.
The concert recorded at the Royal Albert Hall includes her nine Top-10 singles performed as a crowd-pleasing medley. Attendees that night included Princess Margaret, which would be insignificant except as context for Springfield's inside joke that evening to her gay fans. She observed with a wink that there were more queens in the audience than just those in the royal box. When the bluenoses at Buckingham Palace finally caught on, Springfield was reportedly pressured to apologize for the remark.
Sound is clean and pleasing, with three audio choices, including Dolby 5.1. The original stereo mix sounds best to these ears. Videography tends to cross-cut between Springfield and her audience with few cutaways to the musicians. This is not a deal breaker, but concert directors ought to realize that performing musicians are always more interesting to watch than people clapping.
Disc extras include interviews with Springfield's former manager, several friends and personal assistants, and one of her admiring backing singers from the Albert Hall concert. It's pleasant but overwrought fluff; the diva is practically deified in these interviews. Instant track access is also available (and de rigeur for any concert disc).
Springfield was a major talent in her day and this concert shows the singer near the top of her form. Feminists may cringe at some of the syrupy, subservient sentiments in her songs, but she delivers them with such conviction that one is tempted to chalk up her motivation to wild romanticism and just flow with the music. Fans will need this disc as a supplement to their Springfield CDs. Casual listeners may find the DVD a reasonable substitute for any of the numerous repackages of her greatest hits. Either way, the disc comes recommended as a polished example of enduring pop music at its heartfelt best.
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