Tuesday, October 11, 2016

S Is For...

26 artists, A to Z. How long I've been waiting to give you S -- the peerless Dame Dusty Springfield. 

Dusty Springfield / 
"The Look of Love"

Oh, Dusty. That smoky contralto, the raw emotion, the unmitigated soulfulness. I'm forever fascinated by how convent girl Mary O'Brien of north London transformed herself into the White Queen of Soul.

And a big piece of this is the Bacharach-David connection. In the 60s, all the girl singers wanted a piece of the Bacharach-David franchise, which Burt's muse Dionne Warwick had neatly sewed up in the USA (although Beatles gal pal Cilla Black stole a march on Dionne by scoring a #1 UK single with "Anyone Who Had a Heart"). Sure, Dusty was a major contender, having scored a 1964 top ten hit with "Wishin' and Hopin'," as well as her UK hit "I Just Don't Know What To Do With Myself." But Dionne still ruled the roost.

Then this number came along. It was originally an instrumental, which Bacharach wrote after watching Swiss sex goddess Ursula Andress perform in the film Casino Royale. (Because, yes, that's how good Burt Bacharach is -- he could toss off a classic song like this as if it were just a doodle.)  Hal David added some lyrics, and suddenly it was a song, and who did the guys tap to sing it for the soundtrack?

My girl Dusty.

So many other people recorded this: Stan Getz, Sergio Mendez, Lainie Kazan, Claudine Longet (aka Mrs. Andy Williams), Dionne Warwick (of course), even freakin' Nina Simone. But as far as I'm concerned, Dusty's version is the only one that matters,

It's a classic bossa nova, sussurating and lush. Dusty's come-hither-husky vocals float over the rhythm track, amplified by echo effects to sound even more sexy. I can see the smudged mascara, the hungover affect -- yeah, the lyrics pretend that this song is all about seduction, but Dusty delivers the morning after.

They look at each other, they want each other. "How long have I waited?" Dusty exclaims, with just a whisper of a wail. Then, eyes on the prize, she follows it up with chapter and verse: "Waited just to love you / Now that I have found you / [beat beat] Don't ever go." Caressing the syllables, stroking the sound, working the textures of her voice to find every nuance.  

It's pop classic gold, underlaid by tasteful movie-music strings and soft Latin percussion. The throaty sax solo in the middle eight is just about perfect. And here's sex-exhausted Dusty, stretching out her arms, begging, "Don't ever go."

It's one of my top candidate for the Sexiest Song Ever -- the other candidates being Dusty's "Breakfast in Bed" and "I Close My Eyes and Count to Ten."  And while we're at it, let's throw in "You Don't Own Me," which is so much better than the current plastic stupid pop hit by Australian singer Grace. (Don't get me started.)

Dusty was the real deal. We won't see her like again.

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