Reviews by - Lindsay Planer

It's just like the lyrics to that late '70s rocker, " …  there's people out there turnin' music into gold." We're proving it with three recent additions toUniversal Music enterprises (UMe) GOLD series of double-disc compilations.

Burt Bachrach and Friends -- Gold (Hip-O/Mercury)

This set is one of the rare various artist Gold packages. And rightly so, as Burt Bacharach's prowess as a composer, equals if not bests his acclaim as a musician. Over the years there have been scores of folks fortunate enough to cover Bacharach tunes. The versions found here exemplify the sheer magic that occurs when those melodies take on lives of their own. In fact, so perfectly matched are the singers and songs, that many of these titles would become major -- if not signature -- hits for the artist in question.

Fittingly, several names crop up more than once. The close association that the writer had with Dusty Springfield ("Wishin' And Hopin'" and "I Just Don't Know What To Do With Myself"), Dionne Warwick ("Do You Know The Way To San Jose," "I'll Never Fall In Love Again" and "Anyone Who Had A Heart"), Gene Pitney ("24 Hours From Tulsa" and "Only Love Can Break A Heart"), Herb Alpert ("This Guy's In Love With You" and "Casino Royale") and The 5th Dimension ("One Less Bell To Answer" and "Living Together, Growing Together") are evident by their multiple entries.

Equally significant were his contributions to artists as stylistically far ranging as The Carpenters chart-topper "(They Long To Be) Close To You" to Jerry Orbach's showstopper "Promises, Promises" from the play of the same name. There are similarly essential submissions from Jackie DeShannon ("What The World Needs Now Is Love"), Neil Diamond ("Heartlight"), Tom Jones ("What's New Pussycat"), Christopher Cross ("Arthur's Theme (Best That You Can Do)"), Isaac Hayes ("Walk On By"), Cher ("Alfie"), Luther Vandross ("A House Is Not A Home"), Jack Jones ("Wives and Lovers"), The Shirelles ("Baby It’s You"), "Patti LaBelle/Michael McDonald ("On My Own") and Naked Eyes ("Always Something There To Remind Me").

Bacharach serves up some of his own selections concluding Disc One with "Knowing When To Leave" from his Make It Easy On Yourself (1969) and Gold's 24-karat conclusion with the double barrel offering of "God Give Me Strength" (featuring Bacharach with Elvis Costello) as well as the original recording of "That's What Friends Are For" from the soundtrack to the motion picture Night Shift (1982).

Etta James -- Gold (Hip-O/Chess)

For over half a century Etta James has all but defined the role of the quintessential rhythm & blues vocalist. Housed within are no less than three dozen examples of why James can easily claim her crown as the Queen of Chess Records. Her story actually begins prior to her association with the Chicago-based label as the Los Angeles native initially joined forces with Johnny Otis and cut the Number One "Wallflower (Dance With Me Henry)," which she quickly followed with a Top Ten R&B wailer titled "Good Rockin' Daddy."

It was while dating Moonglows member Harvey Fuqua that she was brought to the attention of Leonard Chess and subsequently signed to the Chess subsidiary Argo in late 1959. Almost immediately she proved herself, unleashing a torrent of soul-drenched sides. From James' earliest sessions came "All I Could Do Is Cry," "If I Can't Have You," "A Sunday Kind Of Love," Trust In Me" as well as her incomparable ballad "At Last".

During the early 1960s, James continued with a string of crossover hits. "My Dearest Darling," "Don’t Cry Baby," "Fool That I Am," "Something's Got A Hold Of Me," "Next Door To The Blues," "Stop The Wedding," "Pushover," and a live version of the Jimmy Reed classic "Baby, What You Want Me To Do" all made sizable inroads onto the Pop Singles surveys.

By '67 James headed south for Dixie where she cut the Clarence Carter co-written soul stirrer "Tell Mama" at the venerable Muscle Shoals Studios in Alabama. Additional selections from that historic session featured here include the heart-wrenching "I'd Rather Go Blind," "Almost Persuaded" and a cover of Otis Redding's "Security". Listeners are likewise treated to a few notable numbers that James wholly reinvents. Particularly poignant are her interpretations of Randy Newman's "God Song (That's Why I Love Mankind)," Tom Jans "Loving Arms," and an unforgettable rendering of The Eagles' "Take It To The Limit".

Dusty Springfield -- Gold (Hip-O/Mercury)

Without question, British pop songbird Dusty Springfield was one of the most distinct voices of the 1960's. She soared as a strong and decisively feminine counterpoint in a field that was still dominated by men. On Gold she is given her due with over two dozen examples of the divine Ms. S. at her finest. 

She was barely out of her teens when she, alongside her brother Tom, formed The Springfields. The trio scored an international hit with a version of "Silver Threads and Golden Needles". The song's success quickly thrust Dusty into the spotlight, where she became one of her generation's greatest and uncompromising talents. The early singles came fast and furious on both sides of the Atlantic with "I Only Want To Be With You," "Stay Awhile," "All Cried Out," "Losing You," "You Don't Have To Say You Love Me," "All I See Is You," and "I'll Try Anything" represented here. 

She gained considerable attention for her working relationship with several distinguished songwriting teams as well. From the Burt Bacharach and Hal David catalogue, Springfield made "Wishin' And Hopin'," "I Just Don't Know What To Do With Myself" and "The Look Of Love" her own. Mutually beneficial was her sonic symbiosis with Gerry Goffin and Carole King, yielding memorable readings of "Some Of Your Lovin'," "Oh! No! Not My Baby," "Goin' Back," and "Don't Forget About Me".

That is only the tip of the musical tale, as Gold is filled with Springfield gems such as "You Don't Have To Say You Love Me," "I Close My Eyes And Count To Ten," "Son Of A Preacher Man," "Breakfast In Bed," "Windmills Of Your Mind," "Brand New Me," her sensual take on Van Morrison's "Tupelo Honey" and her mega '80s comeback "What Have I Done To Deserve This?" backed by the Pet Shop Boys.  

Lindsay Planer is a freelance journalist and technical producer at WBT AM/FM in Charlotte, NC. He is a regular contributor to All Music Guide, CrutchfieldAdvisor.com and Gaston Gazette. Comments and questions can be sent to <asthediscspins@earthlink.net>.


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