A classic of its time and genre, and rightly so.
It’s heartbreaking that someone who had such a huge talent as Dusty Springfield suffered from almost crippling insecurity and self-doubt. Legend has it that she struggled so much with the recording of this, Dusty in Memphis, now her most celebrated album, that “Son of a Preacher Man” and “Just a Little Lovin’” aside, she was convinced it was a total dud.
At the risk of sounding flippant, I really have no idea what her problem was with Dusty in Memphis. It sounds stunning. Perhaps it was Dusty’s control-freak tendencies which took over because she didn’t have a hand in the production of this album, but I hope that in her later years she listened back at this album with a sense of pride and achievement. Her voice soars above the sumptuous and beautifully recorded arrangements and the whole thing sounds like a glorious night out every time it is played.
Of course the centrepiece of Dusty in Memphis is the aforementioned “Son of a Preacher Man”, one of the key hits of her career and one that enjoys a huge amount of airplay even after all these years. That it doesn’t dominate the whole album is a testament to the strength of the rest of the songs it accompanies. While it’s been covered and re-covered many times before and since, Dusty’s version of “The Windmills of my Mind” remains one of my favourite interpretations of the song, but to choose personal favourites from the embarrassment of riches that is Dusty in Memphis is almost impossible.
Perhaps chastened by her experience of being told what to do by her record label and producers, this album was one of the last hits of her career, a solid follow up was apparently pretty good, but after that she seemingly dropped off the radar for the next few years. This is a great shame, because I’m sure if she’d had a little more faith in her abilities and a little more trust in the people she was working with, she’d have enjoyed a prolonged period of success that she would (hopefully) have become comfortable with. Having said that, I personally know how crippling self-doubt can be, having experienced it myself and seen it effect others. Sometimes there are no answers and you just have to find a way to be comfortable with who and what you are, although it never hurts to push your expectations of yourself if enough people show faith in you.