Album Reviews

Dusty Springfield: Reputation (Strike Force Entertainment)

dusty

Dusty Springfield
Reputation
Strike Force Entertainment

Dusty Springfield’s penultimate album, Reputation, appeared in 1990, and was a surprising late-period comeback for the distinguished pop singer of such legendary hits as “Son Of A Preacher Man,” “You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me,” and “I Only Want To Be With You.” Sadly, by the Eighties, Springfield’s career was regulated to the cabaret circuit, a veritable nostalgia act. By the time she released Reputation, she had all but retired from recording, having only released an album and a few singles in the early part of the decade.

Enter Pet Shop Boys, the sophisticated pop duo of Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe. In 1987, they invited Dusty to perform on their single “What Have I Done To Deserve This,” which would prove to be an international smash hit; she would appear in the video and on live TV performances of the song, reintroducing her to a newer, younger audience. The duo would write her next single, “Nothing Has Been Proved,” a moody, seductive ballad that told the story of the infamous Profumo affair. The song would be included in the soundtrack to Scandal, a biopic of Profumo, and released as a single, it would return her to the British top twenty for the first time in eighteen years. Another song, “In Private,” was written for Scandal, but was not used; instead, it was released as a follow-up, and once again, the single made the top twenty.

These two unexpected hit singles prompted the need for an album. Tennant and Lowe agreed to provide her with more songs, and gave her two originals, “Daydreaming” and “Occupy Your Mind,” and produced a Goffin/King cover, “I Want To Stay Here.” Utilizing their producer, Julian Mendelsohn, they would provide her with half an album’s worth of sophisticated, intelligent pop music. “Daydreaming” was a groovy soul number with a hint of rap, while “Occupy Your Mind” highlighted Lowe’s burgeoning fascination with acid house and electronica, a nearly seven minute dreamy, seductive raver that was unlike anything Springfield had done before or since. Unfortunately, the duo couldn’t provide more, as they were busy working on their new album, as well as producing another comeback album, Results, for Liza Minnelli.

Half a Pet Shop Boys-produced album is better than none, and that’s sadly the case with Reputation, as the quality drops off considerably. Whereas Tennant and Lowe understood the power of Springfield’s voice, her range—and the direction she could take it—the other producers didn’t, offering up songs that were definitely inferior. “Reputation” isn’t bad, nor is “Arrested By You,” but the remix versions offered up on the second disc often sound better than the album cuts, mainly because the generic choirs and painfully white blue-eyed soul moments are stripped away. Instead, the first side of Reputation sounds hodgepodge, a collection of numbers by various producers, resulting in a side that doesn’t feel nearly as cohesive as the other. Kudos to the individual who decided to put the Tennant/Lowe productions on one side; dispersing them among the lesser tracks would have diluted their potency.

Springfield’s career had taken a nosedive after the end of the Sixties, and reading the extensive liner notes, it quickly becomes apparent she had developed a lack of self-confidence; she knew the successful chart action of her two singles had been a fluke, and treated it as such. In interviews at the time, Tennant said he hoped to produce a full album’s worth of material, to really give Springfield fans a taste of what he felt she was capable of doing. Sadly, that chance never came; she would release just one more album, 1995’s A Very Fine Love, before being diagnosed with the cancer that would silence her voice four years later. Still, Reputation was a rather good record, and proof that even though she didn’t have much time left, she was still capable of producing quality material. 

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