Earlier this year, Cherry Red’s Strike Force Entertainment label reissued Dusty Springfield’s Reputation, the legendary vocalist’s 1990 “comeback” album featuring productions by The Pet Shop Boys, Dan Hartman, and others. That expanded reissue took the form of a 2-CD/1-DVD set, adding nineteen bonus tracks and five music videos within its slipcase. More recently, SFE has turned its attention to Dusty’s follow-up, A Very Fine Love, as a CD/DVD combo. The 1995 Columbia album, recorded in Nashville with producer Tom Shapiro, tragically turned out to be Dusty’s last, as she would pass away of cancer four years later at the age of 59. (Her first brush with cancer came during the album’s sessions.) But it remains a very fine set, indeed, from a gifted artist incapable of turning out anything less.
Despite its Nashville pedigree, A Very Fine Love wasn’t recorded as a country album. Instead, much as Reputation had plunged Dusty into the worlds of dance and synth-pop, A Very Fine Love set her soulful pipes within a modern adult contemporary framework. Will Jennings and Marlee Lebow’s opening track “Roll Away” established its mature tone, with the singer sounding autobiographical as she asked, “Happy day – is it further or nearer? On the way, will I find it somehow?” before resolving with the wisdom of experience, “Roll away, it’s only time and the river/Roll away to the endless sea/Roll away, it could all change tomorrow/This is life in its glory, and the river runs free.” As always, Springfield can’t help but imbue each word with tremendous emotional, and spiritual, honesty.
The presence of the Nashville studio musicians is evident on the reflective “You Are the Storm” as well as on the ebullient, happy-in-love title track, which sonically recalls much of Bonnie Raitt’s work of the same period. Yet Carl Marsh’s keyboards add a subtle southern-soul flavor, while brass and strings can’t help but recall the early, ebullient songs in Dusty’s own discography. On “All I Have to Offer You is Love,” featuring an electric guitar solo by Dann Huff, Dusty even takes on a southern twang in her expressive voice.
Randy Goodrum and John Jarvis (who also plays piano and keyboards throughout the album) contributed “Go Easy on Me.” It affectingly brings out the vulnerability in Dusty’s delivery, though Kirk Whalum’s saxophone part adds a touch too much smoothness. She adds depth to “I Can’t Help the Way I Don’t Feel,” bidding a lover farewell even as she questions the direction in which her heart is going. Dan Dugmore’s steel guitar brings a strong country flavor on the track.
Dusty welcomed special guests to the LP on two tracks. Mary Chapin Carpenter and K.T. Oslin join on the bluesy “Where is a Woman to Go,” which Oslin also co-wrote with Jerry Gillespie. Daryl Hall added his own soulful vocals to the Diane Warren-penned “Wherever Would I Be,” the leadoff single which had been previously recorded by Cheap Trick in 1990. Dusty and Daryl were naturally up to the song’s anthemic proportions, a Warren specialty, and there’s a distinct pleasure in hearing these two titans of blue eyed soul (though Hall reportedly loathes the term) melding their voices on Warren’s melodic composition. It would also be featured over the end credits of the hit comedy While You Were Sleeping. Oddly, Hall and John Oates had previously recorded another of the album’s tracks, “Old Habits Die Hard” (a.k.a. “Give It Up” in the H&O version) so one wonders if they had ever considered duetting on that track, as well. Diane Warren also supplied the upbeat, swaggering instruction to a loved one to give some “Lovin’ Proof” – or else!
The songs on A Very Fine Love don’t have the distinctive character of those of Carole King and Gerry Goffin, Burt Bacharach and Hal David, Randy Newman, or Dennis Lambert and Brian Potter – just to name a few of the great songwriters whose works were interpreted flawlessly by Springfield. Yet, if the songs are more well-crafted than inspired, they still make for an effective showcase of the qualities that made Springfield one of the finest and most soulful singers of popular music ever. She’s alternately warm and gritty on these tracks, wise and conflicted, soft and forceful, investing each one with a little piece of her heart. Revisited all these years later, A Very Fine Love has aged better than much music of its era, and is a poignant coda to an incredible life and career.
Like Reputation, A Very Fine Love: Deluxe Collector’s Edition is housed in a slipcase with each disc in an individual paper sleeve. It contains a 32-page full-color booklet boasting an introduction from Simon Bell and liner notes by reissue producer Barney Ashton as well as complete lyrics and credits for each song. Two bonus tracks from a maxi-single have been added on the CD: Dusty’s solo version of “Wherever Would I Be,” and the alternate “Walter A. Mix” of the Daryl Hall duet version. (The maxi-single also included two Reputation-related tracks, both of which were addressed on the deluxe reissue of that album.) The Region 0 PAL DVD contains the promotional videos for both “Wherever Would I Be” and the second single, “Roll Away.” There are no remastering credits for this release.
A reminder of the timeless gifts of Dusty Springfield, A Very Fine Love: Deluxe Collector’s Edition is available now from Cherry Red’s SFE imprint!
CD: Original Album (Columbia CK 67053, 1995 plus bonus tracks
- Roll Away
- Very Fine Love
- Wherever Would I Be
- Go Easy on Me
- You Are the Storm
- I Can’t Help the Way That I Don’t Feel
- All I Have to Offer You is Love
- Livin’ Proof
- Old Habits Die Hard
- Where is a Woman to Go
- Wherever Would I Be (Dusty Solo Version) (from Columbia single 66 2059 5, 1995)
- Wherever Would Be I (Duet) (Walter A Mix) (from Columbia single 6 2059 5, 1995)
- Wherever Would I Be
- Roll Away