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Dusty Springfield: Live at the Royal Albert Hall

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Album Review

What a strange and lovely thing this is. Live at the Royal Albert Hall is one of those shows — the one you can't believe was ever captured on tape. Here is the late Dusty Springfield fronting a very loose and seemingly un-together band at a Royal Albert Hall concert in 1979. Springfield is well known for her self-doubt and lack of confidence, but that's absent here. In fact, she carries this show by the sheer force of her goodwill and charm. The band drops out in several places and Springfield gets them back on track. There are some problems: Springfield's between-song banter is too low and can't be heard very well here; the backing vocalists fall behind her quite often, and the band literally falls apart for a few moments here and there, especially in the medley of hits that include "Going Back," "I Only Want to Be with You," "Stay Awhile," "Just a Little Loving (Early in the Morning)," "Some of your Lovin'"; "The Look of Love" (where they really blow it and Springfield just giggles); "Wishin' & Hopin'," "I Just Don't Know What to Do with Myself," and "Losin' You.." Yet, Springfield is in utterly top-form here, digging deeply into the heart of every tune, given the striated arrangements (this was the wane of the disco era), even in "We Are Family," which is a medley with another pair of disco classics. There is vulnerability here — being that Springfield is at the mercy of a band that is so loose it has holes in it, and she was performing in front of Princess Margaret — and she uses that vulnerability to give back to an adoring audience. It's hypnotic and moving. There is an accompanying DVD sold separately that offers the visuals for the gig. But the CD contains three bonus tracks not included on the DVD release. The version of "Baby Blue" here is totally funky and raw — it's a-hundred-miles-an-hour — not as a way of getting through the material, but because it's fueled by pure adrenaline. While this set would not be a proper introduction, it's absolutely essential for fans.


Born: April 16, 1939 in Hampstead, London, England

Genre: Pop

Years Active: '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s

Britain's greatest pop diva, Dusty Springfield was also the finest white soul singer of her era, a performer of remarkable emotional resonance whose body of work spans the decades and their attendant musical transformations with a consistency and purity unmatched by any of her contemporaries; though a camp icon of glamorous excess in her towering beehive hairdo and panda-eye black mascara, the sultry intimacy and heartbreaking urgency of Springfield's voice transcended image and fashion, embracing...
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