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Review: Jackie DeShannon, “Keep Me in Mind: The Complete Imperial and Liberty Singles Volume 3”

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All good things must come to an end, and alas, that’s the case with the third volume of Jackie DeShannon’s Complete Imperial and Liberty Singles chronicling the decade-long output of the trailblazing songwriter and generation-defining singer.  DeShannon captured the spirit of her era with “What the World Needs Now is Love” and “Put a Little Love in Your Heart,” the latter of which finally appears on Volume Three, entitled Keep Me in Mind (Ace CDCHD 1350).  But as anyone who’s picked up the first two volumes knows, DeShannon’s catalogue is a deep and varied one, taking in her own compositions, some co-written with the likes of Randy Newman and Jack Nitzsche, plus many from her contemporaries, and even golden-age standards.  Volume One of the series has the jangly folk-rock of “Needles and Pins” and “When You Walk in the Room,” and Volume Two boasts those impeccable, sophisticated Burt Bacharach productions.  But Volume Three picks up in 1967, with DeShannon reinventing herself in the face of a music industry that was, by that point, changing faster than ever.  As such, this may be the most experimental and eclectic of the three collections.

“Changing My Mind,” one of those songs that could only have come from 1967, kicks off the collection with verve.  A loopy little ditty with an inventive, part-sunshine pop, part-vaudeville orchestration, it might have been too offbeat for mainstream radio but is nonetheless a delicious way to start off the compilation.  Its flipside characterizes the different avenues DeShannon was pursuing:  a perfectly pleasant revival of Tommy Edwards’ hit “It’s All in the Game.”  But her very next Liberty single teamed DeShannon with old friend Jack Nitzsche as producer/arranger: their own “I Keep Wanting You” and Bonner and Gordon’s much-recorded “Me About You.”  The A-side favorably compares with Jimmy Webb’s work of the time, with a resplendent horn break, backed by a female chorus.  It manages to be both dramatic and breezy.  DeShannon, with her smoky and sensual tone, caresses the tricky vocal line of “Me About You” with ease and grace, while Nitzsche supports her with an orchestration that’s lighter than air.

Similarly sympathetic arrangements came from Nick DeCaro, including the soulful “Nobody’s Home to Go Home To,” another slice of sophisti-pop from Toni Wine and Carole Bayer (later Sager).  But a more rootsy style of pop-rock was taking hold, including the rise of the singer/songwriter that would achieve full blossom within just a few years with albums like Carole King’s Tapestry and Joni Mitchell’s Ladies of the Canyon.  But the trend-setting Jackie actually arrived in Laurel Canyon first, at least on evidence of the 1968 single and album of the same name, produced by Charles Greene and Brian Stone.  Jackie reflects on this very special time in Peter Lerner, Mick Patrick and Tony Rounce’s exemplary liner notes: “I wasn’t living in Laurel Canyon; I was like the next street over, just down the block.  It was a very special time and place…The muse was there.  There were so many writers and artists living in the area.  You just listened, and out the songs came.”  The song “Laurel Canyon” is a raw, impassioned blend of blue-eyed soul and folk-rock that showed DeShannon’s unwillingness to be pigeonholed as just one kind of vocalist.  It was backed with the sensitive, downbeat “Holly Would,” like “Laurel Canyon” written entirely by Jackie and arranged by New Orleans’ Harold Battiste.  The restless vocalist even teamed with soul man Bobby Womack for a subsequent single, “Trust Me” b/w “What is This.”  DeShannon was clearly inspired by all of the musical possibilities around her, effortlessly navigating Womack’s gritty R&B stylings.

Hit the jump for more, including the full track listing!

Jackie also was drawn to the Americana of The Band, and in 1968, she turned in a vocal performance unlike any she had previously delivered with the funky R&B of “The Weight.”  Barry White joined her on vocals, which she recalls were recorded with all of the singers around one microphone.  Her musical persona was once again a bit schizophrenic, however.   “The Weight” was backed on 45 by a ravishing song produced and written by Jackie, with an arrangement by John D’Andrea.  The classy love song “Effervescent Blue” (“I’m a shade of effervescent blue/And if I can’t be with you, there’s nothing I want to do/The love I feel for you keeps me effervescent blue”) deserved a better fate.  One of this compilation’s true hidden gems, it showed that Jackie had learned quite a few things from Burt Bacharach and Hal David, from the perfect use of backing vocals to the prominent flugelhorn sound; it’s very much in the vein of “Come and Get Me” and “Windows and Doors,” both of which were produced by the team with Jackie’s unmistakable vocals.

But the bona fide classic on Keep Me in Mind is, doubtless, 1969’s “Put a Little Love in Your Heart,” which earned Jackie a gold record and a No. 4 chart placement in addition to becoming an anthem as beloved as her previous hit, “What the World Needs Now is Love.”  Co-written with her brother Randy Myers and Jimmy Holiday, the song is forceful but not preachy, very much of the moment but timeless enough to still resonate with its themes of kindness, brotherhood, peace and love.  Despite its gospel urgency, its simple philosophy was one to which everybody could ascribe.  DeShannon, with Holiday alone and with both Myers and Holiday, wrote a number of follow-up singles, all (naturally) included here.   One of their optimistic tracks following in the footsteps of “Put a Little Love” was “Love Will Find a Way,” with its similarly uplifting belief that “There can be a new tomorrow/And there can be a brighter day…love will find a way.”

Another songwriting source to whom DeShannon turned was, once again, her friend Hal David, and she recorded his “Do You Know How Christmas Trees Are Grown,” complete with children’s choir.  The bid for a seasonal standard, co-written with John Barry, was introduced in the James Bond adventure On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.  It’s not David’s, Barry’s, or DeShannon’s finest moment, but it’s sweetly enjoyable.  The DeShannon/Holiday/Myers team offered up a B-side in the same spirit, the simply-titled “Christmas,” and followed that single with 1970’s evocative and dreamy “Brighton Hill” (“Where the sky changes its color/Hopes are high, there’s no other place I’d rather be”).  Despite the strength of this song and so many others heard here, DeShannon’s time with Liberty Records was winding down.  There were still more interesting choices (including a medley of “You Keep Me Hanging On” and “Hurt So Bad” as ballads that Jackie doesn’t recall with particular fondness) but Liberty had recently become part of United Artists and was, like DeShannon, trying to find their place both in the new organization and in the changing pop scene.  The final song on Keep Me in Mind is a rendition of Leonard Cohen’s “Bird on the Wire,” scheduled for a single but only released on LP.  It’s an unusual and affecting choice.  Might it have been a hit?  One can’t say, for certain.  By 1971, DeShannon would be signed to Capitol (now the parent of Liberty/Imperial).

Ace has lavishly packaged this final collection of DeShannon’s sixties singles with a full-color booklet containing an essay (drawing on extensive quotes with the artist), numerous label scans and striking photos of Jackie.  As with the first two volumes, all tracks are presented in their original mixes.  That means that this disc’s first eighteen tracks are in mono, while the remainder of the singles (from “Christmas Trees” onward) is in stereo.  DeShannon went on to record for various labels including Atlantic, Columbia and Amherst, and in 2011, recorded a new studio album revisiting her old classics in a new, stripped-down setting.  One of its songs was “Bette Davis Eyes,” which in Kim Carnes’ 1981 recording became one of Jackie’s biggest hits as either a songwriter or performer.  Though deluxe reissues of some of her 1970s output have arrived from Rhino Handmade and the defunct Collectors’ Choice Music label, the entirety of her discography is still not on CD.  Hopefully this three-volume series will keep Jackie DeShannon in mind and lead to yet more excavations of her timeless catalogue of adult pop.

Jackie DeShannon, Keep Me in Mind: The Complete Imperial and Liberty Singles, Volume 3 (Ace CDCHD 1350, 2012)

  1. Changin’ My Mind (Imperial 66251, 1967)
  2. It’s All in the Game (Imperial 66251, 1967)
  3. I Keep Wanting You (Imperial 66281, 1967)
  4. Me About You (Imperial 66281, 1967)
  5. Nobody’s Home to Go Home To (Imperial 66301, 1968)
  6. Nicole (Imperial 66301, 1968)
  7. Didn’t Want to Have to Do It (Imperial 66312 (cancelled) / Imperial LP 12386, 1968)
  8. The Weight (Imperial 66313, 1968)
  9. Effervescent Blue (Imperial 66313, 1968)
  10. Laurel Canyon (Imperial 66342, 1968)
  11. Holly Would (Imperial 66342, 1968)
  12. Trust Me (Imperial 66370, 1969)
  13. What is This (Imperial 66370, 1968)
  14. Put a Little Love in Your Heart (Imperial 66385, 1969)
  15. Always Together (Imperial 66385, 1969)
  16. Love Will Find a way (Imperial 66419, 1969)
  17. I Let Go Completely (Imperial 66419, 1969)
  18. Keep Me in Mind (Liberty LBF 15324 (U.K.) , 1969)
  19. Do You Know How Christmas Trees Are Grown? (Imperial 66430, 1969)
  20. Christmas (Imperial 66430, 1969)
  21. Brighton Hill (Imperial 66438, 1970)
  22. You Can Come to Me (Imperial 66438, 1970)
  23. You Keep Me Hangin’ On/Hurt So Bad (Medley) (Imperial 66452, 1970)
  24. What Was Your Day Like (Imperial 66452, 1970)
  25. It’s So Nice (Liberty 56187, 1970)
  26. Mediterranean Sky (Liberty 56187, 1970)
  27. Bird on the Wire (Imperial LP 12453, 1970)

Written by Joe Marchese

November 29, 2012 at 10:02

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