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Jackie DeShannon Being Reissued


06/29/2009
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(conqueroo) The multi-talented, Grammy-winning Jackie DeShannon is best known for writing and recording hits like "Put a Little Love in Your Heart" as well as interpreting Jack Nitzsche and Sonny Bono's "Needles and Pins" (long before the Searchers and the Ramones) and Burt Bacharach & Hal David's "What the World Needs Now Is Love." She co-penned and originally recorded "Bette Davis Eyes," and her songs – written with the likes of Randy Newman, Jimmy Page and John Bettis – have been covered by The Byrds, Marianne Faithful, Cher, The Temptations, Brenda Lee, The Carpenters, Al Green, Tracey Ullman, Annie Lenox and Steve Forbert. She began recording as a young teen in the late '50s and continues into the present. Four of her most defining albums from the 1960s-70s — Jackie DeShannon, Me About You, To Be Free and New Arrangement — will be reissued on Collectors' Choice Music on August 25. (Me About You and To Be Free will be released together on one CD.)

By July 1963, Jackie DeShannon had been singing and recording singles for roughly seven years, building a reputation as a versatile singer and songwriter. A few months prior, she had hit the Billboard singles chart for the first time as a performer with a rendering of the country standard "Faded Love." Within a year she would find herself touring with the Beatles while releasing a pair of signature hits, Nitzsche and Bono's "Needles and Pins" and her own "When You Walk in a Room." However, in the summer of '63, Liberty Records boldly released DeShannon's self-titled debut album, which contained folk standards from the best songwriters of the day. "Folk music has always been in my repertoire," says DeShannon, who was born in Illinois and raised in Kentucky and Chicago. "My grandmother played guitar and sang English folk songs to me as I was growing up. The acoustic finger-picking style is very close to home."

The result of this influence was DeShannon's debut album, her first of more than 30 long-players. Included were early interpretations of Bob Dylan's "Walkin' Down the Line," "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right" and "Blowin' in the Wind"; Bobby Darin's "Jailer Bring Me Water," Eric Von Schmidt's adaptation of Rev. Gary Davis' "Baby Let Me Follow You Down," Peter Yarrow's "Puff (The Magic Dragon)," Pete Seeger's "If I Had a Hammer" and DeShannon's adaptation of "Oh Sweet Chariot" (otherwise known as "Swing Low"). The album arranger was Phil Spector protιgι Jack Nitzsche, its producer Dick Glasser, of whom DeShannon says, "Both had eclectic taste in music. The studio musicians could play any style. So our tracks covered a lot of musical ground. I think the album was ahead of it time."

In 1968 — a year before she would release her biggest hit, "Put a Little Love in Your Heart" — DeShannon released the album Me About You, which included "Me About You," "I'm With You" and "Whatever Happened to Happy," all by Garry Bonner and Alan Gordon (best known as the Turtles' songwriters), along with songs by Jimmy Webb, Van Dyke Parks, John Sebastian, Tim Harden, Holland-Dozier-Holland and Carol Bayer Sager/Toni Wine, as well as two of her own. Produced by Nitzsche with Joseph Russert under the auspices of Charles Koppelman and Don Rubin, the album demonstrates DeShannon's talent for both picking and writing songs. The single-CD Collectors' Choice reissue, which bundles Me About You with the 1970 album To Be Free, contains an unreleased song from the Me About You session — Tim Hardin's "Reason to Believe."

To Be Free from 1970 (packaged together with Me About You on the reissue) showcases several DeShannon co-writes (the hit "Brighton Hill," "Livin' on the Easy Side," "Child of the Street" and five more, as well as "Bird on the Wire" by Leonard Cohen (whom she'd met and admired) and a medley of the Supremes' "You Keep Me Hangin' On" and Little Anthony & the Imperials' "Hurt So Bad." She had just come off the million-selling "Put a Little Love in Your Heart," and was a fixture on national TV. Imperial Records put a big push behind the album, and utilized the producers Sam Russell and Irvin Hunt, the team who'd worked on her mega-hit. She enlisted an all-star cadre of backing vocalists — Clydie King (Raeletts), Vanetta Field (Ikettes) and Randy Edelman, her future husband. DeShannon's songs on the album show a new complexity of lyrics while retaining the gift of commercial arrangements and clear melody. Some of the songs were inspired by her adopted home city, Los Angeles. "L.A. has always inspired me as a songwriter. Ideas for many of my songs come while driving my car. I just go where the feeling takes me and I've never questioned the muse."

The final Collectors' Choice reissue is 1975's New Arrangement, best known for the song "Bette Davis Eyes," which DeShannon wrote with frequent collaborator Donna Weiss. The original was very different from Kim Carnes' later No. 1 hit, as producer Michael Stewart took the tune — conceived as a rock song by DeShannon and Weiss — into swing territory. The title track refers not only to the musical arrangements of the '70s, but also to the "new arrangement" of a woman's husband having an affair with another man. DeShannon wrote or co-wrote ten out of 11 of the album's songs, with William Smith's "Dreaming As One" the sole cover. The album, originally on Columbia Records, contains three previously unreleased tracks: "Pure Natural Love," "Deep Into Paradise" and "Somebody Turn the Music On," as well as two singles appearing for the first time on album: "All Night Desire" and "Fire in the City."



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