Jackie DeShannon’s status as a singer is assured. Her vocal range, diversity and skill, as exemplified by her original and stunning performances of ‘Needles And Pins’, ‘When You Walk In The Room’, Bacharach and David’s ‘What The World Needs Now Is Love’ and the generational anthem ‘Put A Little Love In Your Heart’, will be well known to readers of this article. But her status as a songwriter also deserves to be celebrated – something that Ace have done for us with this 27-track cracker, “Break-A-Way”.
Jackie’s talent for writing words and music emerged at a young age, and by 1958 she had successfully sold her song ‘My Baby Likes Western Guys’ to her contemporary, little Brenda Lee. Her abilities were recognised while she was still a teenager by Hollywood’s Liberty Records, who signed her to their publishing company Metric Music in 1961, where she was allowed to flourish alongside writers Sharon Sheeley, Randy Newman and J M Smith (later P J Proby). In this supportive West Coast environment Jackie came up with great song after great song, combining with Sharon Sheeley to write a series of hit records for Brenda Lee, the Fleetwoods and many more, inspiring the legendary Jack Nitzsche to some great co-writes and memorable productions, and striking out on her own to inspire the Searchers and other British bands to conquer the world.
Following this period of success Jackie briefly re-located to the UK, where a dynamic partnership with boy wonder session guitarist and Yardbird Jimmy Page resulted in a fabulous set of guitar-driven songs, folk-rock ballads and sublime soul (if you haven’t heard Barbara Lewis’ ‘Stop That Girl’ before, it will certainly stop you in your tracks).
In the period covered by this collection, 1961 to 1967, Jackie wrote a selection of songs which represent the very best in pop music of the day. The variety of styles is breathtaking – from the Merseybeat of ‘When You Walk In The Room’ by the Searchers, to the doo wop of ‘Should I Cry’ by the Concords (one of Jackie’s personal favourites), to the guitar raunch of Duane Eddy’s ‘Guitar Child’ and the girl-group sound of the Fashionettes’ ‘Day Dreamin’ Of You’. Jackie has written and co-written some 600 songs (and shows no sign of stopping!), and there are some rarities to give us enormous pleasure on this CD. Try the Bandits’ US garage take on ‘I Remember The Girl’, or, for a contrast, gospel chanteuse Wynona Carr’s slow and sexy interpretation of ‘Carrying A Torch’.
Every track here is a winner: from the obscure Jane Canada on the dimly-remembered Magic Lamp label, to household names such as Rick Nelson, Bobby Vee and indeed the Byrds. And Ace would not be Ace if they did not have a very special treat for us as a bonus – the collection concludes with a wonderful and previously unheard demo of Jackie performing her own lovely song ‘Only You Can Free My Mind’. So much talent, so much more to discover. I’m looking forward to Volume 2.
BY PETER LERNER