Nothing about Jackie DeShannon is predictable. Who could have foretold that the rockin’, stompin’ gal who toured with the Beatles in 1964 would have her first Top 10 hit with a silky Bacharach and David waltz? And who, in the 1990s, when Jackie was best known as the writer of occasional quality chart blockbusters for other artists, would have guessed that she would come back into the twenty-first century as a performer, not in the style of a seen-it-all, elder-stateswoman, but as a frenetic, bouncing, stomping rocker, with twice the energy of performers half her age? Accompanied by a four-piece rock band on her last London appearance, she even injected ‘What The World Needs Now’ with a dose of big beat.
This is the first in a series of three CDs that will make available every one of Jackie’s US Liberty and Imperial singles, exactly as they were originally released. That’s to say, if the single was issued in mono, you will hear it in mono. If it came out in stereo, you’ll get stereo. Most of Jackie’s albums are now available on CD, as are a number of very good anthologies, but many of these single mixes and EQs have never been available in digital format before.
I can claim to be a fan of Jackie DeShannon since 1963 when I was first overwhelmed by her recording of ‘When You Walk In The Room’. This was covered here in the UK by the Searchers, and I made it my business to find her original of that group’s earlier hit, ‘Needles And Pins’. It blasted me out of my seat. Then I found Jackie’s first album, expecting more of the same – but it was a collection of well-chosen and impeccably-performed folk songs. How predictable was that?
I was aware that Jackie had written and co-written some tremendous songs for the likes of Brenda Lee, the Fleetwoods and many others, but I didn’t know that her own recording career stretched back to 1956, and before ‘Needles And Pins’ she had released more than 20 singles and had hit the US charts with a country ballad, ‘Faded Love’.
This collection concentrates on her early years at Liberty Records of Hollywood, innocent times when young artists, young arrangers and young producers put together exciting recordings of great songs by great young writers. The work of Jack Nitzsche, Carole King, Dick Glasser, Sharon Sheeley, Ray Charles and many others can be found on this album. This was a time of experimentation. If gospel style doesn’t storm the charts, try rock’n’roll; if that doesn’t work, go for a beat ballad with strings; if that fails to make it, go country. And although Jackie’s early Liberty singles didn’t storm the charts, they are without exception fun and of great quality, full of that energy that we can still see in bucket-loads today.
And even this collection has its own element of unpredictability. As an unashamed DeShannon completist, I (of course) own all of the singles collected on this album, except the unreleased ‘That’s What Boys Are Made Of’. But I had been lucky enough to have in my possession a tape of the song. To tell the truth, I thought it was a bit rough and ready, a little chaotic and unfocussed, and I could empathise with Liberty’s decision to leave it in the can. But then, blow me down, the version that Ace has found to put on this album is completely different – nicely-produced and determinedly catchy. I might have guessed – anything with the name Jackie DeShannon on it is predictably first class.
by PETER LERNER