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Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Wishin' and hopin'

Posted By on Wed, Feb 13, 2008 at 12:00 AM

Ever since her wonderful 2000 Grammy-winning breakthrough album, I Am Shelby Lynne, many critics have bent over backward to compare Ms. Lynne to the incredible Dusty Springfield. "Killin' Kind," the single from her follow-up Love, Shelby album was exactly the kind of pure POP! gem that Springfield used to make her mark in the '60s. Lynne's also always had a way with a cover tune; she used to absolutely kill onstage with her encore rendition of Glen Campbell/Jimmy Webb's sublime "Wichita Lineman." During one notorious performance, she reportedly threw her microphone down and purred to the audience: "I bet y'all want to fuck me, don'tcha?" And no one seemed inclined to disagree ...

So there was much anticipation for this album, which features songs (excepting one Lynne original) associated with Springfield. Lynne reinterprets the tunes in much the same way that, say, Neil Sedaka reinterpreted his own "Breaking Up Is Hard to Do" in the mid-'70s. That is to say that the 10 tracks here, produced by Phil Ramone, are as understated and stripped down to their essence as Springfield's records were heavily produced.

And there lies the problem. The opening title track simply meanders and seems to go nowhere, while the cover of Bacharach-David's "Anyone Who Had a Heart" (more associated in this country with Dionne Warwick) takes the drama out of the song, turning it into a depressive dirge. Ditto "I Only Wanna Be With You," which is almost sacrilege to these ears, since it was one of the purest pop AM radio toons of the '60s. (Shelby should've turned to Annie Lennox's supreme '70s interpretation with the Tourists for inspiration; even the Bay City Rollers did it better!) Hell, the beginning of "You Don't Have To Say You Love Me" — a song that probably should never be covered following both Dusty's and Elvis Presley's definitive, over-the-top recordings — begins in a cappella mode.

Despite Lynne's Southern roots — I was really expecting "Son of a Preacher Man" — even the Tony Joe White cover sounds like smooth jazz, thanks to the cold touch of producer Ramone. The only place it really works is on the always unsettling "The Look of Love" and the closing "How Can I Be Sure" (again, more associated with the Rascals in this country than with Springfield).

A wasted opportunity.

Bill Holdship is the music editor of Metro Times Send comments to bholdship@metrotimes.com.

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