As a songwriter, Jackie DeShannon had tremendous success throughout the 1960s, but it wasn’t until she recorded 1969’s “Put a Little Love in Your Heart” that she found fame with her own material. But despite the song’s commercial success, the following year’s To Be Free would be her last for Imperial, and after a brief stop at Capitol for 1972’s Songs, producer Jerry Wexler landed her for his Atlantic label. Her two albums, Jackie and Your Baby is a Lady, included both original material and covers, and though artistically satisfying, neither achieved much sales and DeShannon moved on to a short stay at Columbia as her recording career wound down.
Lost in the transition was an album made for Atlantic, but never released. Recorded in 1973 with producer Tom Dowd at the fabled Sound City and Criteria studios, the sessions were a distinct change from Jackie’s strong Memphis flavors. Gone were the backing chorus, strings and the heavier horn charts, and in was a smaller group sound highlighted by a wider choice of material that spanned folk, pop, soul and gospel. In addition to four new DeShannon originals (co-written with Jorge Calderon, a multi-instrumentalist who would famously collaborate with Warren Zevon), the album included well-selected covers of Dylan, Alan O’Day, Christine McVie and others.
With the album in the can and awaiting release, DeShannon did some additional recording with Van Morrison in his home studio. Those sessions yielded four more tracks (15-18 here), of which the Morrison original “Sweet Sixteen” was released as a single, with the Dowd-produced “Speak Out to Me” as the B-side. When the single failing to chart, Atlantic shelved the entire year’s output, and DeShannon eventually began work on her next album. Six of the Dowd tracks (1-3 and 5-7 here), and all four Morrison productions, eventually appeared on Rhino’s 2007 reissue Jackie… Plus, but the rest of the Dowd-produced material remained in the vault until now.
Why Atlantic scrapped the album is unclear. The material is excellent, DeShannon’s performances are strong and Dowd’s production provides soulful support. Perhaps it was the album’s broad reach that gave Atlantic second thoughts, though there are several tracks upon which they could have hung their promotion. DeShannon’s organ-backed take on “Drift Away” was beaten to the market by Dobie Gray’s hit, but “Hydra,” “Grand Canyon Blues” and the album’s superb cover of “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright,” could have found some love on FM. Sadly, the set’s unlisted nineteenth track – a Coke commercial – was probably it’s most heavily broadcast. Real Gone’s done DeShannon’s fans a solid with this anthology, and augmented the ’73 sessions with a 12-page booklet that includes detailed liner note from Joe Marchese. [©2015 Hyperbolium]