For Dusty Springfield, her 1970 album A Brand New Me proved to a hugely significant album for three reasons. A Brand New Me was the followup to what is seen as Dusty’s finest album Dusty In Memphis, released in 1969. Another reason was that A Brand New Me featured what would be Dusty’s last top forty US Billboard 100 hit for seventeen years. Lastly, A Brand New Me saw Dusty Springfield undergo a Philly Soul makeover by Gamble and Huff, who a year later, would found Philadelphia International Records. It was a case of a musical journey that started in Memphis and that ended in Philly and resulted in A Brand New Me for Dusty Springfield. How would A Brand New Me compare to Dusty In Memphis?

Although Dusty In Memphis, released in March 1969, is considered Dusty’s classic album, it wasn’t a huge commercial success on its release. It only reached number ninety-nine in the US Billboard 200 charts. The eleven tracks on Dusty In Memphis were cover versions, including Just A Little Lovin,’ Son of A Preacher Man and Breakfast In Bed. For A Brand New Me, the ten tracks would all be written by the same production team. This included six tracks penned by Gamble and Huff.

For A Brand New Me, Gamble and Huff were involved either together, or with other songwriting partners, in each of the ten tracks. Gamble and Huff contributed four tracks, Let’s Get Together Soon, Silly, Silly, Fool, The Star of The Show and Let’s Talk It Over. They cowrote Lost with Jerry Butler and Never Love Again with legendary Philly guitarist Roland Chambers. Roland cowrote Bad Case of The Blues and Let Me In Your Way with Kenny Gamble.  Kenny Gamble then joined Thom Bell and Jerry Butler to write Brand New Me, then with Norman Harris and Allan Felder, Kenny cowrote Joe. This meant Gamble and Huff who’d produce A Brand New Me had played some part in writing then ten tracks. For the recording of A Brand New Me, this would take place at Joe Tarsia’s Sigma Sound Studios, which had been founded in 1968. In later years, Sigma Sound Studios would become a home-from-home for Gamble and Huff, where they recorded all the great Philadelphia International Records’ recordings.

At Sigma Sound Studios, for the recording of A Brand New Me, Dusty Springfield was accompanied by what an early lineup of M.F.S.B, Philadelphia International Records’ legendary house-band. This included a rhythm section of Baker, Harris, Young and guitarist Roland Chambers. Vince Montana Jr, played vibes and Ugene Dozier piano. They were joined by Don Renaldo and His String Section and Sam Reed and His Horn Section. Arrangers included Roland Chambers, Thom Bell and Bobby Martin. Producing A Brand New Me were Gamble and Huff, which was released in November 1970.

Before the release of A Brand New Me in November 1970, the title-track A Brand New Me, was released as a single. It reached number twenty-four in the US Billboard 100, which would be Dusty’s last top forty single until 1976. Silly, Silly, Fool stalled at number seventy-six in the US Billboard 100. On the release of A Brand New Me, it only reached number 107 in the US Billboard 200. Although this was disappointing, it meant A Brand New Me had nearly matched the success of the classic Dusty In Memphis. However, is A Brand New Me also a classic album from Dusty Springfield? That’s what I’ll tell you.

A Brand New Me opens with Lost, a title which is almost poignant, given Dusty’s later life. It was penned by Gamble and Huff with Jerry Butler and arranged by Thom Bell. Norman Harris’ guitar weaves its way across the arrangement as Baker, Harris, Young join a Hammond organ, quivering strings and rasping horns. Having set the scene for Dusty, her vocal is tinged with sadness and confusion although hope shines through. Urgent harmonies and dramatic drums reflect the emotion in her vocal. It’s as if the combination of a tight, slick band and some emotive lyrics inspire Dusty to greater heights of soulfulness.

Bad Case of The Blues sees the tempo slow, but no let up in the emotion. Dusty unleashes a vocal that’s one part passion, pain and power. With just Vince Montana Jr’s vibes, growling horns, piano and keyboards combining Dusty’s tender, soulful vocal quickly, grows in power and emotion. Baker, Harris, Young provide an understated heartbeat. Ron Baker’s bass helping drive the meandering arrangement. Cooing, sweeping harmonies match Dusty all the way for soulfulness, as she delivers one of her most impassioned and heartfelt vocals, with blazing horns for company.

Never Love Again was written by Gamble and Huff with guitarist Roland Chambers Tender and wistful describes Dusty’s vocal, with just Ron Baker’s bass and Norman Harris’ guitar for company. Strings sweep and swirl, reflecting the emotion and hurt in Dusty’s vocal. Horns growl and drums pound, adding to the drama, as Dusty lays bare her soul and hurt for all to see and hear.

Vince Montana Jr’s vibes and shimmering strings combine as Let Me In Your Way unfolds. Roland Chambers’ arrangement is understated, allowing Dusty’s pleading, needy vocal to take centre-stage. The lushest of shivering, swirling strings are the perfect accompaniment for Dusty’s pleading, needy vocal. They add a sense of urgency and drama. So do the urgent harmonies. Wistful horns, vibes and an acoustic guitar, provide a contrast and reflect the beauty and hope in Dusty’s vocal.

Let’s Get Together Soon closes Side One of A Brand New Me. Just Norman Harris’ guitar, Earl Young’s thoughtful drums and lush cascading strings accompany Dusty. Her vocal is filled hope and longing. Backing vocalists answer her call, reinforcing her longing. Baker, Harris, Young provide the heartbeat, while strings sweep and swirl. Flourishes of piano and Vince Montana Jr’s vibes combine, as Dusty’s vocal grows in power, passion and hopefulness.

Brand New Me opens Side Two of A Brand New Me. Just Baker, Harris, Young join keyboards and lush strings. Dusty’s vocal starts of melancholy and wistful, before hope and happiness shines through. Norman Harris adds one of his trademark guitar lines, before Baker, Harris, Young ensure the arrangement swings along. Horns kick, strings swirl and harmonies match Dusty for emotion and joy.

Norman Harris, Allan Felder and Kenny Gamble cowrote Joe, which Thom Bell arranged Rolls of drums, cascading strings and pensive horns set the scene for Dusty. Vince Montana Jr, sprinkles his vibes as Dusty’s hurt-filled vocal enters. She’s lost and confused: “searching here and there, everywhere for Joe.” As Dusty’s vocal fills with hurt, pain and heartache, the arrangement grows in power. Baker, Harris, Young, melancholy horns and heartbroken backing vocals play their part. They help make this one of the highlights of A Brand New Me.

Silly, Silly, Fool sees Dusty kick loose. Spurred on, M.F.S.B. deliver one of their best performances. This is a side of Dusty I’d have liked to hear more of. It also allows the band to stretch themselves. Baker, Harris, Young provide the a pounding heartbeat, that drives the arrangement along. Strings dance, horns growl and Dusty’s vocal mixes power and passion. Testifying backing vocalists feed off Dusty, and like M.F.S.B, drive each other to greater heights of sheer soulfulness.

Dramatic. That’s the only way to describe the introduction to The Star of The Show. Piano and Ron Baker’s bass provide a moody, dramatic backdrop. Strings quiver, harmonies soar and Dusty delivers heartfelt sincere vocal. Baker, Harris, Young join quivering strings, piano and melodramatic, deliberate harmonies. By the end of the track, Dusty and her backing vocalists have built up the drama and tension.

Let’s Talk It Over closes A Brand New Me. The arrangement bursts into life. Baker, Harris, Young, dancing strings and dramatic harmonies combine. They pass the baton to Dusty. Sensing the urgency, she delivers a sweeping vocal, where power, passion and urgency combine. Soon, horns rasp, strings dance, the rhythm section add drama and gospel tinged harmonies combine. Dusty can’t fail to respond to such an inspirational arrangement, and does so, closing A Brand New Me on a high. 

After heading to Memphis for her previous album, Dusty In Memphis, Dusty Springfield headed to Philly, which was about to become the most important city in soul music. In Philly, Dusty teamed up with Gamble and Huff, plus some of the most talented songwriters and arrangers, plus an early lineup of M.F.S.B. This was the perfect backdrop for Dusty and was no Dusty in Memphis Part 2. Quite the opposite. This was ten new songs, written for Dusty. For her part, Dusty would produce a series of emotive, heartfelt and sometimes, inspired vocals. Everyone who worked on A Brand New Me must have felt Dusty Springfield was an enigmatic performer.

While A Brand New Me was one of  Dusty’s two great albums, sometimes she doesn’t come across as a particularly enthusiastic vocalist. Granted,  Brand New Me was much better than her music pre-Dusty In Memphis. Similarly, A Brand New Me was much better than anything that Dusty would go on to produce. During A Brand New Me, Dusty only really unleashes an enthusiastic, inspired performance on The Star of The Show and A Brand New Me. She truly is The Star of The Show on these songs. On other songs, Dusty is much more reserved. Sometimes, you just wish  Dusty would give more of herself. She never really throws herself into the songs, unleashing their and her potential. Possibly, once A Brand New Me was finished, everyone involved in the project must have wondered whether Dusty could’ve given more of herself? In many ways, that would be a problem that followed Dusty throughout her career. Although Dusty Springfield had so much talent and potential, she only ever produced two great albums. These were Dusty In Memphis and A Brand New Me, where she was given a Philly Soul makeover. Standout Tracks: Bad Case of The Blues, Let Me In Your Way, Joe and The Star of The Show.


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