Over a year after recording the ultimately well received classic 1969 album Dusty in Memphis, British pop icon Dusty Springfield recorded its follow-up in Philadelphia with production team Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff. This reissue of the 1970 album pulls together the work Springfield, Gamble, and Huff recording in September 1969 with an additional session produced and unreleased as a follow-up in February 1970. The Complete Philadelphia Sessions – A Brand New Me offers a fresh take on both sets of recording sessions, Springfield’s original album released, and the influence of Springfield, Gamble, and Huff in pop music history.
The first sessions in September 1969 resulted in a strong set of tracks released as A Brand New Me, but Atlantic Records management were not as impressed as with its predecessor Dusty in Memphis. A month later, in February 1970, Springfield went back into the studio in Philadelphia for an additional recording session, but five songs recorded then did not see release for nearly 30 years, and then only as bonus and additional tracks on CD reissues. This reissue does not add more music to Springfield’s posthumous catalog, but instead compiles the quality of influences, songs, and production, taken by a large set of musicians and arrangers in 1969 and 1970.
The original A Brand New Me followed Dusty in Memphis closely, released less than six months later, then the second session in February 1970, before Springfield returned to the UK for another set of sessions. The Complete Philadelphia Sessions further represents the monumental level of work Springfield, and all those involved in the production put into writing and recording new music. It was a prolific time period for Springfield, and this collection represents the quality of recordings, those originally released and later included on reissues.
The Complete Philadelphia Sessions may not find new audiences or admirers of Springfield’s legacy, perhaps suffering from the inclusion of only one previously unreleased track, but its compilation is a clearly careful effort. The album documents and reissues A Brand New Me, but presents Springfield’s work with Gamble and Huff and the production teams in Philadelphia completely, combining both sessions into a cohesive set of tracks that give no indication of a separation of six months.
Standout tracks include “Never Love Again” and “The Richest Girl Alive”, with both featuring alternatively powerful deliveries by Springfield. She’s emotional on the latter and joyful on the second, a giving presence for her range and investment in the material presented for her recording by the vast array of musicians that contributed to the record. The April 1970 single “I Wanna Be a Free Girl” is still a powerful ballad, represents the second set of sessions well, and the impact of compiling both sessions into one album. Finally, the unreleased and recently discovered track “Sweet Charlie” is evocative and perfectly concludes the compilation. It’s fun lyrically and the music is arranged lightly with emotional depth. The song tapers off, unfortunately giving a softer finish than the strength of album opener “Brand New Me”.
A Brand New Me continued Dusty Springfield’s foray into American R&B and soul, and the title track was a hit in the charts at #3 in late 1969, but after the album’s release, its similar success would be her last chart success for over a decade and a half. Springfield’s strong vocal contributions and career influences rebounded following the release of Reputation (1990), but she died in 1999. Nearly two decades later, Dusty Springfield’s recordings and albums deserve reflection. The Complete Philadelphia Sessions – A Brand New Me offers insight into her work and output through the composition of the two recording sessions she completed in 1969 and 1970. The concerted effort to place those sessions into a cohesive reissue is valuable and enjoyable.