This exhaustive and expensive box set is obviously aimed at Dusty Springfield completists – it’s hard to imagine the casual fan shelling out £120 – and puts this reviewer in something of a quandary. Given that most of the music contained on the four CDs included has already been released on a much cheaper box set – that also comes with a hardcover book – then it has to be the new content – the packaging, the new books and most importantly the 3 DVDs – that will make or break this as something worth upgrading to. However, as a reviewer, I simply had to download the tracks – understandable, as UMC were hardly likely to hand over complete copies of such a lavish collection, but it does mean that effectively, I’m reviewing a 4CD collection, and inevitably asking why this is any different from the edition already out there for a quarter of the price of this collection.
So anyway, let’s look at the music first – what we have here is an exhaustive retrospective of one of the best voices of the Sixties, with some of the best pop, soul and easy listening tunes you’ll ever here, delivered with such effortless excellence that it fair takes your breath away. The first disc has the stuff you’re most likely to already own, namely the hit singles – although there are less well known mono versions of many songs, and it’s thorough enough to go through to Springfield’s later works with the likes of The Pet Shop Boys on the bouncy and defiant Reputation. It’s astonishing numbers like I Only Want to be With You, I Just Don’t Know What to Do With Myself, Some of Your Lovin’, Little By Little, the haunting Goin’ Back and the soulful Son of a Preacher Man that stand out most though – timeless classics that should be part of any self-respecting record collection.
Disco Two has rarities, alternate versions and remixes – with fantastic numbers like Can I Get a Witness sitting alongside less impressive numbers like Summer Love, it’s less of a sold collection than the hits, naturally, but still an impressive collection.
Disc 3 features ‘live’ recordings from Springfield’s BBC TV shows, mostly covering popular hits and standards like Angel of the Morning and Windmills of Your Mind. These weren’t recorded for CD release, and the quality is decidedly muddy mono, but there’s no faulting the performances, and the spoken intros are a nice bonus.
The fourth disc is a collection of songs from movies and stage shows – including a longer version of the astonishingly seductive version of The Look of Love (there are two other versions of the track in this collection), the always-impressive Spooky and the later Scandal theme tune, Nothing Has Been Proved.
So, on the basis of the music alone, I have no hesitation in recommending this – unless, of course, you already have the much cheaper CD only version. I’ll go out on a limb and assume the three DVDs are of a similar standard, and that the box, the books, the canvas print that comes with the version available exclusively from Universal and all the rest are of an equally high standard, and that this is – as the title claims – as definitive a collection as you’ll ever find. In any case, this is the most essential collection of the year, and one way or another, you should own all this music.