If there has ever been an uglier coinage than "Earbooks", Universal's name for its latest compilation series, I have yet to hear it. An Earbook is, in this case, a four CD-collection accompanied by a hardback coffee-table book stuffed with photos, biographical details, and track annotations: an odd format, neither fish nor fowl, but not hopeless when bestowed upon the likes of Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, The Police or The Jam. The best of this first batch of Earbooks, however, is this comprehensive account of Dusty Springfield's career, ranging from juvenilia like "(Seven Little Girls) Sitting on the Back Seat" to her comeback collaborations with The Pet Shop Boys. It reveals her as not just the greatest white female soul singer of her era, but probably the greatest female pop singer of all time. Even when her producer or arranger's grasp on the tiller was shaky, Dusty came up with the goods, whatever mismatched setting they fitted her up with: her talent was sharp enough to cut through the crap and pierce your heart, regardless.
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