A fascinating glimpse into an otherwise overlooked period in DeShannon’s career.
Jackie DeShannon released more than a dozen albums for Liberty and its Imperial imprint from 1963 to 1970, scoring massive hits with “Put a Little Love in Your Heart” and “What the World Needs Now is Love.” Her brief move to Capitol Records resulted in just a single album and failed to produce even a modicum of the success she saw at her previous label. Stone Cold Soul: The Complete Capitol Recordings of Jackie DeShannon collects the 1971 album Songs along with rejected Memphis sessions produced by Chips Moman, offering a reappraisal of DeShannon’s post-Liberty/Imperial year.
For the most part recorded in Memphis, Stone Cold Soul borrows heavily from the aesthetic laid out by Dusty Springfield on Dusty in Memphis (1969). Given the shot in the arm that album gave to Springfield’s career, it’s clear that Capitol was hoping for Jackie in Memphis, going so far as to bring in Moman, who produced Elvis Presley’s From Elvis in Memphis. Unhappy with the results, however, the proposed album was scrapped, only to be reconfigured and augmented with sessions recorded in Hollywood. Despite this, all but the closest of listeners would be hard-pressed to differentiate what was recorded where.
Indeed, so much of Stone Cold Soul exemplifies the Memphis sound favored by Springfield, Presley, and countless others, that it may as well have been solely the product of the storied city. Sticking with the blue-eyed soul template firmly established on “Put a Little Love in Your Heart,” DeShannon sounds laid back and comfortable in the relatively skeletal arrangements, sitting back within the mix and never overshadowing the sympathetic instrumentation and raw production. The slight rasp in her voice does wonders on a track like “They Got You Boy” with its mix of southern soul and west coast sophisti-pop. Similarly, the piano-driven “West Virginia Mine” allows a slight twang to creep in alongside her vocal burr, imbuing the narrative with the feel of “Son of a Preacher Man.” Hell, she even goes full gospel with a rousing read of “Down by the Riverside.”
“Seven Years from Yesterday” borrows a page from the Nashville playbook, creating a countrypolitan-Hollywood hybrid that, thanks to Moman’s work behind the board, sounds every bit the offspring of From Elvis in Memphis. Despite a handful of clear reference points like this, the bulk of Stone Cold Soul feels nicely of a piece, the contrasting recording locations managing to play nice throughout. Even a light-weight track like “Johnny Joe from California” stands up against far stronger fare like her take on Van Morrison’s “And it Stoned Me” – sounding for all the world like a cross between Springfield and Bobbie Gentry – and Dylan’s “Lay Lady, Lay,” rechristened “Lay Baby, Lay.”
While not nearly as essential as its spiritual forebears, this is a fascinating glimpse into an otherwise overlooked period in DeShannon’s career. Had Capitol not changed its mind about the Chips Moman-produced project, that album could well have stood toe-to-toe with Dusty in Memphis or From Elvis in Memphis. Stone Cold Soul offers up an alternate history for those willing to dig a little deeper.