There’s no doubt about it. DUSTY SPRINGFIELD was the finest female soul singer the British Isles has ever produced. Honest and totally committed, Dusty’s soulfulness flowed naturally. She had an instantly identifiable style and even hard-nosed American musos (the great Jerry Wexler included) accepted that the girl from Ealing was the equal of any of their home grown soul sisters.

The reasons are complex and impossible to define, but one thing is evident; Mary Isabelle O’Brien loved soul music and had done since 1962 when she heard the Exciters’ ‘Tell Him’ blasting out of a record store on Broadway. She was transfixed and instantly began a personal odyssey of immersing herself in the music of Black America… reinterpreting it in her own special way.

UK reissue specialist Ace Records have just issued a splendid 25 track collection of songs that inspired and encouraged Dusty throughout her career. ‘DUSTY HEARD THEM FIRST’ features the original versions of songs that Ms S made familiar on her albums, EPs and singles.

Soul collectors will be familiar with most of the material… stuff like The Velvelettes’ ‘Needle In A Haystack’, Marvin Gaye’s ‘Can I Get A Witness (Dusty was a huge Motown fan, of course), Aretha’s ‘Won’t Be Long’ and Barbara Acklin’s ‘Am I The Same Girl’. But there’s plenty here that’s a tad more esoteric and certainly less well known – like folk singer Norma Tanega’s ‘No Stranger Am I’ (Norma was Dusty’s long term partner), Chi Coltrane’s ‘Turn Me Around’ and country singer K T Oslin’s ‘Where Is A Woman To Go’… ultra poignant that one, and one of the last songs that Dusty recorded. Standouts abound but top pick is the Honeybees’ original waxing of Goffin and King’s ‘Some Of Your Loving’. Dusty defined the song of course but here the Cookies’ alter ego turn in another wonderful soulful performance.

DUSTY HEARD THEM HERE FIRST is out now on Ace Records.