Jackie DeShannon

by: Jackie DeShannon

Given Jackie DeShannon's estimable talents as a songwriter and her sure, confident command of pop, rock & roll, and rhythm & blues as a vocalist, it seems curious that when she was given her first chance to make a full-length album in 1963, it was a folk music set without a single new song. DeShannon has said her original idea for the album was to record a dozen Bob Dylan songs, which would have been a bold move only a few months after the release of The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan, but her record company rejected the idea; instead, she covered three Dylan tunes along with a number of selections familiar to folks who followed the more commercial end of the '60s folk scene of the day, including "If I Had a Hammer," "500 Miles," "Puff the Magic Dragon," and "Baby Let Me Follow You Down" (the latter somewhat bowdlerized, though DeShannon's playful delivery compensates for the innuendo stripped from the lyrics). There's just enough grain in DeShannon's voice to cut the sweetness of some of the sappier numbers on this set (though she slightly overplays the pathos of "500 Miles"), and she handles the Dylan songs and "Jailer Bring Me Water" (written by Bobby Darin during his flirtation with folk music) with intelligence and maturity. The production is a bit too glossy to suit the material, especially with the frequent use of vocal choruses, but Jack Nitzsche's musical arrangements give the melodies strong, subtle support and the album boasts an emotional resonance that sets it apart from most of the singers that sought to take commercial advantage of the '60s folk scare before the arrival of the Beatles and Dylan's embrace of rock & roll thinned out the herd. Stylistically, Jackie DeShannon stands apart from the singer's later work, but it confirms she was a gifted interpretive singer who could handle the work of other songwriters as well as her own. ~ Mark Deming

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