Author: Jackie Deshannon

Audio CD (September 27, 2011)

Label: Rockbeat Records  



We’ve all heard those TV ads promoting albums featuring “the original songs by the original artists!” In recent years, many of those performers who had major hits back in the day are still doing their original songs, but they’re re-working them, usually in scaled-down, more intimate musical settings that reflect changing tastes of both the artist and their audience 

In the case of Jackie Deshannon, we’re talking about a singer/songwriter who has participated in many shifts in tastes throughout her career. Even before recording her own hits, she co-wrote songs for the likes of Brenda Lee, The Fleetwoods and the Byrds. She didn’t write her first minor hit, “Needles and Pins,” but saw it covered by a British Invasion band, The Searchers.   In 1965, her most famous song was written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David, "What the World Needs Now Is Love." But her own compositions fared quite nicely as well, including “Put a Little Love In Your Heart” and “When You Walk in the Room." Others had big hits with her songs, most notably with the 1981 Kim Carne’s interpretation of “Bette Davis Eyes”—a major re-tooling of Deshannon’s original—that resulted in a Grammy for the songwriter. Irma Thomas and Tracey Ullman both scored with Deshannon’s "Breakaway." On and on . . .

All of these songs are among the 11 selections on Deshannon’s new, acoustic When You Walk in the Room. Of course, the melodies remain the same as the originals, no matter if recorded first by Deshannon or others. It’s a delight to hear Deshannon’s low-register delivery is as strong and vibrant as it was back in her heyday. But her self-retrospective is a collection with fresh interpretations, and it all sounds like she’s performing the set in your living room and not on a remote stage. The principal instrument is Deshannon’s own guitar, the only other credited performer being fellow guitarist Steve Luxenberg. While not entirely a one-woman show, Deshannon even co-produced the set.

As a result, When You Walk in the Room is a low-key, personal, gentle trip down memory lane with the emphasis on the singer and the song, not lush, poppy orchestra and band backgrounds. There’s almost a demo feel to some of the tracks, especially with the occasional snaps on a snare drum, but this is probably only noticeable to those who have those original versions still stuck in our heads. So this is a “greatest hits revisited” collection that needs to be played several times—at least once to allow the listeners to make our internal compare/contrasts between old and new recordings, and then a second time to simply appreciate where Jackie Deshannon—to borrow a phrase from the old days—is at now. The message hasn’t changed—the world still needs love and Deshannon still knows how to put it in your heart.

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