Jackie DeShannon is best remembered today as the composer of Kim Carnes’ huge 1981 Grammy winning hit “Bette Davis Eyes” which spent over two months at the top of The American singles charts and was the number two ranked single of the entire decade.
She has released numerous albums and singles during the course of her almost five decades career including the top ten hits “What The World Needs Now Is Love” and “Put A Little Love In Your Heart.” Her music quickly developed into slick, well produced pop which fit her wonderful clear voice well.
Her 1963 self titled debut album has now been re-released by Collector’s Choice Music. It is very different from all the other albums in her vast catalogue as it finds her trying to capitalize on the folk revival movement of the early sixties. Her original intent was to issue an entire album of Bob Dylan covers but instead she settled for three of his songs plus nine other traditional and contemporary folk tunes.
The best of the Dylan compositions is “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright” where she eschews any background vocals and gives a gritty and sincere vocal performance. “Walkin’ Down The Line” is about as pop as she gets on this release as she speeds up the tempo and uses a number of background singers to fill in the sound. “Blowin’ In The Wind” has now been covered by countless artists and while her version may have sounded fresh in 1963, today it is regulated to the average category.
While The Weavers originally recorded “If I Had A Hammer,” it is now associated with Peter, Paul & Mary and her take on the song is similar to theirs. She also adds a little pop leaning to their “Puff (The Magic Dragon)” as well.
Two traditional folk songs fare well under her gentle touch. “500 Miles” and the old Celtic ballad “Betsy From Pike” are both delivered in a poignant and haunting manner.
Jackie DeShannon turned out to be the road less taken as far as her career was concerned. As such it remains an interesting and still highly listenable album 46 years after its initial release.