Jackie DeShannon – When You Walk In the Room (Rock Beat) CD review
DeShannon’s first new record in over ten years works on a couple different levels. On one hand, When You Walk In the Room plays like an easy-going greatest hits collection, with acoustic run-throughs of her most famous songs, like “What the World Needs Now is Love,” and “Put a Little Love in Your Heart.” But, more importantly, it serves as an audio biography, showcasing many different aspects of the pioneering singer/songwriter’s career.
It’s eye-opening just how many songs she was a part of. DeShannon was the first to take a stab at the classic “Needles and Pins,” (later a hit for the British band the Searchers). She also wrote “When You Walk In the Room,” (another Searchers hit), and songs for Brenda Lee (“Heart in Hand”), the Byrds (“Don’t Doubt Yourself Babe”), and even Marianne Faithful (“Come and Stay With Me”). Most surprisingly is the inclusion of “Bette Davis Eyes” – Kim Carnes made it the biggest hit of 1981, yet DeShannon co-wrote the track seven years earlier. If you need more proof, she also dated Elvis and a pre-Zeppelin Jimmy Page, and toured with the Beatles during their pivotal 1964 tour of America.
A lot of time has passed since most of these songs were first on the charts. Smartly, DeShannon doesn’t attempt to copy the tracks’ original arrangements. Instead, backed mostly by acoustic guitar, she gives stripped-down versions that are closer to the way these songs sounded when they first came out of her guitar all those years ago. Especially good is her take on “What the World Needs Now” – gone is the wide-eyed pleading of her youth, replaced by a sadness in the fact that few took her advice back then. When You Walk In the Room shows long-time fans that Jackie still has the goods to tackle her familiar favorites. But, it also provides the strongest case of any album she’s done, for this underappreciated artist to be taken more seriously. –Tony Peters