Gillespie made a name for herself as a model, a protege of Davie Bowie, and ultimately as a world-class blues singer. But her debut album, released in the U.S. on London Records in 1968, and left undistributed in the UK until this first-ever CD reissue, is anchored more to the folk, pop and light-psych of swinging London than to her later conquests. Together with producer Wayne Bickerton and arranger Mike Vickers (the talented multi-instrumentalist of Manfred Mann's original line-up), Gillespie penned several originals, as well as picking superb material from Donovan and Billy Nicholls, and arresting selections by Americans Jeff Barry, Andy Kim and Richard Farina.
The album kicks off with Jimmy Page's scorching rhythm guitar lick and a bubbling bassline on Donovan's "You Just Gotta Know My Mind," perfect accompaniment for Gillespie's sassy doubled vocals and a mod organ solo. A superb pair of tunes from Billy Nicholls', "Life is Short" and "London Social Degree" showcase the ornate orchestral pop gaining favor in the hands of Brian Wilson, Gary Usher, Curt Boettcher and others. The arrangements surround Gillespie with drums, guitars and bass, decorated by light-psych arrays of horns and strings. Gillespie's future as a chanteuse can be heard in half-spoken, half-sung blues groove of "Dead," and Richard Farina's "Hard Lovin' Loser" is as much blues as the original was folk.
Rev-Ola's reissue includes the album's original dozen tracks, song-by-song notes from Gillespie, and eye-catching photos of the photogenic former model. It would have been great to have her pre-LP singles on Pye as bonus tracks, but their absence is merely a quibble for a CD that faithfully reproduces one of the late-60s more obscure treasures. Let's hope her follow-up ("Box of Surprises") and subsequent pair of LPs for RCA ("Weren't Born a Man" and "Ain't Gonna Play No Second Fiddle") are next on Rev-Ola's docket. [©2006 hyperbolium dot com]