Reviewed on this page:
Presenting Dionne Warwick - Anyone Who Had A Heart - Make Way For Dionne Warwick - The
Sensitive Sound Of Dionne Warwick - In Paris - Here I Am - Here Where There Is Love - On Stage And In The Movies -
The Windows Of The World - Valley
Of The Dolls - Promises, Promises - Soulful - I'll
Never Fall In Love Again - Very Dionne -
Dionne (1972) - Just Being Myself -
The Dionne Warwicke Story: A Decade Of Gold -
From Within - Only Love Can Break A Heart -
Then Came You - Track
Of The Cat - Love
At First Sight - Dionne (1979) - No Night So Long - Hot! Live And
Otherwise - Friends In Love - Heartbreaker - How Many Times Can We Say Goodbye - Finder Of Lost Loves - Friends -
Reservations For Two - Sings Cole Porter - Friends
Can Be Lovers - Aquarela Do Brasil - Dionne Sings
Dionne - My Favorite Time Of The Year -
My Friends & Me - Why We Sing -
Only Trust Your Heart - Now
Dionne Warwick damaged her image shilling for the now-bankrupt
Psychic Friends Network, and since oldies radio rarely programs her stellar 1960s hits (for no good reason I can determine) her enormous talent is largely overlooked today. Though Warwick had a background singing in a family gospel group, her rise to fame began when she encountered the music/lyrics team of Burt Bacharach and Hal David, who used her initially on demos, and finally started cutting her on her own.
They hit the jackpot, as Warwick showed she could handle
anything thrown at her, and soon she was their primary
vehicle not only for rhythmic numbers like "Wishing And Hoping" and
"Walk On By," but also for sophisticated pop like "Do You Know The Way
To San José?" It was a perfect match: Warwick's flexible, subtle,
always convincing voice made Bacharach/David's songs seem better than
they were, while Bacharach's tricky, elegant melodies made Warwick seem
like a better singer than she was. Predictably, neither has had anything
like the same success since they parted ways in the early 70s - Warwick
has cranked out numerous albums over the past thirty-five years, and I
don't think any of them are really worth the trouble, except a mid-90s samba-inspired effort and a 2004 Christmas record.
The key 60s albums can sound very dated today: Bacharach's style can be
bombastic, and the more overwrought numbers are pure Broadway excess,
while David's lyrics are often characterless love songs, sometimes comically dated ("Wives & Lovers"). But don't
settle for a greatest hits collection: Bacharach had an incredible knack
for melody, and when he was paying attention he was a careful,
Just for fun, I've compared songs sung by Warwick, Aretha Franklin and Diana
Ross on our Diva Demolition Derby page.
Presenting Dionne Warwick (1963)
Her debut collects the hit "Don't Make Me Over," with Warwick's
commanding vocal belying her youth, plus two less-successful followups:
"This Empty Place" is a typically brilliant, wistful Bacharach/David
effort, while "Make The Music Play" is less distinctive, closer to early
Bacharach work like "Baby It's
You" or "The Blob." The B-side to "This Empty Place," the catchy
"Wishing And Hoping," became a huge hit when Dusty Springfield covered
it. Warwick's version of "Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah" is outstanding: her
melancholy approach and the tough female backing vocals make the trivial
Disney tune into something soulful. There are three
Bacharach/David compositions earlier recorded by others:
"It's Love That Really Counts" (Shirelles), "The Love Of A Boy" (the
unheralded Timi Yuro), "Make It Easy On Yourself" (Jerry Butler). The
arrangements and song structures are mostly conventional R&B-laced pop
("I Cry Alone"), with only the melodies, some of the lyrics, and Warwick
taking it out of the realm of the ordinary. Thanks to the stinginess of
Scepter Records, the five best tracks of the twelve here were recycled
on later albums, and in addition Dionne rerecorded "Make It Easy," so
despite its historical value you probably shouldn't pay too much for
this one. (DBW)
Anyone Who Had A Heart (1964)
The quality of the recording and complexity of the arrangements (this
time strings are featured on most tracks) takes a big leap forward here.
The dramatic title track (in 5/4 time, no less) was her first Top Ten
single. No other singles are included, but, as would be the case
with most of her 60s work, the album tracks are equally rewarding: "Any
Old Time Of Day" combines a slippery melody, an artful arrangement (with
triangle and strings equally prominent) and an elegant lead vocal; "I
Could Make You Mine" has a cleverly confused lyric that Warwick puts
across wonderfully; "Shall I Tell Her," which Bacharach didn't even
write (it was by Atlantic stalwarts Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman) gets a
breathless delivery that brings out the drama in the lyric. "Mr.
Heartbreak" is a routine bubblegum love song that's probably the
record's low point, but Warwick sings so well it's still listenable.
Three tracks were reused from the previous record: "Don't Make Me Over,"
"I Cry Alone" and "This Empty Place." (DBW)
Make Way For Dionne Warwick (1964)
An amusing cover - with three pictures of Warwick in a padded sequin
gown, she looks like a one-woman Supremes.
The Motown influence is also present throughout the R&B second side
("Get Rid Of Him"), which includes two more songs from Warwick's
debut - "Wishing And Hoping" and "I Smiled Yesterday" - plus the lovely
"You'll Never Get To Heaven (If You Break My Heart)." The big hit is
"Walk On By," which puts together an unusual rhythm (3 + 3 + 2), an
unforgettable melody, and a moving vocal performance - it may be the
quintessential Bacharach/Warwick combination. The first side is
Broadway-style, but the melodies make it bearable ("(They Long To Be)
Close To You"), and Warwick's delivery makes it worth hearing ("A House
Is Not A Home"), despite some unfortunate selections ("People").
The Sensitive Sound Of Dionne Warwick (1965)
On the cheesy side, with a Peggy Lee cover ("Where Can I Go Without
You") and the over-the-top "Only The Strong, Only The Brave." But again,
the arrangements are creative ("How Many Days Of Sadness"), the melodies
are always worth hearing ("Don't Say I Didn't Tell You So"). and Warwick's so
believable she even pulls off the Sinatra vehicle "Wives & Lovers," with
atrocious David lyrics. Then there's "Is There Another Way To Love You,"
which shifted between waltz time and 4/4 years before "Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds." There's a lot of orchestration here (including a
cover of "Unchained Melody"); pretty much the only nod to R&B is Bill
Cook's "You Can Have Him." No hit singles, but if you like Warwick at
all you'll want to have this. (DBW)
In Paris (1966)
A live album with only a couple of her own hits ("Walk On By," "Message To Michael") - most of the album
is devoted to winning over the French crowd, with tunes like Edith Piaf's signature "Le Vie En Rose,"
Cole Porter's "I Love Paris" and "Se Si Bon." Even two of her hits are rendered in French: "You'll Never Get To Heaven" and
"A House Is Not A Home." She carries it all off with her trademark elegance, and the pristine sound quality (surprising for
a 1966 live release) doesn't hurt.
Contrasted with all the supper club tunes,
her credible cover of Ray Charles's "What'd I Say" is all the more impressive.
The only real loser is an insipid duet with Sacha Distel ("O Yeah Yeah Yeah").
The unusual set list makes the disc more interesting than most live albums,
but for Warwick's typical live show during her prime you'll have to track down The Dionne Warwicke Story.
Here I Am (1966)
A classic album with no hits: the concurently released "Message To
Michael" was relegated to a greatest hits package, and the title track (from the What's New Pussycat? soundtrack) didn't chart. It's worth hunting
down because this is where Bacharach moved past the Broadway
showstoppers of the previous release into his own realm of light,
lovely, orchestrated compositions. The title track, "In Between The
Heartaches," "Don't Go Breaking My Heart" (later covered by Aretha Franklin) and "Window Wishing"
are all breathtaking. In fact, you may want to have a respirator on
hand. David's lyrics hadn't caught up yet, but he did manage to avoid
the usual romantic clichés. The ethereal mood is confounded by
the inclusion of the gospel tune "This Little Light," with Warwick on
piano - otherwise there's almost no sign of the earlier rock and R&B
influences. "Are You There (With Another Girl)?" is also in a more
ordinary vein, though memorably delivered by Warwick. (DBW)
Here Where There Is Love (1967)
Bacharach and David fine-tuned their new mix of angelic music and
non-romantic lyrics, and they were rewarded with a ton of hit
singles: "Alfie," "I Don't Know What To Do With Myself," and
"Trains And Boats And Planes," plus her version of "What The World Needs
Now Is Love." Whew. And "I Never Knew What You Were Up To," a lovely,
sinuous shuffle. So why is it that I find this album less satisfying
than its predecessor? It's not just her version of "Blowin' In The Wind" - I think
overall, the soothing/stirring ratio is too high for my taste, and I
enjoy many of the album tracks on Here I Am more than the hits
here. That said, it's a fine introduction to Warwick's expressive
interpretations of Bacharach's melodies and arrangements, with perhaps
David's best lyrics ever. (DBW)
On Stage And In The Movies (1967)
As Bacharach and David's music became increasingly complex, the Broadway
covers were sounding more and more out of place. This time, they cut
this album, made up exclusively of show tunes, which they surrounded with
several albums consisting almost solely of their own compositions. All
the arrangements are by Bacharach, and several are noteworthy: "The Way
You Look Tonight," "He Loves Me" and "I Believe In You" are uptempo
jazz, which Warwick sounds completely comfortable with; "You'll Never
Walk Alone" is beautifully overdone; while "Something Wonderful" is left
uncluttered. Warwick shows off her range on a dramatic reading of the
Gershwins' "Summertime." Though there's some silliness ("Baubles,
Bangles & Beads"), it's mostly engaging; the only real dud is Irving
Berlin's "Anything You Can Do," a duet with Chuck Jackson that doesn't just slip
into the song's triteness - it wallows in it. Still, don't pick this up
unless you're already a fan. (DBW)
The Windows Of The World (1968)
The title track is a classic, with a pensive lyric and subtle
arrangement, and "(There's) Always Something There To Remind Me" (a
synth-pop hit in the early 80s for Naked Eyes) is just as good. The hit
"I Say A Little Prayer" is also classic, of course, but here the tempo
is rushed a bit: Aretha Franklin's cover
version brings out the emotion that's glossed over here. There's some
more Bacharach composing and arranging magic ("Another Night"), but also
some insubstantial efforts ("Walk Little Dolly") and a fair number of
covers: Warwick sings the hell out of Andre and Dory Previn's "You're
Gonna Hear From Me," but her broad, corny take on Bert Kaempfert's
ancient "Love" is unforgivable. Probably the least essential effort from
the team's peak period, and considering that, it's impressively solid.
The Magic Of Believing (1968)
A gospel album featuring the Drinkard Singers, with tunes including "Blessed Be The Name Of The Lord" and "Battle Hymn Of The Republic."
I don't know if Bacharach and David were involved; I'm guessing they weren't. (DBW)
Valley Of The Dolls (1968)
Two Top Ten singles here, the theme from the film of the same name (by
Andre Previn), and "Do You Know The Way To San José," a contender
for most perfect pop single of the whole decade. Not surprisingly, this
was her best charting album ever, and it's very solid: besides the hits,
Bacharach is in top form ("Let Me Be Lonely," "As Long As There's An
Apple Tree") and Jimmy Webb contributes "Up, Up and Away." The overdone
Vegas showstoppers are better than usual: F. Carraresi's "For The Rest
Of My Life" and the oft-recorded "Silent Voices." Not as surefire as a
couple of the earlier albums, but an easy recommendation. (DBW)
Promises, Promises (1969)
Contains the hit "This Girl's In Love With You," which was covered by
everybody in the known universe, but there's not much else here. The title
track (from the Broadway show of that name) and "Who Is Gonna Love Me"
were hits, but they're not particularly catchy, though "Promises" is
remarkable for Warwick's effortless handling of the tune's 20
meter changes. The big problem here is that Bacharach turned over most
of the album to outside arrangers Peter Matz and Don Sebeskey, who do
a workmanlike but uninspired job. The requisite howler is Bert Russell's
"Little Green Apples," where Warwick again demonstrates her unique way
with an awful lyric. Who else are you going to send up there to sing
a song that rhymes "apples" with "Indianapolis"? Nobody, that's who. (DBW)
Produced by Warwick and Chips Moman; Bacharach and David had no evident
involvement. It's all soul/R&B covers, and apparently the point was to
show she had more stylistic range than the pop tunes she'd recorded up
to this point. Though the arrangements aren't very interesting, her
vocals are: she puts a very different spin on Otis
Redding's "I've Been Loving You Too Long," making the song sound
like it was written for her, and her take on Stevie Wonder's "Loving
You Is Sweeter Than Ever" is gorgeous. A high percentage of the songs
were also recorded by Aretha Franklin ("Do
Right Woman, Do Right Man," "The
Weight," "You're All I Need To Get By"),
making comparisons inevitable, and on this material Warwick's
sophistication doesn't match up to Aretha's raw emotive power. And many
of the tunes are so familiar Warwick can't find a way to make them fresh
(Curtis Mayfield's "People Get Ready").
Still, it's fun for fans, and Warwick did prove that she could make
hits without Bacharach and David: Phil Spector's "You've Lost That
Loving Feeling" (another tune Franklin also cut) became a moderately
successful single. (DBW)
I'll Never Fall In Love Again (1970)
This is better than Promises; besides the title track (her last
hit single for several years), there's also her take on "Raindrops
Keep Falling On My Head," and the brief, dramatic "Loneliness Remembers (What Happiness
Forgets)," plus the minor hit "Let Me Go To Him." But again, the cover
tunes sound like tossoffs (Harrison's
"Something" and Paul Anka's insufferable "My Way"), and the arrangements are starting to
sound perfunctory. (DBW)
Very Dionne (1971)
Her last Scepter release of new material, and suddenly Bacharach-David (who were about
to split up) sound out of gas. They came up with just five originals,
including a stirring remake of "Make It Easy On Yourself" (the album's
only charting single), and there's a distressingly ordinary MOR quality
to the arrangements ("Check Out Time"). David's lyrics are
interestingly introspective, though sometimes uncharacteristically
labored ("They Don't Give Medals To Yesterday's Heroes"), but
Bacharach's music doesn't rise to the occasion: only "The Green Grass
Starts To Grow" has the dramatic impact we expect from the team. The
covers are even more lackluster: no one could find anything new in Lennon & McCartney's "Yesterday" by 1971,
but Warwick doesn't even try, and tunes like Paul Williams' "We've Only
Just Begun" didn't have anything new in them to begin with. Warwick's
classy take on Randazzo & Weinstein's "Going Out Of My Head" (more
recently recorded by India) is one of
the few real pleasures here. The disc has recently been re-released with a dozen bonus tracks: two duets with the dreadful B.J. Thomas, but the rest are quality live performances. (DBW)
The Dionne Warwicke Story: A Decade Of Gold (rec. 1964-1970?, rel. 1971)
Packaged like a greatest hits, but it's a generous double LP of mostly unreleased live material. Each half-hour side seems to
come from a different show (I'm guessing they're from 1964, 1966, 1968 and 1970 respectively), and collectively they cover
a ton of ground: Side A has her earliest hits, and a couple of tunes repeated from Live In Paris: "Oh Yeah Yeah Yeah" and
"What'd I Say." Side B focuses on showtunes ("Somewhere," "You And The Night And The Music"),
including a bizarrely inappropriate medley of "Thank Heaven For Little Girls," "Walk On By" and "Message To Michael."
Side C, recorded during Bacharach and David's most fertile period, is packed with major hits
("Do You Know The Way To San José") but also finds space for a wonderfully intense reading of "For
Once In My Life" and a horrific "Impersonation Medley" where Warwick mocks Diana Ross,
Pearl Bailey, and god knows who else. By Side D, Warwick had a bad case of hippieitis ("Aquarius," a medley of
"Come Together" and the Youngbloods' "Get Together"), but there are also great
performances of "This Girl's In Love With You," "Make It Easy On Yourself" and the often overlooked "Paper Mache."
The full orchestra is servicable, though they lose some of the nuances of Bacharach's original arrangements.
A mixed bag but highly recommended for fans.
From Within (rec. 1967-1971?, rel. 1973)
A collection of outtakes Scepter put together after Warwicke jumped
labels, this is most interesting as a look at what the label (or
Bacharach and David) didn't want her to release: most of the tracks are
either gospel ("Jesus Will," "Somebody Bigger Than You Or I") or social
consciousness/civil rights numbers ("Slaves," Nina Simone's "To Be Young Gifted And Black"),
which presumably Scepter wanted to keep under wraps lest she alienate
her supper club audience. As a performer, though, she doesn't really
show anything different - the same refined elegance we know and love,
which doesn't always suit the material. Several tracks are produced by
Warwick, including covers of Sly Stone's
"Stand," Jimmy Webb's "MacArthur
Park" and Joe South's "Games People Play" - the only self-produced
tracks she's released in her career, though otherwise there's nothing
distinctive about them. There are no lost Bacharach/David classics here:
their only composition is a brief introduction to "Reach Out And Touch Somebody's
Hand." Still, the two-LP, 32-song set is a good buy if you can find
it, because it contains (I believe) all the tracks from Soulful,
which is also out of print (the rating is based on the
non-Soulful tracks). (DBW)
Only Love Can Break A Heart (rec. 1963-1971?, rel. 1977)
Another album of outtakes, including a couple of Bacharach & David tunes (title track, originally recorded by
Timi Yuro). This time the theme appears to be: is there no tune so overrecorded and limp that Bacharach and Warwick cannot
redeem it? Bacharach gives bright, forceful arrangements to everything from hippy-dippy schlock ("Monday Monday") to Vegasy
schlock ("Let It Be Me"), throwing in unexpected touches like trombone solos, and Warwick elevates everything with her
dignity and poise: she treats every song as worthy of serious consideration, and you end up agreeing with her.
(To be fair, some of the tunes aren't schlock, just overfamiliar: Irving Berlin's "They Say It's Wonderful," Jimmy Webb's
It's easy to see why these tracks weren't released when Bacharach/David were at their peak, but if you're a fan
it's certainly worth a listen.
The last album with Bacharach and David, and her Warner Bros debut.
The record is low on originality, with a rerecording of "Close To You"
that didn't chart, and Warwick's version of "One Less Bell To Answer"
(originally a hit for the Fifth Dimension). Both tracks were arranged by
future fusion hero Bob James; he also arranged the closing "Hasbrook
Heights," a shockingly ordinary tune that sounds like a TV theme
and indicates the direction Bacharach was to take in the years to come.
The covers of outside writers don't fare so well either: Don Sebesky's
arrangement of Lesley Duncan's "Love Song" (originally recorded by Elton John) doesn't add any
interest, leaving it up to Warwick to try to wring emotion out of the
minimal melody. The good news is, B/D did come up with some first-rate
originals: "Be Aware," "I Just Have To Breathe," and "The Balance Of
Nature" are a bit California cool, but the compositions and arrangements
are so intricate (not to mention David's cosmic lyrics) you won't mind.
An inauspicious end to such a great partnership, but still better than
most of the albums that were to come. (DBW)
Just Being Myself (1973)
From the brief period when she spelled her last name "Warwicke,"
this was written and produced by Holland-Dozier-Holland, right after they
folded their independent labels and went back to major label work.
Future P-Funk second-stringer Ron Dunbar did
some writing and production work here. The combination could have worked,
but didn't: H-D-H abandoned their usual punchy style in favor of slow,
dull tunes with no hooks and rambling lyrics, backed by a low-key R&B
rhythm section swamped with strings. Without any substantial melodies
to sink her teeth into, Warwicke is at a loss, and the only moments of
interest are in the arrangements: the fuzz guitar line on "You're Gonna
Need Me"; the swirling Norman Whitfield-style
strings on the title track. Like almost everything she did until 1979,
this flopped. (DBW)
Then Came You (1975)
Philly soul mastermind Thom Bell produced the bouncy title track, performed with
the Spinners: it went to #1, the only hit single Warwick would have between 1970 and 1979.
The rest of the album was produced by Jerry Ragovoy, writer of several
Janis Joplin hits and, as "Norman Meade," "Time Is On
My Side." He finds a coherent pop-soul sound, showing a definite Isaac Hayes influence
("Shaft" guitar on "Move Me No Mountains"; the slow-burning funk of "How Can I Tell Him") while at times shading out to
pure Streisand-style pop ("Sure Thing"), all backed by a fluid rhythm section including Motowners Bob Babbit and Andrew
Smith, plus LeRoy Pendarvis (piano) and Jerry Friedman and Jeff Mironov
(guitars). The songs are well constructed and mostly memorable ("We'll Burn Our Bridges Behind Us"), but since the disc
seldom strays from medium tempo and Warwick stays in her mellow midrange it's never particularly rousing.
The last "Warwicke" record.
Track Of The Cat (1975)
This time Bell produced the whole disc, and wrote most of the tracks
with Linda Creed. There's one of their classic ballads, "His House And
Me," with a staggering rhythm that's vaguely like Bacharach ("Jealousy" is a more obvious BB imitation), but there
are also major lapses of taste like the discofied, mostly instrumental
title track plastered with tiger sound effects. Strings and horns are
by Bell's MFSB conglomerate, and the rhythm section features former
Motowners Bob Babbit and Andrew Smith, plus Bell on keys and Tony Bell
on guitar. (DBW)
Love At First Sight (1977)
Produced by Steve Barri and Michael Omartian, this is risk-free pop
that never offends and almost never catches your interest either. It
seems they were trying to make AM radio hits, but didn't have the
melodies for it (aside from the moving "Since You Stayed Here"), and the
record didn't crack the charts. Warwick is rather too laid-back, but the
material is so shapeless she didn't have much of a chance to start
with. There's a long list of songwriters, including two men who would be
instrumental in finally reviving her career: Barry Manilow (who wrote
"Early Morning Strangers" with Hal David) and Isaac
Hayes ("Don't Ever Take Your Love Away"). The supporting cast
includes well known sessioneers Scott
Edwards, Victor Feldman, Ed
Greene, Ray Parker Jr.,
Ernie Watts, Chuck Findley and Steve Madaio. (DBW)
I hesitate to mention this, but in 1977, Warwick also cut a duet record
with Hayes, A Man & A Woman.
Finally, a commercial comeback, even if she had to bring in Barry
Manilow to produce it. Will Jennings and Richard Kerr's dramatic ballad
"I'll Never Love This Way Again" was a big hit (and a Grammy winner),
"Deja Vu" (written by Hayes and Adrienne
Anderson) was also successful, and the album went platinum. Maybe I'm
losing my mind, but I like the record: the arrangements are no-nonsense
and not overly saccharine; the tunes are mostly effective (Rupert
Holmes' gimmicky "Who, What, When, Where, Why" is an exception) and suit
Warwick's vocals well. Things get a bit corny only on the faster
numbers, like the version of the overrecorded "The Letter" (originally
recorded by the Box Tops, later a hit for Joe
Cocker.) There are a couple of Manilow compositions, and they're not
bad: "In Your Eyes" (orchestrated by Jimmie Haskell) and "All The Time."
The band is Manilow and Bill Mays (keyboards), Rick Schlosser (drums),
Mitch Holder (guitar), Will Lee (bass) and Alan Estes (percussion).
No Night So Long (1980)
Steve Buckingham produced, and continued Manilow's course: once
again, Kerr and Jennings wrote the main single (title track), which was
a moderate hit; Hayes and Anderson contributed another soft love song,
"We Never Said Goodbye"; the mood stays mellow almost all the way
through. But there isn't the same attention to detail, or the same
consistently interesting songwriting ("Easy Love" and "We Had This Time"
are two of the more clichéd numbers here), so the record ends
up being run of the mill and unimaginative. But it's tuneful enough to
keep you going if you love Warwick's voice, though nothing here ranks
among her best performances. The band is James Stroud (drums), Tom Robb
(bass), Randy McCormick (keys), Larry Byrom (guitar) and Mickey Buckins
Hot! Live And Otherwise (1981)
A double album, three sides live and one side studio, and it's a treat
for fans. Warwick is in fine voice, belting out an enthusiastic version
of "Don't Make Me Over," careening thorugh her hit record melody (which
includes a couple of Bacharach-David tunes that weren't hits for her:
"(There's) Always Something There To Remind Me" and "Close To You"), and
putting more life into her late period hits ("Deja Vu, "I'll Never Love
This Way Again") than there was on the studio versions.
There are a couple of cover tunes thrown in: "One In A Million You" (a
hit for Larry Graham) and Earth Wind & Fire's "In The Stone." Former Diana Ross hitmaker Michael Masser produced
most of the studio side, and it's unremarkable: none of the tracks
charted as singles. Nothing particularly illuminating, but enjoyable.
Friends In Love (1982)
Unheralded producer Jay Graydon took the reins this time, and he came
up with a mix of sappy Adult Contemporary originals (two duets with
Johnny Mathis: "Got You Where I Want You" and the title track) and
well known covers (Mann & Weill's "Never Going To Let You Go,"
"Betcha By Golly Wow"). Of all of
these, Earth Wind & Fire's "Can't Hide
Love" is the only tune that draws more than a perfunctory performance
from Warwick - its sophistication matches hers. By contrast, the fade of
"Betcha" is excruciating, as Warwick repeats the melody line endlessly
without the slightest variation. The heavy-duty studio band (Steve Gadd, Abe Laboriel, David Foster, Toto)
sticks to the basics, which would have been fine if the material and
Warwick's performance had been up to scratch. The one standout track
is Stevie Wonder's donated "With A Touch"
(with the man himself on piano) - it combines the idiosyncratic
approach to melody and phrasing he pursued in the 80s and 90s with
the warm live instruments sound he abandoned at about the same time,
and Warwick responds with a fine, delicate performance. The pop tune
"What Is This" isn't bad either; if you're a fan and see this real
cheap, give it a chance. (DBW)
If you're a Bee Gees fan, I don't have the
vaguest idea where you're coming from, but you may love this.
Barry Gibb produced (with some help from Albhy Galuten and Karl Richardson), and loaded the record with his
special brand of sappy, clichéd ballads (title track, a Top 40
hit) and cheesy aerobics pop ("All The Love In The World"). This is lacking even the basic hooks that the best BeeGees work had. Gibb and his
brothers wrote almost everything here; the one exception is "Our Day
Will Come," a slow number by B. Hilliard and Mike Garson that has no
discernable tune and manages to be hands-down the worst track on the
record. As usual, if Warwick doesn't have a good melody to sing, she's
lost, and this time out, well, she's lost on every track. The band is
Gadd, Tim Renwick (guitar), George Perry (bass), Richard Tee and George
Bitzer on keyboards, Gibb on acoustic guitar and prominent backing
vocals, and masses of strings. (DBW)
How Many Times Can We Say Goodbye (1983)
Produced by Luther Vandross, and it sounds very much like the Aretha Franklin records he produced
during this period. Which is not a recommendation: the tunes and
lyrics are moronically obvious and male-subservient ("Got a date/Can't
be late" etc.), with tepid funk-soul backing by Marcus Miller, Yogi
Horton, Nat Adderley, Doc Powell and Paulinho da Costa. The
title track is a duet with Vandross, and the low point is probably the
cover of Carole King's "Will You Still
Love Me Tomorrow" with at least one of the original Shirelles, Shirley
Alston. Avoid, unless you're a Vandross fan. (DBW)
In 1984, Warwick appeared on The Woman
In Red soundtrack.
Finder Of Lost Loves (1985)
Bacharach returned with the title track, a gentle, sleek love song
that's about the best post-David song I've heard from him. The two
Stevie duets from Woman In Red are included, and Richard
Landis produced Mutt Lange's sappy "Without Your Love"; otherwise
Manilow's back in the producer's chair. Once again, he has no new
producing or arranging ideas, but enough taste to produce an Adult
Contemporary record that doesn't drag or sicken. Warwick lets
loose on one more Richard Kerr dramatic ballad, "You Make Me Want To
Love Again," but otherwise she's mostly content to take it easy. Lots of
session musicians, including Greg
Buchanan, Nathan East, Ed Greene,
and Paul Jackson Jr.
A partial reunion with Bacharach: he wrote and produced half the album
with Carole Bayer Sager, including "That's What Friends Are For,"
the #1 hit charity single featuring Elton John,
Gladys Knight and Stevie Wonder (originally recorded by Rod Stewart for the Night Shift soundtrack). Overplayed
though it was, it's still tuneful and not entirely obvious, which is
more than you can say for Bacharach's other compositions here - despite occasionally striving for more ("Extravagant
Gestures"), they're generally are indistinguishable from the formula Easy Listening which was then dominating
the airwaves ("Stronger Than Before"). Stevie's dull ballad "Moments Aren't Moments" is repeated from The
Woman In Red, and his typically idiosyncratic percussion track here sounds like a breath of fresh air;
other forgettable tracks are contributed by muzakmonger David Foster, Narada Michael Walden, and Galuten. Not a complete writeoff, but I'm sure you can find
better ways to spend your money.
The same year, Warwick contributed vocals to "We Are The World."
Reservations For Two (1987)
Determinedly standard pop/soul fare, with a slew of producers all using
the same mellow synth-based pseudo-R&B conventions. The gimmick is
duets (hence the title): Jeffrey Osborne turns up on Bacharach and Bayer
Sager's dreadful "Love Power"; their less heinous "Heartbreak Of Love"
features June Pointer; Kashif produced and sang on the title
track, a decent ballad; Howard Hewett is wasted on one of three dull
tunes produced by the nefarious duo of Jerry Knight and Aaron Zigman. Smokey Robinson's "You're My
Hero" is the record's best track, recalling his 60s heyday lyrically,
musically and vocally. Manilow produces the best of the Warwick solo
tracks, "No One In The World," but in truth there's not much to pick
from here. Lots of session musicians again, including Paulinho Da Costa, East, Phillingaes,
Larry Williams, etc. (DBW)
Sings Cole Porter (1990)
Okay, I'm the wrong person to be reviewing this record: I think
Porter's cutesy and overrated, and I don't see the point of revisiting
such oft-recorded tunes ("I Get A Kick Out Of You," "I Love Paris," "I've Got
You Under My Skin"). Anyway, the arrangements are subdued and
unsurprising, and Warwick's readings are impeccably straightforward,
resulting in the easiest of easy listening - warning: may cause
drowsiness. Only Marc Shaiman's arrangement of "Anything Goes" (with
dizzying bombast and even tap dancers) shows any signs of life - it's
the disc's high point. Most of the arrangements are by Arif Mardin, who produced; a couple of tracks
feature modern synth percussion ("Begin The Beguine") but mostly it's a
full orchestra or synths imitating one. There are two versions of "Night
And Day"; the jazz version features Stanley
Jordan, Grover Washington Jr., and Anthony Jackson - too bad none of
them get to do much. (DBW)
In 1991, Warwick sang duet vocals on the Blue System single "It's All Over."
Friends Can Be Lovers (1993)
A moderately enjoyable, low-key Adult Contemporary effort, with no
attempt to be profound and almost no nods to trends. The one exception
is the bouncy "Til The End Of Time," almost a note for note copy of the
Babyface-penned Bobby Brown hit "Every Little Step."
There's one Bacharach/David number here, "Sunny Weather Lover,"
apparently new: it's pleasant if lightweight. The bulk of the
songwriting is by lesser-knowns like Richard Kerr, Sandy Knox, even Lisa
Stansfield. The duet with Warwick's niece Whitney Houston is overblown ("Love Will
Find A Way"); the cover of Sting's "Fragile"
(also covered by Hayes and Willie Colón) is
respectable. A whole horde of backing musicans is on hand,
mostly obscure but including Dean
Parks, Anthony Jackson, Michael Boddicker, Will Lee and Tee.
Aqualera do Brasil (1995)
Mostly recorded in Brazil, and partly sung in Portuguese.
It's hard to compare this to the rest of Warwick's catalog; if you're
looking for the witty, high-pitched vocals and clever pop arrangements
of her 60s work, stay away. If you go for pounding samba rhythms (Duke
Ellington's "Caravan") and bossa nova's slippery chord changes ("Oh
Bahia"), you'll enjoy this even though Warwick's interpretations tend
to be rather superficial ("Jobim Medley"). A new Bacharach composition,
"Captives Of The Heart," is dreadful: it sounds like a soap opera theme.
Brenda Russell contributed one tune, the
characteristically tuneful but unsurprising "10,000 Words," and did some
arranging. The rest of the tunes are by various Brazilian artists
including guest Chico Buarque, and several songs are cowritten by
Warwick herself. Produced by Teo Lima; there's a different set of
musicians on each track, and they're all solid though nobody really
stands out. (DBW)
Dionne Sings Dionne (1998)
As the title implies, this contains updated versions of some of Warwick's biggest hits, along with a number of new
songs. Several of the remakes are standard issue synth-based pop, which is not necessarily bad - "Walk On By" is vibrant,
with a funky piano riff and a touching, low-pitched lead vocal - but sometimes dull ("I Say A Little Prayer For You").
The biggest surprise is a salsa take on "Do You Know The Way To San José" with Celia
Cruz and the Pete Escovedo Orchestra: the tune seems perfectly suited to the high voltage arrangement, and Warwick
sounds completely at home. The best surprise is a gently swinging version of "Always Something There To Remind Me,"
with guest vocals and guitar by Jonathan Butler. The worst surprise is a hip hop remake of "What The World Needs Now Is
Love," featuring Big Daddy Kane, Flesh-n-Bone, Coolio, Royal Flush, Ray J., Mic G, and
producer/arranger/son Damon Elliott. You get the impression they fell in love with the concept, pulled together the talent
and knocked off the recording without ever thinking about whether the result would sound good, and it's overlong,
self-congratulatory and flat. The worst non-surprise is a five-way tie: all the new songs
are forgettable ballads ("Love Begins With You" is perhaps the drippiest). Production is split between Elliott, Steve Tyrell,
Zane Giles, and George Duke.
Dionne Sings Dionne II (2002)
Released in Japan only, this is more of the same, plus a run through the Doobie Brothers' "What A Fool Believes."
My Favorite Time Of The Year (2004)
Lemme guess... Arbor Day? Kidding aside, Warwick does a remarkable job of breathing life into a bunch of hoary holiday standards: by playing fast and loose with melody and phrasing, she gives tunes like "The Christmas Song" and "Silver Bells" an elegance and force they never deserved. The arrangements (by Tim Heintz) are gentle - a four-piece band with light touches of strings - and generally acoustic, suiting the understated grace of her vocals ("Silent Night," accompanied only by piano). A light-funk version of "White Christmas" is as loud as the record gets, and that's still quite mellow.
Gladys Knight duets on "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas," while BeBe Winans sings on her own "I Believe In Christmas."
The band is Heintz (piano), Ricky Lawson (drums), Tim Pierce (guitar), John Peña (bass), and who else but Paulinho Da Costa; Dave Koz adds sax to a few numbers ("Joy To The World").
Produced by Tena Rix Clark.
My Friends & Me (2006)
Remakes of Warwick's biggest hits with a parade of duet partners, from fellow survivors like Olivia Newton-John ("Wishin' And Hopin'") and Gladys Knight ("I'll Never Love This Way Again") to newer voices like Kelis (almost inaudible on "Raindrops Keep Fallin' On My Head") and Da Brat ("Windows Of The World").
The version of "San José" with Cruz is repeated from Dionne From Dionne, but I believe everything else is new.
Most of the guests perform nobly - Mýa finds the right blend of distance and yearning on "Close To You"; American Idol finalist Lisa Tucker is lighthearted but full-voiced on "Then Came You" - but Elliott's bland, synth-swamped production drags everything down anyway. Elliott played keys and programmed the drums, aided and abetted by Grecco Burratto (guitar) and Teddy Harmon (bass, keys). So unless you're a huge Reba McEntire fan ("I Say A Little Prayer") these new recordings will send you running back to the old ones.
Why We Sing (2008)
Warwick's first gospel album since 1968, with only a few guests: BeBe Winans on "I'm Going Up"; sister Dee Dee Warwick on the title track.
Elliott produced several cuts ("Seven," a duet with other son David Elliott) but made some room for others: Percy Bady helmed four tunes ("Battle Hymn Of The Republic") and Gregory Curtis Sr. produced the two songs he wrote. Generally speaking, the backing is genre-appropriate ("Old Landmark") and Warwick's delicate, restrained vocals ("With All My Heart") aren't a natural fit for the uptempo praising ("Rise, Shine And Give God The Glory"), but there are a couple of exceptions: Curtis's "Show Me The Way" has a tasty EWF-style slow funk coda, and the sober rendition "The Lord Is My Shepherd" suits Warwick's style.
Only Trust Your Heart (2011)
An orchestrated set of standards, mostly by Sammy Cahn ("I Fall In Love Too Easily").
Produced by Michael Mangini, and as on the Melinda Doolittle record he helmed, the band is anchored by Raymond Angry (piano) and Cindy Blackman Santana (drums) - Adam Blackstone or Neil Jason (bass). The players rise to the occasion when they get the chance (the relatively perky "Wonder Why"; "Some Other Time"), but often the mood is so sedate and gentle it verges on Muzak ("If You Can Dream").
The mood only turns boisterous on "Keep Me In Mind" by Jack Wolf and Bacharach (Wolf is also represented by "I'm A Fool To Want You," written with Herron and Sinatra), where the big band swagger feels a bit put-on.
And as with Doolittle, the too-smooth milleu robs Warwick's vocals of their emotional affect despite her best efforts.
So ultimately, the grandiose, overblown strings on "I'm A Fool To Want You" - contrasting with Warwick's delicate reading - provide the set's greatest pleasures.
Basically Dionne Sings Dionne III, as it's another run through Bacharach-David hits, both hers ("Make It Easy On Yourself" again) and a few she hadn't previously recorded (David's "99 Miles From LA"; Bacharach's "Love Is Still The Answer).
Produced by longtime compadre Phil Ramone, and the arrangements are straightforward retro-soul: mostly acoustic instruments with light touches of orchestra, and generally they're delicate enough, though "(There's) Always Something There To Remind Me" (complete with chorus) is overdone.
Except on the rare occasions when belting is required (as on the climax of "Don't Make Me Over") Warwick's voice is remarkably unchanged, but that also works against the album concept: the new version of, say, "Are You There (With Another Girl)" is lovely, but so close to the original it's pointless even by remake standards.
Warwick's son David Elliott joins in for a duet on a slowed-down "I Say A Little Prayer" - like everything else on the disc, it's tasteful, well crafted and unnecessary.
Do you know the way?