Dionne Warwick

The Very Best of Dionne Warwick [Rhino]

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This is the fourth compilation of Dionne Warwick's work done by Rhino Records, and the company's third collection of her major hits -- but it's not redundant in the least, as a 2000-vintage release, more than a decade more advanced in mastering quality than the label's first two best-ofs on Warwick. In fact, as a collection of 16 of the singer's classic singles from 1962-1974, the heyday of her collaboration with songwriters Burt Bacharach and Hal David, all in state-of-the-art sound, it's downright essential listening for fans of the singer or the songwriters -- the exquisitely lush arrangements never sounded richer, and Warwick's voice here is close and intimate (as well as powerful) in ways that the records only ever hinted at. "Walk on By," "Alfie," "I Say a Little Prayer," and "This Girl's in Love With You" are some of the hits that define Warwick's soulful, orchestral sound from that era; but even the first track here, "Don't Make Me Over," from the outset of their work together in 1962 -- before the collaboration was established -- has a moment of magnificent, throat-catching dramatic soulfulness, on the lyric "Accept me for what I am/Accept me for the things I do," that seems to open the door for everything that follows. Beyond those early hits, and such obvious highlights as "(Theme From) Valley of the Dolls," "Do You Know the Way to San Jose," "I Say a Little Prayer," and "Then Came You" (which also features the Spinners), the makers have included such more modestly performing (but equally worthwhile) treasures as "Reach out for Me" and "Are You There (With Another Girl)." The notes by Alec Cumming are first-rate and a match for the overall production quality, which is superb.

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