Dionne Warwick

Dionne [1972]

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Dionne Warwick's first album for Warner Bros. in 1971 didn't seem to change much. She was still working with Burt Bacharach and Hal David and still cranking out sophisticated ballads with the trademark orchestrated Bacharach sound. The only thing missing on Dionne is some kind of chart action. "If We Only Have Love" reached only number 84 on the single charts, the album itself didn't rise above the mid-'50s. Maybe it was the less-than-enchanting cover art, maybe the buying public were tired of Warwick and her sound. They missed out on half of a really good record with some beautiful songs like "If You Never Say Goodbye," a hip, elevator pop swinger with a swooning chorus, "My First Night Without You," a very soulful ballad with very expressive strings and a brutally honest vocal from Warwick, and "The Balance of Nature," a romantic and dramatic ballad that would be perfect in an Audrey Hepburn movie. The record is only half good because half of the record is not arranged and produced by Bacharach. Instead, the chores are (mis)handled by Bob James and Don Sebesky, both of whom imitate the lush and sweeping sound of Bacharach but with none of his subtlety, wit or grace. The covers of "Close to You" and "One Less Bell to Answer" are drippy and obvious, the Mort Shuman/Jacques Brel song "If We Only Have Love" is overblown and plastic-sounding, and the only song that comes off well is "Love Song," as Sebesky scales back the schmaltz and casts Warwick as a folk-pop singer complete with acoustic guitars, wood flute, and lush vocal harmonies. It is good enough to really make you ponder what it would have been like had Warwick pursued this direction. She didn't, but she also didn't work with Bacharach and David again as a team until many years later as that duo broke up right after the recording of Dionne and Warwick ended up suing them for millions of dollars and a share of the future rights of the songs they recorded together. Still, the half of this record that features them is a fittingly wonderful final testament to the glory days of the trio, and if you are a fan of their classic sound you will want to seek out this album.

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