Dionne Warwick

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Soulful Review

by Joe Viglione

Soulful is a major work in Dionne Warwick's deep catalog, and one worthy of study and appreciation. Starting off with a Top 20 hit from October of 1969, her gutsy rendition of "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling," the album shifts from songs containing the sweet and ever present voice found on '60s radio to one of a masterful artist in control, renditions of "Do Right Woman" and the tender approach to "I've Been Loving You Too Long" allowing these copyrights to be heard in a different and intriguing light. Recorded at American Sound Studios in Memphis, TN, with the great Chips Moman engineering and co-producing with Warwick, the only place you'll find the names Burt Bacharach and Hal David is on the label: "A Burt Bacharach-Hal David Production Produced by Chips Moman and Dionne Warwick." In her liner notes on the back cover the singer writes, "I hope you will enjoy experiencing with me the joy and excitement I felt in recording Rhythm and Blues -- my way." To quote blues singer Genya Ravan, "and she means it!" Working with the producer of the Box Tops' "The Letter" and Elvis Presley was a wonderful change and stretch for the woman who was so closely aligned with the music and production of Bacharach and David. Recording in the state that has bragging rights to Graceland was in vogue during the final year of the 1960s and into the early '70s, Steve Cropper's production of Mitch Ryder's The Detroit-Memphis Experiment just another part of the story leading up to the legendary Dusty in Memphis album, perhaps this genre's centerpiece. It's easy to see how a pop princess like Dionne Warwick with such a string of hits could get overlooked -- perhaps by virtue of the sheer volume of her output. The same could be said for Tommy James, whose brilliant My Head, My Bed & My Red Guitar went unnoticed by pop fans too intent on hearing his greatest hits time and again rather than investigating the artist that made those hits. Like Tommy James' Elvis-influenced album, Soulful deserves a very special place in rock history. "We Can Work It Out" is what Otis Redding might have done with the material, while "Hey Jude" has a church-like feel, not immersed in gospel but enough of that flavor to lift it above its pop confines. The short fade with the voices bouncing off the horns was a very nice way to close out the album. There are three Beatles covers as well as some Young Rascals, Aretha, Marvin Gaye/Tammi Terrell, and James & Bobby Purify. Moman also crafted Petula Clark's Memphis this same year, and both Petula and Dionne take on Curtis Mayfield's "People Get Ready," indicating perhaps what these Top 40 singers were feeling in their heart -- the need to express themselves on compositions that they found compelling. "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling" is the standout, not because it was the hit from this collection but because Dionne takes on a new fire, pouring her heart over the great drum work. This version of the song gets little to no airplay on oldies stations, let alone blues and R&B radio, which is tragic. Warwick is a pro as well as a major talent, and Soulful deserves to be treasured as the important musical statement that it is.

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