Dee Dee Warwick

The Complete Atco Recordings

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The Complete Atco Recordings Review

by Mark Deming

Having a famous sibling isn't always an asset in your musical career, as Chris Jagger and Simon Townshend can tell you, and like those gentleman, Dee Dee Warwick never managed to achieve the sort of commercial success her sister Dionne enjoyed. Dee Dee's recordings make it clear that vocal talent ran in the Warwick family, as she was a splendid singer, but while there was a certain resemblance between their voices, Dee Dee possessed a style and strength very different than her sister. Dionne's music was often more about sophisticated pop than rhythm & blues, but Dee Dee was a true soul singer, and one who could bring passion, grit, and genuine emotional force to her songs. Between 1970 and 1972, Dee Dee recorded for Atco Records, the sister label of soul music powerhouse Atlantic, and The Complete Atco Recordings brings together all her releases for the company along with a dozen unreleased tracks. This material suggests that Atco knew they had a great singer on their hands, but weren't certain just what direction they should take her; Warwick's performances are uniformly great, passionate yet professional and superbly controlled, and the production and arrangements are spot-on, but with the exception of a few tracks like "She Didn't Know (She Kept on Talking)" and "Everybody's Got to Believe in Somebody," the songs themselves don't seem to have the lyrical or melodic strength to be hits, while most of the covers are fine tunes that just don't suit a soul-styled production (though an unreleased version of "Sweet Dreams" that pushes the Patsy Cline classic into funk territory works better than anyone would expect). Despite all that, there are plenty of low-key gems on this set, and The Complete Atco Recordings delivers plenty of top-quality early-'70s soul; team this up with Warwick's I Want to Be with You: The Mercury/Blue Rock Sessions, and fans can be fully caught up on the most memorable period in Dee Dee Warwick's impressive if often overlooked career.

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