Why We Sing

Dionne Warwick

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Why We Sing Review

by John Bush

Although she gained fame singing a cool, anodyne version of pop-soul, Dionne Warwick's roots -- like many soul singers -- were in gospel. (Much of her family, including her mother, performed in the Drinkard Singers and Dionne herself formed the Gospelaires with sister Dee Dee to accompany them.) Why We Sing, her first gospel album in nearly 40 years, obviously benefits from that experience, but also from her many contacts and family members. Produced in part by her talented son Damon Elliott (Destiny's Child, P!nk) and including a song by another son, David Elliott, the album also features involvement from BeBe Winans and the New Hope Baptist Church Choir. As on her last secular album, Warwick's voice may be weaker than in the '60s and '70s, but the productions and guest features are solid. Ironically, even in this gospel medium, where a strong voice is arguably more important than anything else, Warwick succeeds, perhaps by the force of her convictions and the importance of the project in her mind. She certainly didn't tailor the material for crossover or commercial success; her choices include "The Battle Hymn of the Republic," an old Drinkard Singers original named "Rise, Shine and Give God the Glory," Psalm 23 delivered verbatim in song form as "The Lord Is My Shepherd," and a piece of brimstone written by son David named "Seven" that's nearly straight out of the book of Revelations. The productions have very little of the contemporary gospel sound, with none of the R&B or hip-hop rhythms that were interpolated into gospel during the '80s and '90s. Fortunately, they're also not adult contemporary slickness, either; most are recorded with a small group occasionally leavened with strings, and given a light touch by producers Percy Bady and Damon Elliott. Altogether, the results are quite good; it's a highly personal project that permits outsiders to enjoy it, and while it's quite smooth, it's never slick enough to enjoy that adult contemporary or coffeehouse crossover.

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