Presenting Dionne Warwick
Collector’s Choice Music
Everything has a beginning, even the career of Dionne Warwick. I personally find this hard to fathom, feeling as if her buttery alto — especially when it is wrapping itself around the hushed melodies and lovelorn lyrics of her frequent collaborators Hal David and Burt Bacharach — is part of the collective unconscious of popular culture. Her renditions of such now-classics as “Anyone Who Had a Heart” and “I Say A Little Prayer” might have burst into existence during the Big Bang.
That these songs have embedded themselves so deeply into our culture is a testament to both the singer and the songwriters. For a glorious number of years — glorious at least for those folks who cared about pop songs — Bacharach and David were churning out paeans to love, loss and redemption by the dozens, for both icons (Dusty Springfield, Gene Pitney) and never weres (Tommy Hunt, Timi Yuro). Yet, when Burt Bacharach met Dionne Warwick in a recording studio where she was providing backup vocals to one of his compositions (“Mexican Divorce”), it was only then that he and Hal David found their muse, the ingénue who would make all of them superstars.
This nascent effort, reissued by Collector’s Choice, is both charming considering what their careers became and stunning when you hear how finely honed the songs and the singer were. True, several of the songs on Presenting fall firmly along the genre lines of the early ’60s (“The Love of a Boy” and “Don’t Make Me Over” both feature the same uncertain shuffle of a junior high slow dance), but the true classics on this album still have the power to enrapture and fascinate. The staccato sting of the vocals, the unusual march-like refrains of “Wishin’ And Hopin’,” and Warwick’s audible ache as she sings “Make It Easy On Yourself” are wonders to behold, putting the pop hits of today to withering shame.
And what of the other songs on the album, the ones written by others? There are only three to speak of on Ms. Warwick’s first full-length, but they are equally fascinating, if for different reasons. One, “Unlucky,” finds Warwick fronting what sounds like a very soused jazz combo. Every time the fluttering guitar lines and shuffles of the rhythm section feel like they are going to topple uncontrollably off the stage, they manage to rein it in, at one point even breaking into a snappy bossa nova. Ms. Warwick gamely stays afloat amidst these stormy waters. The other is an odd choice but a winning one. The cheerful romp “Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah” is slowed down to a sultry vamp, with Warwick and her backing vocalists channeling the Shirelles and the Supremes to fabulous effect.
As with most first efforts, Presenting Dionne Warwick is hardly a perfect album, but it is a worthwhile listen, if only to help put into historical context and add further mystique to this renowned collaboration.
Collector’s Choice: www.ccmusic.com