DIONNE WARWICK: Original Album Series (Rhino)

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The Warner/Rhino “Original Album” series continues with a five CD box set which focuses on the early career of Dionne Warwick. The set offers the New Jersey chanteuse’s first three Scepter long players (‘Presenting…’, ‘Anyone Who Had A Heart’ and ‘Make Way For…’) along with two later sets – 1967’s ‘The Windows Of The World’ and ’68’s ‘Valley Of The Dolls’.

On all five, Burt Bacharach and Hal David provided most of the songs while Bacharach handled most of the production and arrangement chores. The trio, of course – independently and together – have worked on hundreds of other projects but it’s doubtful if they ever came up with anything quite as exquisite as the music here. The first three albums, in particular, are magnificent examples of the art of pop/soul and recordings like ‘This Empty Place’, ‘Whisin’ And Hopin”, ‘Don’t Make Me Over’, ‘Anyone Who Had A Heart’, ‘A House Is Not A Home’, ‘Reach Out For Me’ , ‘Walk On By’ and ‘You’ll Never Get To Heaven’ remain amongst the trio’s most durable creations. Another standout (on ‘Anyone Who Had A Heart’) is the Luther Dixon-penned ‘Oh Lord What Are You Doing To Me’ – a masterclass in controlled pathos.

Ironically, given their collective excellence the three early albums were poor sellers. In fairness the early/mid sixties was still the age of the single while Scepter boss, Florence Greenberg wasn’t keen on big publicity budgets but was keen on getting full value from her artists/staff by duplicating songs across different albums which, of course, offered poor value for buyers. By 67/68 the album market had started to grow and both ‘The Windows Of The World’ and ‘Valley of The Dolls’ were good sellers. Indeed the latter remains the best selling album of Ms Warwick’s long career.

There are plenty of highlights on both these later albums – notably ‘The Windows Of The Word’ itself and ‘Do You Know The Way To San Jose’… neither of which Bacharach himself rates too highly. According to his recent autobiography, he wasn’t keen on the lyrics that Hal David provided. Interestingly we also get a version of Cilla Black’s ‘You’re My World’. The chirpy Scouse songstress trumped New Jersey’s finest in the UK with her version of ‘Anyone Who Had A Heart’ (and there was the later ‘Alfie’ clash) and Ms W has never disguised her disdain for Ms. B. However in covering ‘You’re My World’ she offers her opponent a huge compliment. Needless to say her performance is faultless.

(BB) 5/5