Dionne Warwick recently announced a new album, produced by Phil Ramone. Entitled Now, the projected October release will reflect on a storied career that’s lasted 50 years. But Warwick was in a very different place then, meaning in 1979. The sophisticated soul singer was at a crossroads. Her unprecedented string of pop and R&B hits written and produced by Burt Bacharach and Hal David at Scepter Records were far in the rearview mirror. Bacharach and David had bitterly split after just one album with Warwick at Warner Bros. Records, despite Warwick’s having been handsomely signed to the label expressly to the view of further collaborations with the duo. One more dynamic success awaited with 1974’s “Then Came You,” unbelievably Warwick’s first-ever No. 1 Pop single, a duet with The Spinners produced by Thom Bell. But other than that one single, Warwick’s studio career was commercially floundering. Her expressive voice was as strong as ever, maybe even stronger than before, but producers including Jerry Ragovoy, Michael Omartian and Holland/Dozier/Holland had all been unable to rekindle the magic she had with her “triangle marriage.” Enter Clive Davis and Barry Manilow.
That’s the story being told on Big Break Records’ new expanded and remastered reissue of Warwick’s 1979 Arista debut Dionne, arriving in U.K. stores on August 27 and in the U.S. one week later (CDBBR 0176). Manilow was Arista’s golden child, having delivered to label president Clive Davis nine Top 10 hits including three that went straight to the top, not to mention a No. 1 album and many more charting singles. Manilow and Davis also had a close friendship and intuitive sense of song selection. Davis would often find a potential hit for Manilow, and the singer/songwriter would deftly rearrange it to his strengths as a vocalist. Witness Manilow’s sublime reworkings of David Pomeranz’ “Tryin’ to Get the Feeling Again,” Randy Edelman’s “Weekend in New England,” and Ian Hunter’s “Ships,” just to name a few. Davis knew that Manilow was the right man to reinvigorate Dionne Warwick’s career once she was signed to Arista. The resulting album is one of the strongest entries in Warwick’s impressive catalogue, and also one of the most enduring albums produced by Manilow.
Barry Manilow’s love of soul and R&B has never been in doubt to those who know his discography, despite an image that might suggest otherwise. He covered Martha and the Vandellas’ “My Baby Loves Me” on his second album, doffed his hat to “Dancing in the Streets” with his own “It’s a Miracle,” and even performed a Motor City medley in early concerts. That love, combined with a kinship for the songwriting of Laura Nyro and the craft of the great musical theatre writers, led to the development of Manilow’s own trademark sound. He applied all of that knowledge in producing Dionne, and he and Davis selected a nearly perfect 10-track line-up for the singer possessed of class, elegance and a sublime vocal restraint. Manilow played piano, with the rhythm section also including bassist Will Lee, percussionist Alan Estes, keyboardist Bill Mays, drummer Rick Schlosser and guitarist Mitch Holder.
Hit the jump for much more, including the track listing and order link!
Rupert Holmes was tapped for “Who, What, When, Where, Why.” Manilow had famously recorded Holmes’ “Studio Musician” for his 1977 chart-topping Live album, and recognized the dazzling wordplay and breezy melody lines of the future “Escape (The Piña Colada Song)” man. Warwick, accustomed to Burt Bacharach’s devilishly tricky compositions, navigated the up-tempo “Who, What, When, Where, Why” with ease. Opening Dionne, it set the tone for the album’s pop/soul feel. Manilow and his frequent collaborator Ron Dante both joined Warwick in the background vocal trio on their rock-ish take of the oft-covered Box Tops hit “The Letter,” and managed to make the decade-old warhorse sound modern. Another flawless melding of pop and soul came with “Déjà vu.” Isaac Hayes wrote the sensual melody for Dionne, which was then given lyrics by one of Manilow’s favorite lyricists, Adrienne Anderson (“Daybreak,” “Could It Be Magic?”). Manilow tastefully arranged the song, then orchestrated by Gene Page, in which Warwick’s vocal floats, lighter than air, above the sweet groove.
One of the most unique songs on Dionne is “In Your Eyes,” written by Manilow with Bruce Sussman and Jack Feldman (“Copacabana”). With its wistful horn accents and loping melody, it pays homage to Burt Bacharach and Hal David, though it never veers into outright pastiche territory. But the producer and composer knew the Bacharach/David style well, and even wrote a couple of songs with Hal David, including “Early Morning Strangers,” recorded by Dionne during her separation from the team on her Love at First Sight LP. “In Your Eyes” may well be the lost classic of Dionne, but the most atypical has to be “Out of My Hands,” co-written by Cissy Houston. It’s a big, busy disco production with strings from Jimmie Haskell, and with Manilow and Dante again joining Warwick on the vocals. Clearly every side of the artist was going to be on display.
The heart of Dionne, however, might be best felt in its three big ballads. “After You” comes early in the album and is almost an appetizer for the main attraction, “I’ll Never Love This Way Again.” Written by Doug Frank and Doug James, “After You” was first recorded by Warwick’s aunt Cissy Houston but was immortalized by Warwick in Manilow’s tailor-made arrangement, orchestrated by Gene Page. Its lyrics echoed the soul-searching sentiments so often expressed by Hal David: “After you, who could there be? After you, what’s left for me? I’d be lost/If you ever go, I’d just be broken in two…” and sung with both dignity and vulnerability by Warwick. But “I’ll Never Love This Way Again” (by Richard Kerr and Will Jennings, of “Looks Like We Made It” and “Somewhere in the Night” fame) gave Warwick a new signature song, one that she still employs at the climactic moments of her concerts today. With Manilow’s requisite dramatic modulations and Artie Butler’s sweeping chart, Dionne simply owns the majestic ballad from its first bars and takes it into the stratosphere by its big finish. “All the Time,” the album’s final salvo, can’t top “I’ll Never Love This Way Again,” and smartly doesn’t try. Instead, it’s one of the most heartfelt songs ever penned by Manilow (this time with Marty Panzer) and originally introduced on his 1976 This One’s for You. An ode to the misfits who feel ostracized, its message to embrace what makes one special clearly resonated: “I would have given everything I own/If someone would have said, ‘You’re not alone’…” Warwick takes on an almost hushed tone: “If I had just believed in all I had/If someone would have said, ‘You’re not so bad…’” Her vocal is affectingly sensitive, while Manilow’s piano anchors his own soaring melody.
Big Break’s deluxe reissue is lovingly rendered with the same care applied to all of the label’s releases. Christian John Wikane has written a detailed essay, addressing each track and featuring contributions from principal personnel including Clive Davis, Ron Dante, Adrienne Anderson, Marty Panzer, Doug Frank and more. It’s as comprehensive as any essay on Dionne could be without contributions from Warwick and Manilow themselves. Two bonus tracks have been added: A-sides “Déjà vu” (No. 15 Pop/No. 25 R&B/No. 1 AC) and “After You” (No. 65 Pop/No. 33 R&B/No. 10 AC). Only the single version of “I’ll Never Love This Way Again” (No. 5 Pop/No. 18 R&B/No. 5 AC) is, alas, missing.
The label has already slated an upcoming reissue of Heartbreaker, Warwick’s smash 1982 collaboration with Barry Gibb of The Bee Gees. With any luck, the rest of the singer’s Arista catalogue will follow, including the 1985 reunion with Manilow and Burt Bacharach, Finder of Lost Loves, and 1983’s How Many Times Can We Say Goodbye, produced by Luther Vandross. Vandross, of course, produced two albums at Arista for another of Davis’ legendary comeback queens, Aretha Franklin, and both have been reissued by BBR. Till then, though, one shouldn’t resist the opportunity to savor the master class of seventies R&B sophistication, Dionne.
Dionne arrives in stores today in the U.K. and next Tuesday on U.S. shores. You can order just below!
Dionne Warwick, Dionne (Arista AB-4230, 1979 – reissued Big Break Records CDBBR 0176, 2012)
- Who, What, When, Where, Why
- After You
- The Letter
- I’ll Never Love This Way Again
- Déjà Vu
- Feeling Old Feelings
- In Your Eyes
- My Everlasting Love
- Out of My Hands
- All the Time
- Déjà Vu (Single Version – Arista single AS-0459-A, 1979)
- After You (Single Version – Arista single AS-0498, 1980)