Dee Dee Warwick signed with Mercury Records’ Blue Rock imprint in 1964, the same year her sister Dionne solidified her place in the upper reaches of the charts with songs like “Walk on By,” “Reach Out for Me” and “You’ll Never Get to Heaven (If You Break My Heart).” Though Dee Dee never saw the same kind of commercial success as Dionne, she carved out a unique vocal identity with her dark, bluesy and intense tone. At Mercury, Dee Dee recorded two albums and a number of singles. In 2012, Soul Music Records brought 1969’s Foolish Fool to CD along with five non-LP bonus 45s, and now the label has delivered an expanded edition of 1967’s I Want to Be with You/I’m Gonna Make You Love Me to virtually complete Warwick’s Mercury discography.
Foolish Fool was assembled from sessions with producers as diverse as Ed Townsend, Johnny Franz, Jerry Ross, Lou Courtney and even the team of Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff; its predecessor was more unified, with all but three tracks produced by Townsend. The remaining three were helmed by Ross. Still, there’s a grab-bag quality to the LP, as it compiled songs recorded as far back as 1965. I Want to Be with You is titled after Warwick’s deconstruction of Charles Strouse and Lee Adams’ ballad “I Want to Be with You” from their Broadway musical Golden Boy. Singing only Adams’ title lyric, Warwick and Townsend used the original song as a springboard for almost two-and-a-half minutes of burning, ad-libbed passion. Though Strouse’s ravishing melody is missed, the sensuality and depth of Warwick’s rendition can’t be discounted. She also smoldered on Townsend’s “Do it with All Your Heart.” First released in 1965 on 45, it sports a fine Teacho Wilshire arrangement graced by subtle strings. Ballads being Warwick’s strongest suit, she also offered perhaps the definitive reading of Carole King and Gerry Goffin’s “Yours Until Tomorrow” as arranged by Jimmy “Wiz” Wisner and produced by Jerry Ross.
“Tomorrow” was the B-side of Warwick’s 1966 single “I’m Gonna Make You Love Me,” which provided the second half of the album’s title the following year. Warwick, Wisner and Ross were at their finest on the seductive track, written by Ross with the up-and-coming team of Kenny Gamble and an uncredited Leon Huff. Yet “I’m Gonna Make You Love Me,” a Top 20 R&B hit for Dee Dee, didn’t get its due until The Supremes and The Temptations duetted on it in 1969. That rendition adhered closely to Wisner’s original template, and was produced by one of the background singers on Dee Dee’s recording…none other than Nickolas Ashford!
Whereas Dionne developed a signature sound thanks to the singular style of Burt Bacharach and Hal David, Dee Dee’s versatility may have hampered her chances at pop crossover success. I Want to Be with You shows all these many colors. She tore into Horace Ott’s joyous “We’re Doing Fine” with its shifting dynamics, brassy arrangement as well as his “Worth Every Tear I Cry” with its ebullient horns, strings and propulsive beat. Warwick was equally comfortable with the call-and-response of “Happiness,” by Irwin Levine (“Tie a Yellow Ribbon,” “This Diamond Ring”) and Philip Springer (“Santa Baby”) and the elegance of the uptown soul ballad “Another Lonely Saturday (Baby I’m Yours)” by Eddie Snyder (“Strangers in the Night”) and Bob Elgin (“Killer Joe”). The album even touched on pure pop with the Latin-flavored “House of Gold,” a Tijuana Brass-meets-“On Broadway” ditty by Mark Barkan (Toomorrow, “That’s the Way Boys Are”) and Terry Phillips.
What bonus material will you find on I’m Gonna Make You Love Me? Plus: details on The Four Tops’ Indestructible – all after the jump!
Reissue producer David Nathan has added seven bonus tracks, all singles, to this reissue. Best of all might be “We’ve Got Everything Going for Us,” a classy, effervescent track by Springer and Levine, produced by Ross. The 1967 single was the B-side of “Don’t You Ever Give Up for Me,” which was subsequently included on Foolish Fool and is included on Soul Music’s reissue of that album. The catchy, uptempo “Locked in Your Love” from Ross and Mort Shuman (“Save the Last Dance for Me”) was issued as the flip of Dee Dee’s mighty 1967 recording of Bacharach and David’s “Alfie,” also on Foolish Fool. Two more remarkable tracks came from the Gamble and Huff team, “Girls Need Love” and “I’ll Be Better Off Without You.” Arranger Joe Renzetti provided the breezy air for sassy A-side “Girls Need Love.” Its follow-up from the same session, “I’ll Be Better Off (Without You),” finds Renzetti, Gamble and Huff pointing very much towards the sophisticated orchestral Philadelphia soul style that they would soon perfect. The B-side of “Girls Need Love,” “It Isn’t Fair,” found Gamble’s co-writer and arranger Thom Bell in his best Burt Bacharach mode, and you can find it on Foolish Fool. The flip of “I’ll Be Better Off,” a sprightly tear through John Phillips’ “Monday, Monday,” is included here. [Though David Nathan’s liner notes are typically astute, the booklet isn’t always clear as to where to track down each song; titles are mentioned in the notes with no indication that the songs can be found on Foolish Fool, and the discography is incomplete.]
With I Want to Be with You/I’m Gonna Make You Love Me and Foolish Fool, the core of the supremely soulful Dee Dee Warwick’s Mercury/Blue Rock catalogue is available once again. This still isn’t everything; Nathan tantalizingly mentions a number of tracks still sitting in the vaults and awaiting rediscovery. Until then, however, no soul music aficionado should be without these albums from one of the all-time great, if ever-underappreciated, voices of R&B.
Few could accuse The Four Tops of not accurately describing themselves with the title of 1988’s Arista Records release Indestructible. Levi Stubbs, Abdul “Duke” Fakir, Renaldo “Obie” Benson and Lawrence Payton didn’t undergo a single personnel change between 1953 and 1997. When the day came that the original Four Tops were no more, it was only because Payton died of cancer at the age of 59. Though Benson and Stubbs have also passed since then, Fakir carries on the group name even today. In 1988, however, The Four Tops were at a different kind of crossroads. They followed their remarkable Golden Age at Motown with a successful stint at ABC Records between 1972 and 1978 that yielded such hits as “Ain’t No Woman (Like the One I’ve Got),” and followed ABC with another hitmaking stint at Casablanca thanks to 1981’s “When She Was My Girl.” In 1983, the Tops returned to Motown, but they decamped for Arista after two albums that didn’t rekindle enough of the old magic. With some material earmarked for a third Motown album in hand, the Tops appealed to Clive Davis, and earned a spot on the Arista roster. The resulting LP has just been reissued in an expanded edition by SoulMusic.
Indestructible reunited The Four Tops with two key figures in their past, Steve Barri and Lamont Dozier, who were two of the many producers assigned to the LP. Narada Michael Walden (Aretha Franklin, Whitney Houston) took the controls for four songs, Albert Hammond (“It Never Rains in Southern California”) took one song as did Huey Lewis, and Jerry Knight and Aaron Zigman handled another two. The title track was produced and arranged by Bobby Sandstrom. All of the cuts reflected Arista’s mission to place the classic Four Tops harmonies in a contemporary setting. The album largely succeeded, spinning off two Top 35 R&B singles and one No. 57 Pop placement.
Even surrounded by synthesizers and drum machines, the natural rapport of Stubbs, Fakir, Benson and Payton flourished on Indestructible. Bobby Sandstrom’s title song, an ode to resilience and brotherhood, seemed tailor-made for the Tops, and referenced the group’s Motown history with a subtle vocal cameo from another venerable artist, Smokey Robinson. Narada Michael Walden may have been a “hot” producer, but he rose up the ranks with solid jazz-fusion credentials that informed his R&B work. Of his contributions to the album, “Change of Heart” is a highlight – a catchy mid-tempo ballad fronted by the ever-passionate Stubbs. “When You Dance” is built around a big, danceable eighties R&B beat; the electronic sound isn’t the most comfortable fit, but the veteran singers still give their all.
Walden was the producer behind Aretha Franklin’s Grammy-winning “Freeway of Love” in 1985, but he didn’t helm the Queen of Soul’s duet track here. Instead, Pamela Philips Oland and Todd Cerney’s “If Ever a Love There Was” was produced and played by Aaron Zigman and Jerry Knight. They provided a suitably romantic, modern backing (complete with the seemingly obligatory saxophone solo) to support the dream duet of Stubbs and Franklin. Speaking of saxophones, none other than the E Street Band’s Big Man, Clarence Clemons, appeared on the Walden-produced “The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine,” an anthemic ballad from the team of Albert “It Never Rains in Southern California” Hammond and power ballad queen Diane Warren. Walden’s four productions all are of a gleaming piece, with a band consisting of keyboardist Walter Afanasieff, guitarist Corrado Rustici and bassist Randy (American Idol) Jackson. Clemons brought his usual flair and bravado to the potent track. Hammond and Warren also wrote “I’m Only Wounded,” which Hammond, rather than Walden, produced for the Tops.
The most memorable cut on Indestructible might well be the goofy romp “Loco in Acapulco,” a Phil Collins-Lamont Dozier song and co-production that explicitly referenced the classic Motown sound. The U.K. Top 10 hit was crafted for the Collins-starring film Buster, and the teaming of the vintage Tops sound with Phil Collins’ background vocals and brassy horns is still irresistible. Soul revivalists Huey Lewis and the News joined the Tops for “Are You with Me,” and though its sound is more 1988 than “Loco,” it still has the flavor of a classic R&B homage in its call-and-response chorus harmony vocals. Steve Barri’s contribution as producer, Rick Giles and Steve Bogard’s “Let’s Jam,” doesn’t owe much to “Ain’t No Woman (Like the One I’ve Got)” but fits on Indestructible with its prominent synths and sweeping saxophone.
SoulMusic’s reissue adds five bonus tracks: the autobiographical, sweetly nostalgic non-LP single “The Four of Us,” written by Lawrence Payton, three extended remixes of “Loco in Acapulco” and the 12-inch Extended Mix of “Indestructible.” It adds up to a welcome revisiting of an album that may not be among the crème of the crop in the Tops’ catalogue but was nonetheless a valiant attempt by these all-time greats to remain contemporary and musically relevant. Charles Waring supplies the excellent new notes, and Andy Pearce has nicely remastered.
Both I Want to Be with You/I’m Gonna Make You Love Me and Indestructible are available now from SoulMusic Records, and can be ordered below!
- I Want to Be with You
- We’re Doing Fine
- Do It with All Your Heart
- Gotta Get a Hold of Myself
- Worth Every Tear I Cry
- I’m Gonna Make You Love Me
- Yours Until Tomorrow
- Another Lonely Saturday (Baby I’m Yours)
- House of Gold
- You Don’t Know What You Do to Me (Blue Rock single 45-4027-B, 1965)
- Lover’s Chant (Mercury single 45-72584-B, 1966)
- Locked in Your Love (Mercury single 45-72710-B, 1967)
- We’ve Got Everything Going for Us (Mercury single 45-72738-B, 1967)
- Girls Need Love (Mercury single 45-72788-A, 1968)
- I’ll Be Better Off (Without You) (Mercury single 45-72824-A, 1968)
- Monday, Monday (Mercury single 45-72824-B, 1968)
- Change of Heart
- If Ever a Love There Was
- The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine
- Next Time
- Loco in Acapulco
- Are You with Me
- I’m Only Wounded
- When You Dance
- Let’s Jam
- The Four of Us (Arista U.K. single 111-987, 1988)
- Loco in Acapulco (Body Mix) (Arista European 12-inch single 661-850, 1988)
- Loco in Acapulco (PH Balance Mix – Full Version) (Arista European 12-inch single 662-184, 1988)
- Indestructible (Extended Mix) (Arista U.K. 12-inch single 611-510, 1988)