Dionne Warwick joined Arista Records in 1978, inaugurating a sixteen-year tenure at the label which would see many of her greatest triumphs including the Grammy-winning hits “I’ll Never Love This Way Again,” “Déjà Vu” and “That’s What Friends are For.” At Arista, Dionne teamed with Barry Manilow, Luther Vandross, and Barry Gibb; reunited with Burt Bacharach and Hal David; released one Platinum and two Gold albums; and earned her first No. 1 on the Hot 100 in over a decade. Her final album for Arista, 1994’s Aquarela Do Brasil, paid classy tribute to her adopted country with a blend of classic and current songs inspired by the land’s rich musical legacy. (The title translates to Watercolor of Brazil.) As so often happens, however, Warwick recorded more material for Aquarela than could be included on the original 12-track set. More than two decades later, Dionne herself has dug into the vaults for a beautiful new compact disc EP adorned with new artwork by Mauriel Monjeon. Tropical Love, available exclusively through the Official International Dionne Warwick Fan Club, presents five previously unreleased outtakes from Aquarela Do Brasil including duets with Brazilian greats Edu Lobo and Ivan Lins.
Primarily recorded at Rio de Janeiro’s Digital Studios (with strings and background vocals added later in Los Angeles), Aquarela featured the A-list of the Brazilian musical community including Dori Caymmi, Oscar Castro-Neves and Teo Lima. The latter produced the sessions in addition to playing drums throughout. For the tunestack, Dionne drew on classic melodies by Antonio Carlos Jobim (naturally), Ary Barroso, and Chico Buarque (who also guested on the LP) and also turned to some favorite American songwriters. Duke Ellington’s 1936 standard “Caravan” was given a Brazilian-flavored treatment. Brenda Russell’s “10,000 Words” was selected from the singer-songwriter’s 1993 album Soul Talkin’, and Russell provided the vocal arrangement as well as background vocals (with Siedah Garrett) for Dionne’s recording. Russell and Garrett also appeared on “Captives of the Heart,” a new song written by Burt Bacharach with Richard Carpenter’s frequent songwriting partner, John Bettis. Bacharach, long in thrall to Latin American and Brazilian sounds, delivered a melody which fit the concept album like a glove. (The maestro, however, didn’t produce or arrange the track. The string and horn charts were provided by Patrick Williams, and Brenda Russell again handled the vocal arrangement.) Dionne herself even provided English lyrics for three tracks on Aquarela.
Upon its release, Aquarela didn’t make the charts, which led Dionne to reflect in her 2010 memoir My Life, As I See It, “I was puzzled when it became apparent that they [Arista] weren’t promoting the record…It certainly fit the label and lent itself to the kind of promotion of, let’s say, a Kenny G project.” Indeed, Aquarela fused a contemporary smooth jazz sound with the spellbinding timelessness and sensual allure of Brazilian music and its most famous export, the bossa nova. Warwick’s connection with the country’s musical heritage clearly proved artistically inspiring.
Tropical Love liberates five never-before-heard outtakes from the Arista vaults produced by Teo Lima from the Aquarela sessions including two duets. Each one of these love songs would have fit snugly on the original album, showcasing different colors and creators of the Brazilian musical landscape. The bittersweet ballad “To Say Goodbye” was written by composer Edu Lobo and lyricist Torquato Neto as “Pra Dizer Adeus” in Portuguese. Vocalist Lani Hall wrote the English translation which she performed with Sergio Mendes and Brasil ’66 for their Look Around album. Composer Lobo (who also included the song on his 1970 American album Sergio Mendes Presents Lobo) sings in Portuguese with Dionne on this lushly orchestrated rendition.
Vocalist Jon Lucien, perhaps best known for his recording of Antonio Carlos Jobim’s classic “Dindi,” wrote and recorded the dreamy plea to “Love Me” for his 1991 album Listen Love. In his own work, Lucien frequently blended American soul and R&B rhythms with Brazilian and Caribbean influences; Dionne pays homage to the bossa nova’s rhythms in her smoky version of his original song. The sound of bossa melds with that of an adult-contemporary ballad on the reflective, hopeful “Bridges,” a sweeping Milton Nascimento melody introduced by the singer-songwriter as the title track (in Portuguese) of his 1967 album Travessia. Gene Lees added English lyrics in 1969, and Nascimento recorded it again with his words in 1968 for his CTI/A&M album Courage. Innately soulful, Warwick makes the song (also recorded by Tony Bennett, Astrud Gilberto, Sergio Mendes, and Sarah Vaughan wholly her own.
The vocalist’s tender side is indulged as she sings to a beloved child on Ivan Lins’ gentle and pretty “Lullaby.” As always, Warwick knows that less is more as she bends and stretches just the right notes, and only lapses into full voice when the lyrics and emotion call for it. Lins also unites his voice with Dionne on his wistful if ultimately romantic composition “Rainy Day Girl,” on which she beautifully interprets both his yearning lyric and languid melody. (The instrumental performances on all five tracks are superb, but there’s some particularly tasty guitar on “Rainy Day Girl.”)
It’s always a treat to hear new, previously heard music from Dionne Warwick, and Tropical Love is no exception. It proves that good things do, indeed, come in small packages! You can order the CD EP directly from Dionne’s fan club at the link below!
Dionne Warwick, Tropical Love (Arista/Sony CMG 88875126272, 2015)
- To Say Goodbye (Pra Dizer Adeus) – Duet with Edu Lobo
- Love Me
- Bridges (Travessia)
- Rainy Day Girl – with Ivan Lins
All tracks previously unreleased.