Dionne Warwick: Now

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Posted November 15, 2012 by in
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Rating

Overall
 
 
 
 
 

3/ 5

Details

 
 
 
 
 
 
Genre: Adult contemporary, r&b
 
Producer: Phil Ramone
 
Label: H&I
 
Format: CD, digital download
 
Time: 46:15
 
Release Date: 6 November 2012
 
Spin This: Are You There (With Another Girl), Is There Anybody Out There?, I Just Have to Breathe
 

Pros:

Avoids well-known masterpieces, features Phil Ramone's engineering prowess
 

Cons:

Lowered key changes unveils Warwick's smokier voice, "Don't Make Me Over" is a major setback, lack big risks
 

Matriarchal AC songbird pays tribute to Bacharach/David songbook on fiftieth anniversary

by J Matthew Cobb
Full Article

Matriarchal AC songbird pays tribute to Bacharach/David songbook on fiftieth anniversary

Fifty years ago from 2012, Dionne Warwick echoed the verbiage of Burt Bacharach and Hal David’s awe-inspiring love song, “Don’t Make Me Over.” The song wound up lighting up the pathway for a solo career that includes five Grammys (twelve of them nominations) and over 56 Hot 100 chart-topping singles. Her association with the Bacharach/David songbook is just as luminous as Ella Fitzgerald was to the songbooks of Cole Porter or Rodgers & Hart, except that Warwick wasn’t merely interpreting their tunes; she was defining them. That professional pop-gloss is a permanent fixation on radio gems like “Do You Know the Way to San Jose,” “I Say a Little Prayer,” “Alfie” and “Theme from Valley of the Dolls,” so much so that the only way to outshine them is to surgically alter them into a new breed of alternatives, as Isaac Hayes did with “Walk on By” or Aretha Franklin did “I Say a Little Prayer.” Take my words: You seriously don’t want to touch a Warwick tune at a karaoke showdown. Like her late niece Whitney Houston, Warwick’s classy vocal styling on those tunes is virtually impossible to emulate. It’s a standard that even Warwick, a 71-year old veteran, has major challenges facing. As she walks into the twilight of her golden years, Warwick’s pipes aren’t as shiny and polished as before, best shown on her recent update of “Don’t Make Me Over” on her 2012 album release, Now.  There’s a slightly rustic grit to it, one that possibly comes with cig exhaustion and Father Time’s punishments. Still, it’s an instrument that echoes the grace and royal poise of her heyday. The keys of the songs are distinguishably lowered, but they most certainly bring heavy attention to Warwick’s inherited lower register. When she hits the under the attic notes, she transforms into an impressive bass, even sending the baritone of Toni Braxton into timeout.

On the Phil Ramone-produced Now, Warwick smartly avoids her most popular tunes, except for “Don’t Make Me Over,” which is subdued with an overbaked Southern soul instrumentation and a bothersome lowered key. Also, “I Say a Little Prayer” is magically reborn as a smooth jazz duet with son David Elliott. The mood change hardly overshadows the coveted original, but still feels befitting on Warwick’s granular pipes.

Now is short on gimmicks and surprises. For Warwick, that’s a good thing – she isn’t that kind of diva. But it does uncover some of her overlooked numbers from her past while also posting a few Bacharach and David’s tunes previously done on other acts. From her back catalog, “(There’s) Always Something There to Remind Me” blossoms into a gospel revival, “Make It Easy on Yourself” relaxes into Nancy Wilson jazz and “Reach Out (for Me)” is once again buoyed with orchestral tapestry. Impressively executed, “Are You There (With Another Girl)” echoes the fluttery images of innocence during a first-time heartbreak and its lyrics are virtually timeless to the ear. Thanks to Ramone’s pristine production, his reinvention of the 1965 classic turns the song into a sweltering Oleta Adams ballad.

Of her new homework assignments, “Is There Anybody Out There?” proves to be the album’s prominent standout. It’s a rare tune penned by the late Hal David with James Ingram, reviving the adult contemporary r&b vibes of “Déjà Vu,” as Phil Ramone wraps sultry strings, sophisticated backing vocals and Mark McLean’s impressive drumming around Anita Baker romance. “99 Miles from L.A.” (Albert Hammond), “It Was Almost Like a Song (Ronnie Milsap) and “I Just Have to Breathe” (Shirley Bassey) are also retouched and revamped into Warwick-esque easy-listening tunes.

Now works as a welcoming companion piece to Warwick’s present-day catalog and a testament to its influential magnetism. Although it comes very short in overshadowing Warwick’s then and continues to recycle new products of older repertoire, it still serves as a major improvement over the updated My Friends & Me (2006) and a step up from her 2008 gospel retreat Why We Sing. With Ramone’s fingers on deck, her Brill Building pop (and the newbies) are giving sensible updates. Had these songs been short of magic or lyrical depth, Now would be confined to the endless barrage of covers’ discs now flooding the low-budget compilation market.


About the Author

J Matthew Cobb

Managing editor of HiFi Magazine


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