was the last collaboration between the songwriting team of Burt Bacharach
and Hal David with their protégé Dionne Warwicke. It
was also the first album where all three attempted some socially aware
songs against the backdrop of the Vietnam War, black power and the
civil rights movement. Warwicke, the first female black singer to
garner so many contemporary pop awards, was looking over her shoulder
at a young, gifted and black Aretha Franklin, who was leading the
soul music movement.
Warwicke was worried, she had reason to be. The music business was
changing beyond the safe harbour of her supper club audience. Teenagers
were becoming the important sector to target. Her earlier attempts
to sing for this audience were stymied by her former record label,
Sceptor. Between 1967 and 1972, Warwicke, Bacharach and David had
recorded a number of interesting songs that Sceptor refused to release.
These only came to light in 1973 when Sceptor released From Within,
after Warwicke had bolted to Warner Brothers.
of the tracks were either gospel (Jesus Will, Somebody Bigger Than
You Or I) or socially conscious/ civil rights numbers (Slaves, Nina
Simone's To Be Young Gifted And Black), which presumably Scepter
wanted to keep under wraps lest she alienate her adult audience.
elegance and style were clearly unsuited for political songs. She
was the epitome of a black singer who had embraced the white world
while her brothers and sisters were still struggling with their
identity. This was the era of Black Power. Warwicke was also much
older than the younger soul artists articulating from the streets.
was crafted as an album of easy-listening tunes with Bacharach and
Davids trademark muted horns and off-centre melodies. Where
the songwriting pair veered off was from the easy-to-remember melodies
of their previous pop hits. All the new songs had the maturity of
songsmiths no longer looking to "knock-off" hits but advancing
their style with complex tunes and multi-layered arrangements. These
were delicate and intricate tunes that only a singer with an inner
ear for subtle melodies could master. Warwicke pulled it off magnificently.
Davids lyrics read like he was attempting to write a John
Lennon song. On the lead track of side two, Be Aware, David attempted
Imagine. "Somewhere in the world, someone is cold
be aware/ And while youre feeling young, someone is old
be aware/ And while your stomachs full, somewhere in this
world, someone is hungry/ When there is so much, should anyone be
/ And while you speak your mind, others cant
speak be aware". Each question hung in the air as
Warwicke and the music suspended belief. Its the only song
that remains in print in a new Dionne Warwicke compilation recently
released by Rhino.
other classic tracks here include I Just Have To Breathe, The Balance
Of Nature and If We Never Say Goodbye.
Have To Breathe has one of Bacharachs most difficult melodies.
Mournful strings lead us into this song of sadness and reflection
"Its not an easy world we have to face/ But Ill
face anything as long as that old morning sun will always bring
me you." The key line here is "for me to love you
I just have to breathe."
Balance Of Nature is more of the same sorrowful sigh with a solo
harmonica echoing the singers isolation. David again offered
some cosmic lyrics, "Day by day, we all search for love/
The way we are born to do/ Not one by one but two by two".
tempo picks up on If We Never Say Goodbye. Warwicke is in her element
on this standard upbeat pop candy, "Dont permit your
pride to just cast our love aside/ Im sorry I hurt you believe
me/ If you never say goodbye
nothing ever is."
when the trio attempt a recording of Close To You and One Less Bell
To Answer that things falter. Warwickes Close To You hasnt
got the pathos of Karen Carpenters rendition. Bacharach and
David were probably just as aware of The Carpenters challenge to
bring the supper club sound to the teens. The cover of Lesley Duncans
Love Song is the most ordinary. From arrangement to singing, it
remains faithful to the original. It was probably a bad choice for
someone of Warwickes sophisticated stature to handle a folk
hit. Neither could she sing the soulful One Less Bell which fell
on the 5th Dimension to make a hit.
is to the trios credit that they never attempted a style they
were unsuited for but the failure of Dionne to sell, caused consternation.
None of the songs here charted and for the next couple of years,
Warwicke would shift from producer to producer (Holland-Dozier-Holland,
Issac Hayes, Barry Manilow) in search of another team of hitmakers.
For a while, Warwicke found fame with Thom Bell who gave her the
Track Of The Cat album with the big hit, Then Came You. But clearly
this sophisticated lady burnt her bridges when she mounted a successful
US$5 million suit against her mentors Bacharach and David.
the 80s, Warwicke hosted Solid Gold, acted on television and
in 1985 she reteamed with Bacharach for That's What Friends Are
For, donating the proceeds to AIDs research (and winning her fifth
Grammy in 1987). She attempted successfully a Brazilian album, Aqualera
do Brasil (1995), and is currently residing in Buenos Aires. Her
last album is 1998s Dionne Sings Dionne where she attempted
her old hits in a different setting, for instance a salsa take of
Do You Know The Way To San Jose?
was also in 1998 that the Dionne album was remembered through a
new collaboration between Elvis Costello and Bacharach, Painted
From Memory. This album fondly recalled the intricacy of Dionne
with a style that borrowed heavily from that album. If only Warwick
had been asked to sing. To quote Hal David, "the only certain
thing is nothings for sure." - Micheal Cheah
To appreciate Dionne Warwicke, look beyond her hits albums for her
original albums on the Sceptor label. Most have been reissued on
Sequel in the UK. For her last works with Bacharach/David, youll
have to look for original records of From Within (1973) and Only
Love Can Break A Heart (1977). Both collect outtakes recorded before
1972 but never released until much later.
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