Before Dionne Warwick signed for Clive Davis’ Arista Records in 1978, her career was at a musical crossroads. After leaving Warner Bros after the release of 1977s Love At First Sight, Dionne found herself without a record company. It seemed the seventies had been a tumultuous decade for era for her. The seventies started with Dionne signed to Warner Bros in 1972 and contracted to work with Bacharach and David. However, Bacharach and David were in the process of dissolving their partnership and Dionne’s career stalled. She ended up suing Bacharach and David and settling out of court. Then Dionne worked with a series of producers, including Thom Bell, Holland, Dozier, Holland, Michael Omartian and Jerry Ragovoy, but the albums sold badly. The only bright spot was the success of Dionne’s 1977 duet with The Detroit Spinners on Then Came You, which reached number one. Sadly, Dionne’s solo career didn’t benefit. So, now she was without a recording contract Dionne Warwick was considering retirement. She’d released nearly thirty albums and won four Grammy Awards. Clive Davis knew Dionne well, and felt she’d be a good signing for Arista, so approached her about signing to Arista. Dionne said she’s think about it and after some consideration, signed for Arista. Dionne’s first album for Arista, Dionne which will be rereleased on 27th August 2012, by BBR Records, saw a remarkable transformation in Dionne Warwick’s career.
Having signed Dionne Warwick to Arista, Clive Davis needed to team her up with the right producer. Clive had one man in particular in mind, who he felt would bring out the best in Dionne…Barry Manilow. Instantly, the veteran soul singer and AOR crooner bonded. While they may have seemed like an unlikely partnership, the partnership would work.
For what would become Dionne, ten tracks were chosen. This included I’ll Never Love This Way Again which Will Jennings and Richard cowrote, plus Deja Vu written by Dionne’s old friend Isaac Hayes, along with Adrienne Anderson. Rupert Holmes wrote Who, What, When, Where, Why while two of producer Barry Manilow songs featured on Dionne. They were In Your Eyes and All the Way. Now that the material for Dionne was chosen, Dionne headed to United Western Studios in Hollywood to record Dionne.
At United Western Studios, Dionne was joined by a small band. This included a rhythm section of drummer Rick Schlosser, bassist Will Lee and guitarist Mitch Holder. Barry Manilow played piano, Bill Mays keyboards and Alan Estes percussion. Gene Page, Artie Butler, Greg Mathieson and Jimmy Haskell arranged the string and horns, while Sid Sharp was the concertmaster. Once the ten tracks were recorded, Dionne would be released in June 1979.
Before Dionne was released in June 1979, I’ll Never Love This Way Again was released in May 1979. Not only did it reach number five in the US Billboard 100 and number eighteen in the US R&B Charts, but saw Dionne awarded a Grammy Award for Best R&B Vocal Performance. When Dionne was released in June 1979, it reached number twelve in the US Billboard 200 and number ten in the US R&B Charts. Deja Vu was the second single released from Dionne in October 1979. While it reached number fifteen in the US Billboard 100 and number twenty-five in the US R&B Charts, it reached number one in the US AOR Charts. The final single released from Dionne was After You, in March 1980, reaching number sixty-five in the US Billboard 100 and number thirty-three in the US R&B Charts. This was a remarkable transformation of Dionne’s career. Within a year, Dionne Warwick had gone from having no recording contract to having a Grammy Award Winning album in Dionne, plus three hit singles. However, what made Dionne such a successful album? That’s what I’ll now tell you, when I tell you about the music on Dionne.
Open Dionne is the Rupert Holmes penned Who, What, When, Where, Why which had previously been recorded by several artists, including Rupert Holmes. It’s a song perfectly suited to Dionne’s impassioned vocal. With Tight soaring, dramatic backing vocalists accompany her, a pounding rhythm section, punchy horns, chiming guitars and keyboards combine. The arrangement flows along, with sweeping, swirling strings, backing vocalists and rasping horns at its heart, while the rhythm section provide the track’s heartbeat. As the song builds and builds, a piano slows things way down, before rebuilding and unleashing more of its glorious sound. What a way to start Dionne, a song that shows Dionne was back and had lost none of her talent. Like a fine wine, her voice matures with age.
After You, which was originally recorded by Cissy Houston of Think It Over, is very different to the opening track. Whereas the previous track burst into life, this is a slow, emotive ballad. The tempo is slow, with woodwind, piano and strings giving way to Dionne’s thoughtful vocal. Her voice is full of sadness, reflected in the strings. The piano adds to the drama of the track, while woodwind adds a wistful, melancholy sound. Drums and piano then build the drama, as Dionne’s vocal grows in power, tinged with sadness and regret.
There’s another change in style on The Letter, with the track combining elements of funk, soul and rock to make the track dance-floor friendly. The rhythm section add funk and drama, while cooing backing vocalists and flourishes of strings accompany Dionne. Her vocal soars high, while the trio of backing vocalists and rhythm section are key to the track’s sound. While it’s a much covered track, Dionne tries to breath new meaning into the track. There’s a bit of showboating from the band, growling horns, flourishes of piano and bursts of searing guitars. It’s as if Dionne and her band have decided to kick loose and show case their considerable talents, which they do with aplomb.
I’ll Never Love This Way Again was the single that won Dionne a Grammy Award. When you hear this track even once you’ll realize why. Her vocal is tinged with emotion, sadness and resignation. Behind her, swathes of grand strings, a dramatic rhythm section and piano combine. Drums are at the heart of this drama, with Rick Sclosser pounding his drums to match the drama and heartache in Dionne’s vocal. Dionne displays a wide range, and ability to bring new life and meaning to this ballad, and in doing so, produces the definitive version, by adding emotion and much needed soul.
Deja Vu was written by Isaac Hayes and Adrienne Anderson. A jaunty rhythm section, keyboards and cascading strings combines before Dionne’s tender, heartfelt vocals. The arrangement floats along, with a pounding bass line and melancholy, lush strings. Dionne’s vocal is much more understated, but this has the effect of making you focus on her every word. With its spacious, floaty arrangement and Dionne’s deeply soulful, heartfelt vocal, this showed another quite beautiful side to Dionne Warwick’s music, one I’d like to much more of.
Feeling Old Feelings is another of the five ballads on Dionne, and features a wistful, melancholy vocal from Dionne. Here, the arrangement is quite understated, with just sad strings, piano and occasional flourishes of harpsichord key to the arrangement. Midway through the track, as if on cue, producer Barry Manilow builds the drama. Using drums to do so, strings and piano accompany Dionne as her vocal grows in power, passion and emotion, ending the track on a dramatic flourish.
As In Your Eyes begins, you’re immediately struck by similarities with Bacharach and David. It just has that feel and sound. The starts slow, with Dionne’s vocal gentle, but growing in power. With the rhythm section, melancholy string and guitars combining, percussion and piano join Dionne. Throughout the track, which was written by Barry Manilow, Jack Feldman and Barry Sussman, the cadence and even the melancholy horn sound is straight out of the Bacharach and David songbook. Given who much Dionne’s vocal suited Bacharach and David’s song’s, then it’s no surprise that this track’s perfect for Dionne, who brings the track to life, with her wistful vocal.
My Everlasting Love has an understated sound, with just the piano, sweeping, strings and bass accompanying Dionne’s pensive vocal. You’re just awaiting the arrangement building. Drums enter, while the strings and piano play a more prominent role in the track. As the arrangement and drama builds, multi-tracked backing vocals, grand sweeping strings and the rhythm section combine. They accompany Dionne’s heartfelt, impassioned vocal as the track heads to its emotive ending.
Out Of My Hands sees Dionne take Dionne in the direction of dance music. Keyboards, sweeping, swirling strings and a funky rhythm section accompany Dionne. She’s accompanied by cooing, soaring backing vocalists. They play an important part in the track. As the track flows along, there are sudden bursts in tempo. This means Dionne seems to rush her vocal. The rest of the time, a really catchy dance track unfolds, where disco, boogie and hi-energy unite.
Closing Dionne is All the Time, another ballad written by Barry Manilow and Marty Pantzer. Just piano and the lushest of strings accompany Dionne’s heartfelt vocal. Soon, Dionne’s vocal grows in power and emotion, while bursts of horns and strings combine. The piano is at the heart of the arrangement when it starts to build. Producer Barry Manilow uses the drums to add to the drama. Similarly, the strings and piano play a more prominent role as Dionne unleashes a vocal laden with emotion, passion and heartache. It’s an impressive and dramatic way to close Dionne Warwick’s comeback album, and one that launched an Indian Summer in her career.
It’s lucky that Dionne Warwick hadn’t retired when she found herself without a record company. Had she done so, she’d have missed out on Dionne, one of the most successful albums of the later period of her career. She’d also have missed out on three hit singles, plus a Grammy Award. For all this, she had Arista Records’ founder Clive Davis to thank. He gave Dionne the chance to relaunch her career and to some extent, reinvent herself. Clive Davis’ other idea was pairing Dionne with Barry Manilow, who produced Dionne. On Dionne, Dionne sang five ballads, while interspersing these with some uptempo tracks, including the deliciously irresistible Who, What, When, Where, Why which opens the album. Out Of My Hands was another dance-floor friendly track, where Dionne and her band kick loose. Deja Vu which was a spacious, floaty arrangement, was another of the highlights of Dionne. Of the five ballads, I’ll Never Love This Way Again and My Everlasting Love are the two best ballads. After Dionne, Dionne Warwick would release a string of successful albums, including Heartbreaker, which was one of Dionne Warwick’s most successful album. However, Dionne, which will be rereleased on 27th August 2012, by BBR Records, was the album that relaunched Dionne Warwick’s career and saw her career enter a successful Indian Summer. Standout Tracks: Who, What, When, Where, Why, I’ll Never Love This Way Again, Deja Vu and Out Of My Hands.