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Review: Dionne Warwick On Edsel Records

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Presenting Dionne EdselDionne Warwick’s third album bore the title Make Way for Dionne Warwick.  But truth to tell, by the time of its release in September 1964, America had already made way for the New Jersey-born singer.  She had climbed the charts with the immortal likes of “Don’t Make Me Over,” “Anyone Who Had a Heart,” “Walk on By” and “Reach Out for Me,” the latter two of which were included on that LP.  Of course, all of those singles were written and produced by the team of Burt Bacharach and Hal David, who with Warwick were stretching the boundaries of American pop and soul with each new 45.  The elegant singer made an art out of her vocal control, deftly navigating the tricky contours of Bacharach’s angular, complex compositions with preternatural cool.  Bacharach shattered convention with his shifting time signatures and unexpected chord progressions, but Warwick suffused those melodies with a clarion tone and seemingly effortless restraint.  She naturally brought an actress’ gifts and a musician’s know-how to Bacharach’s tunes and David’s direct, deceptively simple lyrics.  Until an acrimonious breakup in 1972, their “Triangle Marriage” raised the bar for sophisticated, contemporary, adult and urbane pop.

Following last year’s series of 23 expanded reissues of Dionne Warwick’s Scepter and Warner Bros. catalogue from WEA Japan, the U.K.’s Edsel label has just reissued 16 of those very albums on four new, multi-CD sets.  Each one of Edsel’s sets contains four original stereo albums in chronological sequence, with two of the sets adding singles and retaining bonus tracks originally introduced on Rhino Handmade’s expanded reissues.  The titles have been reissued as follows:

  1. Presenting Dionne Warwick (1963) / Anyone Who Had a Heart (1964) / Make Way for Dionne Warwick (1964) / The Sensitive Sound of Dionne Warwick (1965) (2 CDs)
  2. Here I Am (1965) / Dionne Warwick in Paris (1966) / Here Where There is Love (1966) / On Stage and in the Movies (1967) (2 CDs)
  3. The Windows of the World (1967) / In the Valley of the Dolls (1968) / Promises, Promises (1968, with bonus tracks) / Soulful (1969, with bonus tracks) (3 CDs)
  4. I’ll Never Fall in Love Again (1970) / Very Dionne (1970, with bonus tracks) / Dionne (1972) / Just Being Myself (1973) (2 CDs)

Dionne in Paris EdselThese four collections span Warwick’s entire groundbreaking period at Florence Greenberg’s New York-based Scepter label at which she recorded her most enduring hits, as well as her first two albums for Warner Bros. Records, the first of which was her final full-length album collaboration with Bacharach and David.  As such, these compact packages of truly essential American music deserve a place on the shelf.   One couldn’t better trace the evolution and growth of Warwick’s artistry as an interpretive singer, as well as the songwriting, production and arranging acumen of Bacharach and David, than via these seminal recordings.

As Dionne released very few non-LP singles at Scepter, all of her familiar hits from the period can be found on these four releases.  But newcomers to her catalogue will also discover that her albums, though primarily consisting of Bacharach and David’s uptown take on R&B, were also peppered with standards, showtunes and later, pop “covers.”  All of these varied songs spoke to her versatility as both a superior vocalist and an entertainer for all seasons.

This campaign from Edsel is the first large-scale reappraisal of Warwick’s catalogue in the U.K. since a series of early Scepter-era reissues from Sequel Records in the mid-1990s.  And a daunting catalogue it is, especially for newcomers.  In 2003 and 2004, Rhino Handmade premiered a number of the later Scepter albums on CD in generously expanded editions, but the series was abruptly ended before its scheduled conclusion.  The first four Warner Bros. titles arrived on CD from Ambassador Soul Classics.  Real Gone Music precursor Collectors’ Choice Music then reissued much of the Scepter catalogue plus the fifth and final Warner Bros. title in 2007 in straightforward album reissues with no additional material.  (Discussion of Dionne’s non-Scepter and WB work is best left for another day!)  The 2013 WEA Japan release series was the first major effort by one label to completely standardize the catalogue, and it did so admirably, including mono and stereo versions of each album (where applicable) plus a healthy selection of bonus tracks, many of which were never previously available on CD.  The 23 Japanese reissues still didn’t include the entirety of Warwick’s Scepter and Warner recordings; some single versions, foreign language tracks and miscellaneous recordings were left off.  But, especially with its inclusion of the first-ever CD reissues of Dionne Warwick’s Greatest Motion Picture Hits, The Dionne Warwicke Story: A Decade of Gold and From Within, the Japanese series made it possible for Dionne’s entire Scepter and Warner Bros. album catalogue to be obtained from one label in uniform editions.

Edsel’s new reissue series differs substantially from that of WEA Japan’s.  We’ll dive into what you’ll find on these affordably-priced collectors’ sets after the jump!

Dionne Windows EdselAll albums are presented by Edsel in stereo, though on Warwick’s early LPs, some tracks were included in mono only.  The notes by reissue producer Tony Rounce helpfully indicate these songs.  In addition, during the early years of Warwick’s career, Scepter had a habit of recycling songs from one album to the next; few should object to Rounce’s removal of the duplicated songs on the second and third albums here.

The decision was also made to drop one track off 1970’s Very Dionne, a live recording of “Make It Easy on Yourself.”  Recorded at New Jersey’s Garden State Arts Center, “Make It Easy on Yourself” was the only non-studio cut on Very Dionne and was also released as a single.  Dionne’s first live release on 45, it made the Pop Top 40 and the R&B Top 30.  Rounce explains its omission was “partly due to time restrictions and partly due to the fact that it’s part of an originally unissued live session that may, at some point, become an additional part of Edsel’s reissue programme.”  (Nine more tracks from the same July 23, 1970 concert – most previously unissued – were issued on Rhino Handmade’s expansion of Very Dionne.  The balance of the concert was scheduled for reissue on an expanded edition of On Stage and in the Movies.  When Handmade abandoned the Warwick series, those four songs remained in the vaults.)

This series, covering the period of 1963 to 1973, represents itself as restoring Dionne’s first sixteen albums to print, but that’s not altogether accurate.  1967’s beautifully-sung, heartfelt gospel collection The Magic of Believing on Scepter is absent.  More understandably dropped from the series are a couple of compilation albums –Dionne Warwick’s Greatest Motion Picture Hits (1969) and From Within (1972) – and one live anthology, The Dionne Warwicke Story: A Decade of Gold (1971).  From Within is the most unusual case.  Of its 32 tracks, 18 were culled from past Scepter releases and 14 were previously unissued.  Edsel has included all of its unique songs on the Windows/Valley/Promises/Soulful set, making it possible to fully assemble From Within from this series of CDs.  However, the one new-to-LP track on Greatest Motion Picture Hits, Dionne’s single of the Academy Award-nominated Casino Royale tune “The Look of Love,” hasn’t been added among the bonus material.

Dionne - Never Fall EdselHappily, the full contents of Rhino Handmade’s 2003 reissue of Soulful are replicated, and that’s where you’ll find most of those From Within songs.  Still more bonus material has been drawn from non-LP singles and Handmade’s expanded editions of The Windows of the World/In the Valley of the Dolls, Promises, Promises/I’ll Never Fall in Love Again and Very Dionne (including two strong duets with B.J. Thomas and the fantastic “California,” a Bacharach-style country excursion that inexplicably remained in the vaults until 2004).  In addition, the mono single versions of “Amanda” and “He’s Moving On” from the soundtrack of The Love Machine make their first-ever CD appearances outside of Japan.  No mono single versions of album tracks have been included but Dionne’s non-LP Scepter singles “Dream, Sweet Dreamer,” “The April Fools,” “Slaves,” “Odds and Ends,” and “Who Gets the Guy” are all here.

Edsel intends this series to be one-stop shopping for Warwick, so copious liner notes from Tony Rounce are provided with every title.  These conversational and candidly opinionated notes offer an entertaining and informative account of Warwick’s releases on both sides of the Atlantic.  Rounce also attempts to clear up the origins of much of the early material from the days when Scepter would pass backing tracks around from artist to artist, and pays close attention to chart positions and recording dates.  However, there are some errors throughout.  The film What’s New Pussycat is not a musical, though Bacharach and David contributed three songs to the picture.  Peter Matz, while a respected arranger, conductor, and composer, did not co-write any music from Sweet Charity.  That score belongs entirely to composer Cy Coleman and lyricist Dorothy Fields.  “Be Aware” is not a Burt Bacharach solo composition; its lyrics are by Hal David.  Rounce doesn’t mention that “Knowing When to Leave” is from Bacharach and David’s 1968 musical Promises, Promises, and refers to Dionne just having recorded four of the musical’s songs rather than five.  (For the record, the other four songs, all included here, are the title song, “Whoever You Are, I Love You,” “Wanting Things” and “I’ll Never Fall in Love Again.”)  Rounce’s notes also credit the arrangement of the sublime 1971 Bacharach/David single “Who Gets the Guy” to veteran talent (and sometimes-Dionne arranger) Marty Paich rather than to the composer, who was credited on the original single and on subsequent issues of the track.

Three of the four titles are housed in slipcased jewel cases, while the Windows/Valley/Promises/Soulful set keeps the same design elements but is housed in a digipak.  The thick, colorful and attractively-designed 28-page booklets are brimming with rare photographs and images of Warwick memorabilia.  Phil Kinrade has newly mastered all tracks, and in the instances where audio quality isn’t up to snuff due to the quality of the source tapes, Edsel has offered a disclaimer in the booklet.  You’ll also find discographical annotation as to the albums, but it’s missing for the singles and the other assorted bonus tracks.

For collectors who don’t already own these sixteen albums in one edition or another, this new series is an affordable introduction to one of the most significant catalogues in pop and soul.  (As the Rhino Handmade expanded edition of Soulful is out of print, its reappearance here is particularly welcome.  Though resequenced, all of the additional material on Handmade’s Promises, Promises/I’ll Never Fall in Love Again and The Windows of the World/Valley of the Dolls is also included.)  Fans are urged to continue their exploration of the Warwick catalogue with the two exemplary 2013 releases from Real Gone Music dedicated to the singer’s oft-overlooked Warner Bros. years, We Need to Go Back: The Unissued Warner Bros. Masters and The Complete Warner Bros. Singles.

From Presenting Dionne Warwick to Just Being Myself, these sixteen albums on four CD sets contain some of the most emotionally and musically rich recordings of their time – or any other.  Sit back and make way for Dionne Warwick!

All four sets can be ordered at the links below:

Dionne Warwick, Presenting Dionne Warwick (1963) / Anyone Who Had a Heart (1964) / Make Way for Dionne Warwick (1964) / The Sensitive Sound of Dionne Warwick (1965) (Edsel. 2014) (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Dionne Warwick, Here I Am (1965) / Dionne Warwick in Paris (1966) / Here Where There is Love (1966) / On Stage and in the Movies (1967) (Edsel, 2014) (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Dionne Warwick, The Windows of the World (1967) / In the Valley of the Dolls (1968) / Promises, Promises (1968) / Soulful (1969) (plus bonus tracks) (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Dionne Warwick, I’ll Never Fall in Love Again (1970) / Very Dionne (1970) / Dionne (1972) / Just Being Myself (1973) (Edsel, 2014) (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Written by Joe Marchese

February 20, 2014 at 13:19

2 Responses

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  1. Great review, Joe. I was wondering if you can identify the missing Scepter songs from these releases. You mention the single “The Look Of Love” is missing. In 1977, the Musicor label released an album titled “Only Love Can Break A Heart” of old Scepter recordings that included some previously unissued tracks. The title cut of the album was also released as a single in 1977 bw If I Ruled The World. 8 of the 10 tracks from the “Only Love Can Break A Heart” compilation album have been included, albeit scattered on these new Edsel CDs, however there are 2 missing tracks – Dionne’s cover of “Monday, Monday” (which her sister Dee Dee Warwick had also recorded), and “For All We Know”. I have not been able to find a CD release of these 2 songs. Do you know of any other missing Scepter tracks? Cheers.


    February 20, 2014 at 20:49

  2. Your review, although helpful, does not address the issue of sound quality on this reissue series. I am hoping the sound quality is comparable to the Burt Bacharach set on Rhino, three CDs in a tall box. That set left no room for sonic improvement!

    If these Edsel disks are loud and bright, I will absolutely hate them.

    Thom osburn

    January 7, 2015 at 16:38

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