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Review: Dionne Warwick, “We Need to Go Back: The Unissued Warner Bros. Masters”

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Dionne - We Need to Go BackWe need to go back to the songs we used to sing…

– Nickolas Ashford and Valarie Simpson, “We Need to Go Back”

What’s remarkable about the 19 outtakes on Dionne Warwick’s We Need to Go Back: The Unissued Warner Bros. Masters (Real Gone Music RGM-0170) is that they’re every bit as good as – and in many cases, superior to – the music actually released during Warwick’s stormy five-year stay at the label.  Every one of the soulful stylist’s Warner albums is represented with outtakes save 1972’s debut Dionne, the final Bacharach-David-Warwick production.  In addition, abortive sessions with Nickolas Ashford and Valarie Simpson, Randy Edelman, and Joe Porter are also included here, nearly in full.  (More on that “nearly” soon.)  We Need to Go Back is a companion volume to Real Gone’s The Complete Warner Bros. Singles; if you missed our review, click on this link and then join us back here!

The 1972 Holland-Dozier-Holland production “Too Far Out of Reach” – like Ashford and Simpson’s pair of productions, “We Need to Go Back” and “Someone Else Gets the Prize” – sounds tailor-made for Diana Ross.  But that’s not to say that Warwick didn’t bring her elegant vocal instrument and expressive musical personality to her performance.  “Too Far Out of Reach” beautifully blends funky drums and bass with orchestral grandeur, similar to the best songs crafted by the team for Miss Ross.  But Warwick brings sheer conviction to the song’s insistent refrain that “you’re only hurtin’ yourself and nobody else!” as the strings swell with Detroit style.  “Too Far Out of Reach” sits comfortably alongside H-D-H’s more reflective “It Hurts Me So,” in which Warwick confronts her unfaithful lover (“You didn’t tell me that you had a wife/Suddenly, I’m left to find I’ve got to make a new life/Without you, who’s gonna see me through?”).  With its horn flourishes, “It Hurts Me So” has a slight Bacharach-esque feel redolent of the album’s “I Always Get Caught in the Rain.”

Recorded in May 1973, Ashford and Simpson’s “We Need to Go Back” is one of the unquestionable highlights here, even if the vocal coos and soft singing that open the track again recall Ross.  Soon, it’s pure Warwick magic, though, with her lead gliding effortlessly over strings and backing vocals in a nostalgic reverie: “We need to go back to the songs we used to sing…”  The song deftly balances the earthbound with the divine as Dionne concludes, “Maybe we need to pray!”  It’s a mystery why the Ashford and Simpson sessions were discarded, considering the strength of “We Need to Go Back” and the other track included here, “Someone Else Gets the Prize.”  (The song is a different one than Diana Ross’ “No One Gets the Prize,” though the later song may have been influenced lyrically by the title phrase here.)  Warwick’s innate grace and dignity keeps her from ever being pitiable as she ponders “why does it always turn out someone else gets the prize?”  These two songs would have made one hell of a single release, yet they were inexplicably consigned to a “might-have-been.”  Real Gone has dropped one tantalizing footnote, though: a seven-and-a-half-minute version of “We Need to Go Back” still exists in the WEA vaults.  Though the proposed single edit of the track made the cut here, the full version deserves imminent release as well.  (There’s the “nearly” here!)

After the jump: discover new works from Randy Edelman, Burt Bacharach, Thom Bell and more! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

August 20, 2013 at 10:34

Review: Dionne Warwick, “The Complete Warner Bros. Singles”

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Dionne - Warner SinglesDionne Warwick’s 1972-1977 tenure at Warner Bros. Records has long been a subject of much confusion.  Why couldn’t the Burbank giant yield any hit records with the superstar artist after signing her to a record-breaking deal? Sure, the “triangle marriage” of Warwick, Burt Bacharach and Hal David was breaking up, but Warner paired her with some of the most famed names in soul music: Holland-Dozier-Holland, Jerry Ragovoy, and Thom Bell among them.  Bell scored a hit for Warwick with “Then Came You,” and the Spinners duet earned her – unbelievably – her first Billboard No. 1 Pop record during the Warner years – on the Spinners’ label, Atlantic!  Dionne couldn’t strike gold on Warner despite her best efforts.  Had disco irrevocably altered the soul marketplace?  Did the records suffer from a lack of promotion?  Two new releases from Real Gone Music – The Complete Warner Bros. Singles (RGM -0169) and We Need to Go Back: The Unissued Warner Bros. Masters (RGM-0170) – finally give reason to completely re-evaluate Dionne Warwick’s Warner Bros. years.  Sure, maybe the label did make some missteps, particularly in the material left sitting on the shelf.  But maybe the public got a few things wrong, too.

The Complete Warner Bros. Singles is not just a singles collection, but also an effective primer on Warwick’s tumultuous 5+ years on WB.  It features tracks drawn from all five of her releases there – Dionne (1972), Just Being Myself (1973), Then Came You (1974), Track of the Cat (1975), and Love at First Sight (1977) – plus two sides of one non-LP single.  The constant among these 21 diverse recordings is the high level of Warwick’s artistry, combining silky tones with an actress’ skill for interpretation.  She could be vulnerable or gritty as she ran the emotional gamut, but exuded vocal control and frequently understated power.

Warner  missed the boat with the selection of Warwick’s first two singles off the Dionne album.  Jacques Brel, Eric Blau and Mort Shuman’s “If We Only Have Love” was paired with Burt Bacharach and Hal David’s “(They Long to Be) Close to You,” both covers.  The latter was clearly inspired by the Carpenters’ recent hit version, already making the song “old news.”  In addition, Warwick had already released a fine version of the song in 1965.  Burt Bacharach didn’t even arrange or conduct “Close to You,” ceding duties to Bob James.  Though the production of Dionne was credited to Bacharach and David, the busy, distracted Bacharach only arranged and conducted four of its tracks.  Surely a Bacharach/David original would have made a better A-side.  The bouncy, retro-feeling “If You Never Say Goodbye” should have been earmarked for single release, perhaps backed by James’ arrangement of the duo’s cheerful “Hasbrook Heights.”  (“I Just Have to Breathe,” “The Balance of Nature” and “Be Aware,” the other three pure Bacharach tracks, were all too subtle to have much single potential.)  Though their vocals were – and are – lovely, “If We Only Have Love” (arranged by the talented Don Sebesky, like James a mainstay of the CTI jazz label) and the retread of “Close to You” simply didn’t excite listeners.  The single reached just No. 84 Pop/No. 37 AC.   With Bacharach and David going their separate ways, an era was over.

Dionne should have met with more luck for Just Being Myself, written and produced by the Motown-reared team of Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier and Eddie Holland.  H-D-H did take Warwick in a different direction, emphasizing the soul quotient of her pop-soul formula.  The dramatic “I Think You Need Love” was chosen as the A-side, and while it’s a powerful performance, its B-side was the more commercial song.  “Don’t Let My Teardrops Bother You” had a familiar feel to its lyrics, with Warwick persevering in the face of heartbreak, and an even more familiar sound in its arrangement thanks to the Bacharach-esque horn accents.  This single was followed up by the title song “(I’m) Just Being Myself” with its striking Latin percussion b/w “You’re Gonna Need Me,” toughened up by a prominent electric guitar.  This single charted a minor R&B hit (No. 62).  Was Dionne having an identity crisis?  Though her vocals were as committed and satisfying as ever, Warwick admitted discomfort with the tracks on Just Being Myself, all of which were laid down prior to her participation.  Many sounded, naturally, more Motown than New York.  Nonetheless, Warwick’s next album project would also be a departure.

After the jump: a look at the singles produced by Jerry Ragovoy, Thom Bell and more! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

August 19, 2013 at 10:57

Make Way For Dionne Warwick: 23 Scepter and Warner Bros. Albums To Be Remastered and Expanded [NOW WITH UPDATED TRACK LISTINGS]

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Dionne - Make WayUPDATE 8/6/13: WEA Japan’s deluxe mini-LP editions of Dionne Warwick’s Scepter and Warner catalogue have finally arrived, but many purchasers have been surprised to find numerous alterations in the albums’ bonus material.   Originally-listed bonus tracks have been added, dropped, and reshuffled between albums.  By the numbers, there are 5 more bonus tracks than originally listed, but some songs are absent with others taking their place.  Below, in BOLD, we’ll let you know exactly what you’ll find on every CD in the series, what’s missing, and what’s new!

ORIGINAL POST OF 5/20/13: What it’s all about?

According to WEA Japan – the Japanese arm of Warner Music Group – it’s all about Dionne Warwick.  The legendary singer has recently celebrated her 50th anniversary in music with the well-received album Now (one of the final projects produced by the late Phil Ramone) while Warwick’s closest musical collaborator, Burt Bacharach, has just marked his own 85th birthday with the publication of a new memoir and the issuance of a new retrospective box set.  And so, in July, WEA Japan will reissue 23 albums – representing Warwick’s tenure at both Scepter and Warner Bros. Records – in newly remastered, mini-LP sleeve editions including mono and stereo for the early albums, plus bonus tracks (both those appended to Rhino Handmade’s previous expansions of certain titles, and new, never-on-CD additions) on virtually every disc in the set.  Three of these albums are new to CD.

Warwick’s Scepter and Warner catalogues have been reissued numerous times on CD from various labels including Rhino Handmade, Ambassador Soul Classics, Disky, Sequel Records and Collectors’ Choice Music, with many variations in mixes along the way.  This series appears to standardize her remarkable body of work in uniform editions with single mixes added where applicable.  The albums covered in the Warwick campaign are:

  1. Presenting Dionne Warwick (1963) (Mono/Stereo)
  2. Anyone Who Had a Heart (1964) (Mono/Stereo)
  3. Make Way for Dionne Warwick (1964) (Mono/Stereo plus bonus tracks)
  4. The Sensitive Sound Of Dionne Warwick (1965) (Mono/Stereo)
  5. Here I Am (1965) (Mono/Stereo plus bonus track)
  6. Dionne Warwick in Paris (1966) (Mono/Stereo plus bonus tracks)
  7. Here Where There Is Love (1966) (Mono/Stereo)
  8. On Stage and in the Movies (1967) (Mono/Stereo)
  9. The Windows of the World (1967) (Mono/Stereo plus bonus tracks)
  10. The Magic of Believing (1967) (Mono/Stereo)
  11. In The Valley of the Dolls (1968) (Mono/Stereo plus bonus tracks)
  12. Promises. Promises (1968) (Stereo Only) (with bonus tracks)
  13. Soulful (1969) (Mono/Stereo) (with bonus tracks)
  14. Dionne Warwick’s Greatest Motion Picture Hits (1969) (First time on CD, plus bonus tracks)
  15. I’ll Never Fall in Love Again (1970) (Stereo Only) (with bonus tracks)
  16. Very Dionne (1970) (duplicates track listing of Rhino Handmade RHM2 7869, 2004) (with bonus tracks)
  17. The Dionne Warwicke Story: A Decade Of Gold (1971) (2 CDs; First time on CD) (with bonus tracks)
  18. From Within (1972) (2 CDs; First time on CD) (with bonus tracks)
  19. Dionne (1972) (with bonus tracks)
  20. Just Being Myself (1973) (with bonus tracks)
  21. Then Came You (1975) (with bonus tracks)
  22. Track of the Cat (1975) (with bonus tracks)
  23. Love At First Sight (1977) (with bonus tracks)

After the jump, we’ll offer an UPDATED, in-depth look at the bonus material on each disc!  Plus: a lost Warwick treasure is finally found – in a most unlikely place! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

August 6, 2013 at 11:01

Release Round-Up: Week of July 30

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Nilsson - RCA Albums BoxNilsson, The RCA Albums Collection (RCA/Legacy)

Easily one of the box set purchases of the year. Every one of the legendary singer/songwriter’s 14 solo albums for the RCA label, newly remastered and expanded with bonus tracks, mono mixes and other treasures, plus another three discs of rarities and outtakes. The packaging is beautiful and the music more than matches. You will not be disappointed. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Dionne - We Need to Go BackDionne Warwick, The Complete Warner Bros. Singles / We Need to Go Back — The Unissued Warner Bros. Masters / Marilyn McCoo & Billy Davis, Jr., The Two of Us (Expanded Edition) / Marilyn & Billy (Expanded Edition) / Parlet, Pleasure Principle / Invasion of the Booty Snatchers / Tonto’s Expanding Head Band, Zero Time (Real Gone Music)

Real Gone’s Portsmouth Sinfonia title may have been unfortunately cancelled, but there are some amazing titles coming from the label this week.

The Complete Warner Bros. SinglesAmazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
We Need to Go BackAmazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
The Two of UsAmazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Marilyn & BillyAmazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Pleasure PrincipleAmazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Invasion of the Booty SnatchersAmazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Zero TimeAmazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

Big Country At The BBCBig Country, At The BBC (Mercury/Universal)

A 3CD/1DVD box chronicling just about everything the Scottish rockers had recorded by the BBC in the 1980s. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Electric PeaceThe Cult, Electric Peace (Beggar’s Archive)

The post-punk band’s acclaimed 1987 album, produced by Rick Rubin, is paired up with the original version of the album helmed by producer Steve Brown for the first time in one package.

2CD: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
2LP: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

Sly and the Family Stone - There's a Riot Gold

Sly and the Family Stone, There’s a Riot Goin’ On: Gold Edition (Get On Down)

Sly and the Family Stone’s incendiary 1971 album There’s a Riot Goin’ On – which spawned the hit single “Family Affair” – gets the gold CD treatment from Get On Down.  Along with some detailed liner notes, the label is promising actual embroidered fabric for the flag on the CD’s cover!  (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Review: Burt Bacharach, “Anyone Who Had a Heart: The Art of the Songwriter” Box Set

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Burt - Anyone Who Had a HeartTime stands still for Burt Bacharach.

Rumer’s 2010 single “Some Lovers,” from Bacharach and Steven Sater’s musical of the same name, is the most recent track on Universal U.K.’s new box set Anyone Who Had a Heart: The Art of the Songwriter.  Yet 2010 melts into 1965 like a ray of sunshine on the “cloudy Christmas morning” in the song lyric.  Sleigh bells gently underscore wistful flugelhorns as it begins, with Rumer’s dreamy, comforting vocals gracefully gliding over the bittersweet melody.  “Everything we touch is still a dream,” she sings, and for three minutes or so, it is.  Even shorn of its lyrics, “Some Lovers” would radiate the warm glow of nostalgia without ever seeming dated.  And it’s just one of 137 tracks found on the box’s six CDs, all standing as a testament to the songwriter’s signature style, remarkable consistency, and uncanny ability to render emotions through his musical notes.  The music of Burt Bacharach is sophisticated in its composition but simplicity itself in its piercing directness.  So why is this handsomely-designed, large box less than the sum of its (formidable) parts?

Anyone Who Had a Heart has been released to coincide with Bacharach’s memoir of the same name, and is also available in two 2-CD configurations, one each for the United States and the United Kingdom.  The 6-CD version follows in some rather large footsteps: that of Rhino’s 1998 box set The Look of Love: The Burt Bacharach Collection.  As expertly curated by Patrick Milligan and Alec Cumming, that sublime 3-CD box was the first to trace the arc of Bacharach’s career in context, and it played a mighty role in his career renaissance.  Yet over the ensuing fifteen years, Bacharach has continued to write with a frequency that would impress his much younger colleagues, so the time was certainly right for an updated package.  (The Look of Love concluded with Bacharach and Elvis Costello’s 1996 recording of “God Give Me Strength.”)  The ambitious Anyone Who Had a Heart is the first box since The Look of Love to take on the entirety of Bacharach’s career, though Hip-o Select’s 2004 Something Big: The Complete A&M Years collected all of his solo work for Herb Alpert and Jerry Moss’ label with a handful of rarities included for good measure.  But the new box is best enjoyed as a complement to The Look of Love, not an update or expansion.

Bacharach Box ContentsThe first four discs of this box are dedicated to a chronological account of Bacharach’s work, from 1955’s “(These) Desperate Hours” to 2010’s “Some Lovers.”  The fifth disc is essentially a single-disc distillation of the Hip-o box set, dedicated solely to Bacharach’s own, primarily instrumental recordings of his songbook.  The sixth disc shows the breadth of his influence as it presents an entire collection of jazz interpretations (both vocal and instrumental).  The fifth and sixth discs present an expanded view of his career not found on The Look of Love.  The first four discs cover the same territory as the Rhino box, but best it with 95 tracks vs. 75.  However, the approach by producers Kit Buckler, Paul Conroy and Richard Havers is a more idiosyncratic, less focused one.  Whereas The Look of Love concentrated on original versions of songs – most of which Bacharach produced and/or arranged – Anyone Who Had a Heart casts a wider net to give great attention to cover versions.  This approach does allow for stylistic variety but leaves the listener with a less definitive account of “the essentials.”  The new box is successful in fleshing out the periods that bookend Bacharach’s career, addressing his earliest and most recent songs with more depth than the 3-CD format of The Look of Love allowed.

Hit the jump as we explore the Art of Bacharach! Read the rest of this entry »

Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis, Jr., P-Funk Offshoot Parlet and More Join Dionne Warwick on Real Gone’s July Slate

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Marilyn and BillyThe July slate for Real Gone Music has been announced, and things are really heating up!  We’ve already filled you in at length about the pair of anthologies coming your way from Dionne Warwick, We Need To Go Back: The Unissued Warner Bros. Masters and The Complete Warner Bros. Singles, two of the most ambitious releases yet from the prolific label.  But that’s not all.  Real Gone is completing their July 30 release schedule with a pair of long-awaited titles from Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis, Jr., another pair from George Clinton’s Parlet, and two truly outré gems from Tonto’s Expanding Head Band (!) and the Brian Eno-produced Portsmouth Sinfonia.

Real Gone is heading into another Dimension for another pair of reissues – the 5th Dimension, to be exact.  When Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis, Jr. departed the “champagne soul” vocal group to pursue success as a husband-and-wife recording career, they were quickly rewarded with the success of “You Don’t Have to Be a Star (To Be in My Show).”  The song written by James Dean and John Glover, from their I Hope We Get to Love in Time LP, reached No. 1 on both the Pop and R&B charts, winning them a Grammy Award and going Top 10 in the U.K., as well.  But while I Hope We Get to Love in Time has been reissued on CD twice – once by Razor & Tie and once by Collectors’ Choice Music – its two follow-ups have languished on vinyl.  Real Gone is bringing – at last! – The Two of Us (1977) and Marilyn and Billy (1978) to CD for the very first time.  The former has been expanded with the non-LP singles “I’m So Glad I Found You” and “There’s Got to Be a Happy Ending,” as well as with Billy Davis’s solo singles “Light a Candle” and “Three Steps from True Love.”  One bonus track adorns Marilyn and Billy, the extended 12-inch mix of “Shine On Silver Moon.”  Mike Ragogna provides new liner notes for both reissues, and both albums have been remastered at Battery Studios.  Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis, Jr. remain partners in marriage and music today, and these albums find them in their pop-soul vocal prime.

Hit the jump to dive into the rest of the Real Gone schedule, including pre-order links! Read the rest of this entry »

Don’t Walk On By: Dionne Warwick’s “Unissued Warner Bros. Masters” Joins “The Complete Warner Bros. Singles” On CD

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Dionne - Warner SinglesWhen Dionne Warwick signed on the dotted line with Warner Bros. Records, the possibilities must have seemed endless.  The singer had embraced change, after all.  A new decade was in its infancy.  She had traded a feisty New York independent (Scepter) for a Burbank giant.  She had even added an “e” to her surname on the advice of an astrologer.  And although the exact amount wasn’t disclosed, Warwick had reportedly signed the biggest deal ever for a female vocalist.  What didn’t change, at least initially, was the commitment of producers/songwriters Burt Bacharach and Hal David to the superstar.  Warwick was signed to Warner Bros. through their production company, and every indication was that the trio’s chart presence – well-established since 1963 – would continue.  Of course, things don’t always go as planned.  Following the professional breakup of Bacharach and David, the singer’s 1972-1978 Warner Bros. tenure ultimately became a footnote in a career of one triumph after another, first at Scepter Records and later in a remarkable “comeback” at Arista (1979-1995). Thanks to the protean efforts of Real Gone Music, however, Dionne Warwick’s Warner tenure will be forgotten no more.  On July 30, the label will issue two essential volumes: The Complete Warner Bros. Singles, and even more excitingly, We Need to Go Back: The Unissued Warner Bros. Masters.  The latter will feature 19 never-before-released songs including productions by Burt Bacharach, Thom Bell, Holland-Dozier-Holland, and Nickolas Ashford and Valarie Simpson.

Sessions began in New York City in 1971 for the debut album simply entitled Dionne.  Little did Warwick, Bacharach, David, and the Warner Bros. brass know it would be the trio’s final full length collaboration. The album was released in January 1972 to a respectable showing (No. 54 Pop, No. 22 R&B), but the Bacharach/David partnership was soon torn asunder by professional and personal differences.  Lawsuits ensued, and Warwick was forced to soldier on with a variety of writers and producers.  Of course, she had the creme of the crop at the ready, including Holland-Dozier-Holland, Jerry Ragovoy, Michael Omartian, and most notably, Thom Bell.  Philadelphia soul architect Bell fared best.  He provided her with “Then Came You,” and that 1974 duet with The Spinners earned Dionne, unbelievably, her very first U.S. Pop No. 1.  But that wasn’t even a Warner Bros. single, having been issued on sister label Atlantic, home of The Spinners.

So what will you find over the course of 21 tracks on The Complete Warner Bros. Singles? Only one single was issued from the Bacharach/David-produced Dionne.  Oddly, the A-side wasn’t one of the team’s new compositions, but rather a Don Sebesky-arranged rendition of the Jacques Brel tune “If We Only Have Love,” with a revival of “Close to You” arranged by Bob James on the B-side.  Another album didn’t arrive on Warner Bros. until 1973.  It was Just Being Myself, produced and mostly written by Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier and Eddie Holland.  Warwick was never comfortable with the song selection, nor with the process of singing over pre-recorded tracks reportedly intended for artists on H-D-H’s Invictus label.  But the Detroit-recorded album has its fair share of soulful highlights, and four tracks from the LP saw single release including the title track and “Don’t Let My Teardrops Bother You.”  Jerry Ragovoy was in charge of Then Came You, so titled for the Thom Bell-produced hit single that was appended to the otherwise-unrelated LP.   “Then Came You” itself isn’t on Real Gone’s anthology, but two singles (four sides) from the March 1975 release, naturally, are – including No. 30 R&B hit “Take It From Me” and the No. 66 “Sure Thing.”

Then came Thom Bell, who was given the plum assignment of producing an entire album for Warwick.  Seeing as Bell was a spiritual successor to Bacharach, he was a perfect choice.  December 1975’s Track of the Cat deserved a better fate than its No. 137 Pop/No. 15 chart berth, as you’ll hear via its two singles (four sides) here: “His House and Me” b/w “Ronnie Lee,” and “Once You Hit the Road” b/w “World of My Dreams.”  A non-LP single followed Track of the Cat with some of Warwick’s most impassioned singing: 1976’s Joe Porter-helmed “I Didn’t Mean to Love You” b/w “He’s Not for You.”  These are just two of the rare treats on The Complete Singles.  The collection concludes with five sides from Love at First Sight, Warwick’s final Warner Bros. album, from 1977.  (The Steve Barri/Michael Omartian-produced LP included a reunion with Hal David on the sublime “Early Morning Strangers,” which boasted a melody by someone who would play a key role in the next chapter of Dionne’s career – Barry Manilow.  It, alas, wasn’t selected as a single!)  Warwick wouldn’t re-emerge with another studio album until Clive Davis paired her with Manilow for 1979’s platinum-selling Dionne.  The rest, they say, is history.  All tracks on The Complete Warner Bros. Singles are heard in their original single stereo mixes.  (And for those interested in the entire albums, the entire Warner album catalogue will soon be reissued on CD by Warner Music Japan.  You’ll find all of the details here!)

What will you discover on We Need to Go Back: The Unissued Warner Bros. Masters?   Hit the jump! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

June 7, 2013 at 11:46

What’s It All About: Burt Bacharach Celebrated On PBS, Lost Song Included on “Dionne Warwick Sings Burt Bacharach”

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Dionne Sings Burt CDThe first voice you’ll hear on My Music: Burt Bacharach’s Best, now airing on PBS stations nationwide, is that of The Maestro himself.  “What’s it all about, Alfie?,” he sings in his familiar, quavering tone, finding the fragility in the Hal David lyric that he calls his favorite.  Then comes “What the World Needs Now is Love,” sung by its composer with an assist from that International Man of Mystery, Austin Powers (Mike Myers).  It’s appropriate that the solo Bacharach introduces this first-ever collection of complete archival performances drawn from the heyday of his still-thriving career.  He’s soon joined by a “Who’s Who” of popular music including Dionne Warwick, Dusty Springfield, The Carpenters, The 5th Dimension, Tom Jones, Christopher Cross and Chuck Jackson.  Hosted by Robert Wagner, the program is a fascinating, and long-overdue, video jukebox tribute to the songwriter.  As is customary for such broadcasts, it’s available to supporters of PBS as a DVD with additional footage, but the team at TJL Productions has sweetened the deal.  Burt Bacharach’s Best is available along with Dionne Warwick Sings Burt Bacharach, a new, 25-track CD culled from some of the duo’s best – and not just the oft-anthologized hits.  This disc presents, for the first time anywhere, one of the three “reunion” recordings made by Bacharach and Warwick in 1974, “And Then You Know What He Did.”  Like the special itself, it’s been worth the wait.

Bacharach’s music has always been most closely associated with female singers, and the composer was lucky enough to have provided material for the crème de la crème.  My Music: Burt Bacharach’s Best, which draws entirely on rare, vintage footage from numerous television specials as well as programs such as The Ed Sullivan Show and The Merv Griffin Show, turns over a number of slots to Bacharach’s most frequent muse, Dionne Warwick.  A lithe, cool Dionne participates in a production number dedicated to “Walk On By,” joining with its undulating dancers for one memorable sequence.  Her subtlety, grace and control come across on “Alfie” and “This Girl’s In Love with You,” and she also joins Elton John, Stevie Wonder and Gladys Knight for the show-closing “That’s What Friends Are For.”  But Dionne’s most tantalizing appearance on My Music is via footage of a recording session in which she and Hal David join Bacharach at the piano to rehearse “I Say a Little Prayer.”  The excerpts here of the color film are fascinating, and leave the audience wanting more of this “insider” peek.  (In modern interview footage seen on the broadcast, Warwick touchingly reflects on the resonance of “I Say a Little Prayer” to Vietnam-era vets and their families.)

Burt Bacharach's Best DVDDionne is in good company with the divine Dusty Springfield.  Dusty wanders through giant a set of giant photographs of herself (and her ever-evolving hairstyles!) as she sings “The Look of Love,” but even better is the intense rendition of “A House is Not a Home” she performs with Bacharach accompanying on piano.  Though famously critical of her own work, Springfield reportedly was “quite proud of” this performance from 1970’s Another Evening with Burt Bacharach…and with good reason.  The song builds to an emotional crescendo with both Springfield and Bacharach giving their all.  Marilyn McCoo is seen in a clip leading the original 5th Dimension on the melancholy “One Less Bell to Answer,” offering soulful new vocals over the familiar backing track, and Jackie DeShannon is enthralling in stark black-and-white on “What the World Needs Now is Love.”  Both McCoo and DeShannon can also be seen on the broadcast’s pledge breaks sharing their modern-day impressions of Bacharach and music.

Of course, the most famous male interpreters of the Bacharach oeuvre don’t get the short shrift.  Tom Jones playfully gyrates his way through “What’s New Pussycat,” and Chuck Jackson lathers on the soul for Bacharach and Bob Hilliard’s “Any Day Now,” joined by the composer.  (It should be noted that some of these television performances are lip-synched to the original recordings, as was standard practice of the era, but a great many from Dionne, Dusty, Jackie, et. al. are unique, and quite wonderful.)  In one memorable clip, B.J. Thomas tries to prove that “nothin’s worryin’ me” as more than mere “Raindrops Keep Falling on [His] Head.”  B.J. is surrounded by dancers with umbrellas as he sings through a rainstorm created on the stage of The Ed Sullivan Show!  He offers warm words for Bacharach in a new segment.  Herb Alpert’s seminal and heartfelt “This Guy’s in Love with You,” Bacharach and David’s first No. 1 Pop song as well as the first for Alpert’s A&M label, is much more subdued.  Christopher Cross performs his Academy Award-winning “Arthur’s Theme (Best That You Can Do)” live with its co-writers Bacharach and Carole Bayer Sager joining him and clearly having a good time.

After the jump: what’s on Dionne Warwick Sings Burt Bacharach?  We have a full track listing and much more! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

June 3, 2013 at 12:49

Don’t Make Him Over: New Box Set Chronicles Burt Bacharach’s “Art of the Songwriter” On Six CDs

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Burt - Anyone Who Had a HeartBurt Bacharach has been speaking through his music for the past 60+ years, since his very first recorded composition,“Once in a Blue Moon,“ appeared on Nat “King“ Cole’s Penthouse Serenade in 1952.  But today, Bacharach is speaking in his own voice with the publication of his first-ever memoir, Anyone Who Had a Heart: My Life and Music.  Co-written by Robert Greenfield (Ahmet Ertegun biography The Last Sultan), the book has been described by Kirkus Reviews as “illuminating and gritty“ while Mitchell Cohen in Rock’s Back Pages praised its “tales of multiple takes, artists bravely attempting to navigate those whiplash changes and hat-size tempos.“  (The latter refers to Frank Sinatra’s quip of Bacharach, “He writes in hat sizes – seven and three-fourths!“)

With the book’s release today, it might come as a surprise that no new anthology of Bacharach’s music has been released as a tie-in.  Yet.  Universal U.K. has planned such a title, but it’s not scheduled to be released until June 10, to coincide with the British publication of the autobiography.  Anyone Who Had a Heart: The Best of Burt Bacharach – The Art of the Songwriter is a 6-CD box set (twice the number of discs as Rhino’s definitive The Look of Love – The Burt Bacharach Collection from 1998).  The first four CDs trace Bacharach’s career in a roughly chronological fashion, from 1955’s “These Desperate Hours,“ performed by Mel Torme, to 2010’s  “Some Lovers,“ sung by Rumer from the 2011 musical of the same name.  The fifth CD compiles highlights from Bacharach’s solo recording career (already addressed in full on Hip-o Select’s Something Big box set) and the sixth offers an eclectic array of Bacharach songs as performed mainly by jazz artists.

Here’s where the plot thickens: the set will also be offered as a standard 2-CD edition, but the U.S. and U.K. versions appear to differ significantly, with both 2-CD versions including unique tracks not on the box set (and not on each other).  The U.S. release arrives a bit earlier, on May 28.

After the jump: we take a closer look, plus you’ll find track listings for all three versions, plus pre-order links! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

May 7, 2013 at 10:04

He Picks The Songs That Make The Whole World Sing: Clive Davis Curates “The Soundtrack of My Life”

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Clive bookIn a year that counts Tommy Mottola, Cissy Houston, Burt Bacharach and Paul Anka among the music biz icons who have published, or will publish, their memoirs, one such figure’s autobiography has already made headlines: Clive Davis’ The Soundtrack of My Life.  The attorney-turned-music mogul took a no-holds-barred approach to chronicling his history, including his tenures at Columbia, Arista, J and the RCA Label Group.  This should come as no surprise to anybody who’s followed his illustrious and admittedly controversial career, but some readers might still be surprised at the sheer volume of remarkable musicians affected in one way or another by Davis’ “golden ears,” including Bob Dylan, Donovan, Lou Reed, The Kinks and Sean “Puffy” Combs.  Since his appointment by towering music industry leader Goddard Lieberson to lead Columbia Records in 1965, Davis has never stopped making waves with his bold, hands-on hitmaking style.

Now, as Chief Creative Officer of Sony Music Entertainment (a position Davis has held since 2008 at the current parent company of all the aforementioned labels), Davis has teamed with Legacy Recordings to reflect on his career via a series of Spotify playlists with special commentary tracks.  Though it’s unusual here at this branch of Second Disc HQ to direct our readers to Spotify – after all, aren’t there plenty of amazing physical releases out there demanding your listening attention? – the opportunity to hear a venerable legend reflecting on his considerable C.V. isn’t one to pass up.  And Legacy’s “The Legacy Of” app, on which Davis’ playlists are featured, is a prime example of how the online streaming service’s offerings can complement a physical music collection.

Spotify users who navigate to “The Legacy Of” app will discover Davis as the Featured Artist.   The menu provides links to: Albums / Biography / Photos / Playlists / Discography. Head over to “Playlists” to listen or subscribe to six new playlists curated by Davis himself. Each is populated by artists with whom he has worked during his career at CBS Records (Columbia and Epic and their associated labels), Arista Records (including LaFace and Bad Boy), J Records and more.  You can directly visit the “Legacy Of” app at this link. Davis’ six playlists are entitled The Soundtrack of My Life, Best of 2000s, Best of 1990s, Best of 1980s, Best of 1970s, and Best of 1960s.  Naturally, the Soundtrack of My Life playlist is the one with commentary from Davis.  He has recorded reminiscences for fourteen of the playlist’s 20 tracks, and the playlist includes songs from many of the artists with whom he is most associated.

Which songs has Davis selected?  Hit the jump for details and more! Read the rest of this entry »