Dionne Warwick - Deja Vu - The Arista Recordings 1979-1994 (Cherry Red)

Dionne Warwick – Deja Vu – The Arista Recordings 1979-1994 (Cherry Red)

There are people who spend their lives searching for glamour. Some of them find it. Others exude it. But then there are people who personify it, seemingly with the minimum of effort – the glamour is just IN them. Dionne Warwick undoubtedly belongs in the latter category, and this twelve – yes TWELVE – CD box set, only serves to hammer that point home. It’s a quite spectacular collection.

Beginning with the eponymously titled 1979 release Dionne, the glitzy ‘Who, What, When, Where, Why?‘ knocks us for six and Warwick immediately asserts herself as one of THE great voices in the history of music, transforming a number composed by Rupert Holmes (yes, he of ‘Escape (The Pina Colada Song‘ fame), into what sounds like a Las Vegas showtime classic. It’s great to hear, not least because Warwick has been mistakenly typecast in many minds as merely a soul balladeer, and while, admittedly, you’re not likely to hear her putting out an album of Dead Kennedys covers any time soon, the truth is that she offers so much more than simply the tearjerkers such as ‘Walk On By‘ and ‘Heartbreaker‘ for which she is best renowned, terrific though they admittedly are. A case in point is her belting version of Wayne Carson’s ‘The Letter‘, popularised by The Box Tops initially and recorded by many, though few come close to the grandeur of the version included here, which is testament to both the great lady herself and her producer, the inimitable Barry Manilow, who handles the heart-wrenchers and the humdingers with equal dexterity. Not for nothing did Dionne go on to achieve platinum status, amassing well over a million sales in her homeland and becoming the best selling long player of her remarkable career.

It’s not really possible to cover all twelve discs extensively in a limited-word review, so let’s fast forward a few years to 1982 and Warwick’s hugely lucrative collaboration with those Manx born Aussies The Bee Gees. ‘Heartbreaker‘, of course, was her highest charting UK hit by some distance, peaking at number two, held off only by a resurgent Eddy Grant‘s ‘I Don’t Wanna Dance‘. Ah well, at least on this occasion, it wasn’t thwarted by some inane novelty record, like so many have been. This record typifies what is so great about Dionne Warwick – if you sing the melody to yourself, it is just so obvious that The Bee Gees wrote it, yet, given the power of Warwick’s interpretation, you can only ever associate it with her, and that is some accolade. Ditto for the other ‘big’ single, ‘All The Love In The World‘ from this album, and, indeed, the beautifully crafted showstoppers – perhaps most notably ‘Just One More Night‘ that permeate throughout until the spectacular reading of the only non-Gibb penned track, finale ‘Our Day Will Come‘.

The other commercially successful album here, 1985’s Friends, includes its fair share of undeniable chartbusters, not least the Burt Bacharach/Carole Bayer Sager penned ‘That’s What Friends Are For‘ that featured other showbiz luminaries Gladys Knight, Elton John and Stevie Wonder, and would go on to become Warwick’s second – and by far biggest – Billboard number one smash for five weeks beginning in January the following year. There’s no denying its obvious class and far-reaching appeal but it’s far from the most memorable moment on Friends, side two being chock full of works by Bacharach and Sager at their finest, and, as per usual, exquisitely delivered by Warwick in her peerless manner, ‘Stronger Than Before‘ being arguably its defining moment.

The most unfairly overlooked set here, though, is the utterly spellbinding Dionne Sings Cole Porter, her considerable vocal talents perfectly carrying off standards such as ‘Night And Day‘, ‘I’ve Got You Under My Skin‘ and ‘Begin The Beguine‘ amongst others. For some inexplicable reason, this record peaked at #155 in the US and failed to chart at all in the UK. It’s a crying shame, for it epitomises everything that Dionne Warwick is all about – the searing vocals, the magical charm, the feeling, above all, that you can achieve your dreams, against all odds, with a bit of perseverance.

There are a dozen discs here and each one of them is special in their own way, and as usual, Cherry Red have packaged it beautifully with a booklet full of fascinating insight into the making and vision behind them. A spellbinding collection indeed.

Deja vu – The Arista Recordings is out now on Cherry Red.

God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.