Anyone familiar with crate digging knows those records that are seen over and over, for years after their release -- yesterday's hits, usually in crummy condition, clogging up every thrift store and dollar bin. But what if one was to see some of these albums in nice condition, and actually buy them? Beyond satisfying musical curiosity and/or ending up with a zillion LPs, sometimes a real keeper is found.
Recently, during a dollar bin encounter with a whole slug of non-destroyed Dionne Warwick albums, curiosity got the best of me. Warwick was probably the most commercially successful female vocalist of the '60s and continued having pop hits into the late '80s, one of the few '60s hitmakers to do so. And who could forget the Psychic Friends Network? Here's an incomplete guide to her first decade of recording, in case anyone else gets curious.
Anyone Who Had a Heart (Scepter 517, 1963): Her second album includes the hit title track (plus "Don't Make Me Over" and "This Empty Place," recycled from her first LP) and a bunch of solid '60s Brill Building-esque arrangements by Burt Bacharach. Dionne is often in a near-girl group setting here.
Make Way for Dionne Warwick (Scepter 523, 1964): The arrangements overall are already moving away from the teen sound and getting bigger, with much more of a string section in evidence. The album starts with a couple syrupy numbers, but then it's right into a batch of dramatic and inventive Burt Bacharach arrangements, such as an early version of "They Long to Be Close To You" and "The Last One to Be Loved." The album also includes the iconic hits "You'll Never Get to Heaven" and "Walk on By," plus a few more girl group numbers that sound as if they may have been left over from earlier session.
The Sensitive Sound of Dionne Warwick (Scepter 528, 1965): Side one is big, over-starched orchestrated numbers (including an interesting take on "Unchained Melody"); side two is more diverse soul/teen material. A drum-centric re-arrangement of Roy Hamilton's "You Can Have Him" is a highlight.
Here Where There is Love (Scepter 555; 1967): This album largely stays in ballad mode, including the hits "Trains and Boats and Planes," "Alfie" and "I Just Don't Know What to Do With Myself." It deviates a bit towards the end with the best song on the disc, the minor key electric piano soul of "I Never Knew What You Were Up To," and a weird, jaunty take on "Blowin' in the Wind."
On Stage and in the Movies (Scepter 559; 1967): This is sort of a concept album collecting new recordings, nearly all show tunes. Though the songs are all Bacharach arrangements, it's in much more of a standard issue '60s pop/schlock or big band mode than usual. However, there is one great track, a duet with Chuck Jackson on Irving Berlin's "Anything You Can Do." Shoulda been a single.
The Windows of the World (Scepter 563; 1967): Her third LP of 1967 is spotty, not coincidentally due to a chunk of non-Bacharach arrangements. Of Burt's work, though, five of the six songs hit the pop charts, including the title hit and the classic "I Say a Little Prayer."
Dionne Warwick in Valley of the Dolls (Scepter 568, 1968): The titular movie theme was originally the B-side of "I Say a Little Prayer" and topped that song's chart performance when DJs flipped over the 45 a few months later. Much of this album follows that song's big ballad feel, leaving the bouncy "Do You Know the Way to San Jose" sounding somewhat out of place amidst all the drama.
Soulful (Scepter 573, 1969): "Dionne in Memphis" would be an accurate subtitle for this change of pace, as Warwick throws a curveball and co-produces this album with Chips Moman at American Sound Studios. In some ways, it's a return to the sound of some of her earlier recordings, featuring strong interplay with a female backing chorus. The combination of Warwick's smooth vocals with the Memphis studio cats is a potent one, and results in one of her better late '60s albums. The radical re-arrangement of the Beatles' "We Can Work It Out" should have been a hit.
I'll Never Fall in Love Again (Scepter 581, 1970): Solid turn-of-the-decade pop reigns here for the most part, with a few up tempo numbers offsetting the ballads. As usual, the non-Bacharach arrangements are sort of schlocky, but when it's oft-covered songs like "My Way" and "Something," does it really matter?
Dionne (Warner Brothers 2585, 1972): Dionne celebrated a decade of recording by changing labels, and adding an "e" onto the end of her last name. Bacharach and David are still around providing that perfect smooth backdrop, though the sound is even more solidly in the adult contemporary camp on this album. Her only hit during several years at Warner ended up being released on sister label Atlantic: Then Came You, a chart-topping collaboration with The Spinners. When Dionne moved over to Arista at the decade's end, she'd be back on pop radio with a vengeance -- but that's a story for another dollar bin warrior!