Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Dionne Warwick

  • Greatest Hits/Part One [Scepter, 1967]
  • Golden Hits/Part I [Scepter, 1968]
  • Dionne [Arista, 1972] C+
  • Just Being Myself [Warner Bros., 1973] B-
  • Dionne [Arista, 1979] C+
  • Anthology 1962-1969 [Rhino, 1984]
  • The Dionne Warwick Collection: Her All-Time Greatest Hits [Rhino, 1989] A
  • The Very Best of Dionne Warwick [Rhino, 2000] A
  • My Favorite Time of the Year [DMI/Rhino, 2007] *

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Greatest Hits/Part One [Scepter, 1967]
By 1967, "Alfie" and the like had Warwick on the road to divahood, but that didn't mean this best-of, marked "Circa 1962-1964" in gold on the cover, was perceived as an oldies record. Girl groups weren't considered quaint yet, and Warwick has never been more tuneful or charming than when she and Bacharach-David had them to contend with. The selling points here are Warwick standards like "Walk On By" and "Don't Make Me Over." But obscurities long vanished from her canon are only a shade less compelling: the delicate "Any Old Time of Day," or her proud, quiet cover of the Shirelles' "It's Love That Really Counts." [Rolling Stone: The 40 Essential Albums of 1967]

Golden Hits/Part I [Scepter, 1968]
[CG70s: A Basic Record Library]

Dionne [Arista, 1972]
"Hasbrook Heights" is no "Walk On By," but it is an ambitious, honest song about the pleasures of the suburbs, where her chosen audience resides. Unfortunately, it's outnumbered by ambitious, dishonest songs directed at the same audience. Whether Hal David takes care of the liberal pieties himself ("Be Aware") or passes them along from Jacques Brel ("If We Only Have Love") and Lesley Duncan ("Love Song"), he's selling lies so blatant and boring that even his chosen audience must know it. And while Burt Bacharach's four arrangements (unlike those of Bob James and Don Sebesky, who get three each) are more tart and surprising than ever, too often he underlines "meaning" with the little dramatic touches of someone who'd like to get into something classier than the record business, like the Broadway stage. C+

Just Being Myself [Warner Bros., 1973]
Even in the heyday of Bacharach-David Dionne didn't make such terrific albums--the best-ofs were the prizes. So Holland-Dozier-Holland are doing all right: solid pop, with the rhythm up front and the strings often used percussively--though they do wash out on "I Always Get Caught in the Rain" (inclement weather is as bad for arrangers as it is for lyricists). H ook-of-the-month: the guitar riff on "You're Gonna Need Me." B-

Dionne [Arista, 1979]
The voice is still magic--I even get off on her overdubbed backups--but who wants to listen to it through all this mush? Wait till the collaboration with Barry Manilow dries up, after two or three albums. Betcha Clive tries reuniting her with Bacharach-David around then. And around then they just might be in the mood to do it right. Maybe. C+

Anthology 1962-1969 [Rhino, 1984]
[CG80: Rock Library: Before 1980]

The Dionne Warwick Collection: Her All-Time Greatest Hits [Rhino, 1989]
Still in print, as is the label's shorter and proportionately cheaper 2000 Very Best Of, which among lesser sins omits three classics: "You'll Never Get to Heaven if You Break My Heart" (7/64), "I Just Don't Know What to Do With Myself" (9/66), and "(There's) Always Something There to Remind Me" (8/68), the dates of which establish the limitations of the Alfie- and Valley of the Dolls-fueled theory that she got schlockier as she got older, which she certainly did after she moved on from Bacharach-David to Clive Davis in the '70s. Warwick had a voice that you admire like many or love like me--pop velvet with a gospel nap, the epitome of walk-on-by reserve except when amped by commitment to craft, romantic disputation, existential indignation, or her hurting heart. In the first great heyday of rock guitar, her feel for Brill Building baion enabled another kind of beat music: traditional pop with a Latin difference. Her breakup with her two mentors crippled all three for life. A

The Very Best of Dionne Warwick [Rhino, 2000]
Warwick aged terribly--rid of Burt Bacharach, she immediately immersed in the ritual emotion of divahood. But as his ingenue she was a model of self-possessed vulnerability. Though this chart-determined 16-song budget CD skips such lovely moments as "You'll Never Get to Heaven" and "I Just Don't Know What to Do With Myself," it still leaves her on the right side of 30, which for the purposes of this argument means 29. Dry with a sweetness like affordable champagne, she was girl-group's big sister, her natural sense of style based on close readings of Harper's Bazaar and sage advice from her Uncle Burt-who was in the business, who lost his touch when she wasn't there to dress anymore, and who didn't regain it when she came back her own woman. A

My Favorite Time of the Year [DMI/Rhino, 2007]
If new Christmas product you must have, these oldies definitely outshine newies from Darlene Love (eh) and Taylor Swift (ugh) ("Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," "Joy to the World"). *

Further Notes:

Distinctions Not Cost-Effective [1980s]: She has no regrets--a grande dame is what she always wanted to be.

See Also