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Dionne Warwick: Only Trust Your Heart

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Having as distinctive a voice as Dionne Warwick’s can be a double-edged sword. On the plus side, Warwick’s unmistakable sound has kept her a major hitmaker for nearly half a century, resulting in record sales in excess of 50 million. The downside is that it is difficult to imagine Warwick moving beyond the confines of smooth pop. Back in 1990 she did try, recording a jazz-oriented album of Cole Porter tunes with producer Arif Mardin. But according to Warwick’s memoirs, her label, Arista, wasn’t happy with the results and requested that the album be redone in a way that the singer aptly describes as “too vanilla.”

Now, two decades later, Warwick delivers the genuine goods. Age—she turned 70 last December—has something to do with it. An ever-so-slight fraying has finally appeared at the edges of Warwick’s pure, powerful voice, lending it a welcome vulnerability. She also consistently sings behind the beat, adding a sense of introspection that is particularly poignant on her covers of “I’m a Fool to Want You,” “I Fall in Love Too Easily,” a balladic reworking of the sugary “Pocketful of Miracles” and “I’ll Never Stop Loving You.” (Unfortunately, the phalanx of backup singers that invades the latter seems distractingly extraneous.)

And Warwick has learned to swing with debonair lightness. Her handling of “You I Love,” “Wonder Why” and “Some Other Time”—a newer composition, not the Leonard Bernstein, Adolph Green, and Betty Comden gem—is breezily enchanting, and her “Keep Me in Mind” is positively vampish.

Originally Published