Dionne Warwick - Heartbreaker (Reissue) (2012)

Dionne Warwick
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By the time of 1982's Heartbreaker, Dionne Warwick had already made one of the most impressive, improbable comebacks in popular music history. Warwick had been perhaps the world's most popular female singer in the 60s, as she interpreted the now legendary compositions of Burt Bacharach and Hal David. But the 70s were unkind to the chanteuse: her five albums on Warner Brothers were disastrous to her career and, save a duet with the Spinners on 1974's "Then Came You," she became an afterthought in popular music. She even resorted to temporarily adding an "e" to the end of her name, oddly hoping to use the new moniker "Warwicke" to add a spark to her sagging fortunes.

By the time of 1982's Heartbreaker, Dionne Warwick had already made one of the most impressive, improbable comebacks in popular music history. Warwick had been perhaps the world's most popular female singer in the 60s, as she interpreted the now legendary compositions of Burt Bacharach and Hal David. But the 70s were unkind to the chanteuse: her five albums on Warner Brothers were disastrous to her career and, save a duet with the Spinners on 1974's "Then Came You," she became an afterthought in popular music. She even resorted to temporarily adding an "e" to the end of her name, oddly hoping to use the new moniker "Warwicke" to add a spark to her sagging fortunes.

Credit legendary music executive Clive Davis for signing Warwick to his Arista Records and teaming her with hot songwriter/producer Barry Manilow for 1979's Dionne, providing her, in the middle of the disco boom, with a genuine adult album filled with rich, glorious production that matched Warwick's seminal phrasing. It was a Grammy Award winning smash and immediately took Warwick back to the top, where she continued to ride for the next three years before Barry Gibb, then part of the most popular act in the world (the Bee Gees), approached Davis about producing her. The result of this pairing was Heartbreaker (now being reissued on BBR Records, with extensive liner notes by Christian John Wikane), the biggest international album of Warwick's career.

As he did in his work the year before with Barbra Streisand, Gibb studied Warwick's voice and, working with longtime co-producers Karl Richardson and Albhy Galuten and co-writing with his brothers and others, fashioned a collection of songs that both relied on her versatility and provided a canvas for her unique song stylings.

The disc opens with "Heartbreaker," a song so infectious it would have been impossible for it to not be a hit. From the moment of the Synclavier intro, it is pure magic, a near perfect fit for Warwick's gliding vocals. And it was an appropriate opening for an album that again showed that Gibb was, in many ways, a most classic of pop songwriters. His style was significantly different than Bacharach and David, but so many of his songs with his brothers, from "I Can't See Nobody" to "Massachusetts" to the immaculate "How Deep Is Your Love," had the feeling of instant classics that would continue to resonate a generation later. It is that sense that pervades Heartbreaker.  The title track jumped onto the charts around the world, and was followed a couple months later by the nearly as infectious "All The Love In the World." 

What comes beyond the hits is what really makes the album Heartbreaker so special. Gibb and company take Warwick through a number of terrific but varied cuts, from the surprisingly funky "Take The Short Way Home" to an elegant cover of Frankie Valli's "Our Day Will Come." The album arguably peaks on two memorable ballads: Amid a sparse background arrangement on "Just One More Night," the usually icy Warwick longingly pleads with her lover to stay, even as she ponders what has gone wrong with their relationship. Better yet is "Yours," a simple yet lush song of love lost that Warwick turns into her own.  With the building orchestral crescendo around her vocals, she gives a simply chilling performance -- not only a highlight of this album but one of the most beautiful ballads but by any artist in 1982.

Many fans may think of Heartbreaker as just another of the half dozen successful albums that were part of Dionne Warwick's comeback in the 80s, culminating with her 1985 #1 hit, "That's What Friends Are For."  However, Heartbreaker is arguably the critical high point of Warwick's second birth. Beautiful production, great songwriting and the kind of performance that made Dionne Warwick a legend, all came together on an album that still sounds terrific 30 years after it initially hit our shores. It is an old friend whose return is to be celebrated. Highly Recommended.

By Chris Rizik

 

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