So, Dionne (Warwick, not Bromfield, obvs) is playing the Royal Albert Hall in September, and TRASH couldn’t be more excited. The 77 year old is as known for her legendary music as her feistiness about others taking it and remaking it, so here we have compiled the best of Dionne’s and held them up to their counterparts, according to singing, backing, and sass. Interestingly too, more than a few occurrences of steal-and-release were from our side of the pond. Let battle commence…
Walk on By
Dionne vs. Aretha
Singing: Dionne – Dionne lingers on all the right notes here, and is punchy when she needs to be – perfect. Aretha is almost slurring her way through the song by comparison – she’s the effortless queen of soul, but sometimes a song deserves some effort please Aretha.
Band: Dionne – The band in Aretha’s are as relaxed as she is (to a fault), Dionne’s army of punchy trumpets and a tight rhythm section give this song the sound that has contributed to its legendary and timeless status. End of.
Sass: Dionne – It’s hard to call someone’s performance sassy when they sound like they’re relaxed and nonchalant about the situation – it’s Dionne hands down – sorry Aretha!
WARWICK 3, FRANKLIN Nil
Always Something There To Remind Me
Dionne vs. Sandie Shaw
Singing: Sandie – Having just marked Aretha down for being nonchalant, it’s exactly what brings Sandie to the shores of success here – in the verses, Sandie shows a nostalgia that Dionne doesn’t quite capture.
Band: Dionne – Sandie’s band seems to just walk on by the music in a bit of a dream, while Dionne runs a tighter ship and the trademark punchy trumpets win out here. There’s also a killer moment where the band do a run up to the final chorus, which is so 60s it may as well be a mini skirt.
Sass: Dionne – The aforementioned run up feels sassy enough to win by itself, but we can’t help but wonder if Dionne had something specific in mind when she sang ‘something there to remind me’ that really pissed her off – it has such attitude, and we’re living for it.
WARWICK 2, SHAW 1
Don’t Make Me Over
Dionne vs. The Overtones
Singing: Dionne – It sounds like The Overtones may have recorded this as an audition for the cast of hit show Glee, which in our hearts and minds is a big insult to the Bacharach classic. (The track was named after an emotional outburst Warwick had at Burt after being passed over for Make It Easy On Yourself, making their flaccid attempt even more of an insult.) Dionne is the epitome of emotion here, to the point where we’re wondering if The Overtones even heard the original before they under-did it.
Band: Dionne – We’re pretty sure a computer came up with the Overtones’ arrangement – it lacks feeling more than a foot rub from your partner when the love has gone.
Sass: Dionne – Comparing these two for sass is like comparing chilli and vanilla for flavour – and you know which way round we mean…
WARWICK 3, OVERTONES -1
This Empty Place
Dionne vs. Cissy Houston
Singing: Dionne – Technically could have been Cissy for most NPM (notes per minute), but we feel like Cissy misunderstood the sentiment and made the recording about her ability as a singer – a bit like Christina Aguilera does with ANYTHING.
Band: Dionne – Back to the punchy rhythm that reminds us more than a little of Walk On By, which is obviously a deciding factor. Honourable mention to Cissy’s band though for valiantly trying to keep up with her almost out of control riffs.
Sass: Cissy. No, Dionne. No, Cissy… – In a Tyra Banks on America’s Next Top Model outburst kind of way, which is fun but always on the edge of weird. Dionne’s sass, however, is more refined, constructed and subtle. Okay, Dionne wins on grounds of high sass.
WARWICK 3, HOUSTON 0
Anyone Who Had A Heart
Dionne vs. Cilla Black vs. Dusty Springfield*
*this one is a three way battle
Singing: Dionne – Dionne is much smoother across the board; the Brit in me wants to prefer Cilla here, as the little Scouse ginger underdog does well for herself (in spite of herself), which almost makes the downtrodden heartbreak feel more real for our Cill, but you’ve got to take notice of the fact that Cilla essentially copied Dionne’s version note for note. Dusty’s is the smokey, sultry version that characterised her later 60s work, and miles and miles away from Cilla’s nasal shrillness – listening side by side, it feels like listening to a posh southerner and a down-to-earth northerner getting upset about the same boy, and you’re caught in the middle. Tricky.
Band: Dusty – Anyone but Cilla on this – Oboe solos are nasty, and unnecessary (did you know that the oboe is in danger of becoming extinct because nobody wants to learn to play it?). Both Dionne and Dusty have the good grace to stick to saxophone, but the Timpani make Dusty’s more powerful – maybe her restrained vocals from the singing round were a deliberate move to leverage her band; smooth move Dusty.
Sass: Dionne – There’s no contest; Dionne serves angry sass about whoever that heartless bastard was, whereas our girls from Blighty are definitely playing the victim on this one.
WARWICK 2, SPRINGFIELD 1, BLACK 0
Dionne vs. Cilla vs. Cher
Singing: Cilla – Dionne is of course – and as we’ve come to expect – more polished in her delivery, but Cilla means it and seems to want Alfie more… you go get him, Cill!
[Interestingly, Cilla actually got to this one first (by about a year), although only once Sandie Shaw rejected it, after she was chosen over Warwick, who was passed over as producers felt a UK singer was what the song needed… It’s starting to make sense why Dionne felt UK white artists were nabbing her hits.]
Band: Cilla – The British production is more rousing, swelling and nostalgic. Cher’s is weird – the band sounds like they’re trying to play a Dean Martin track at the beginning, and then totally overpower Cher later – George Martin production this ain’t. Dionne’s band is a little lacking on this track.
Sass: Cilla – Listen for yourself, Cher isn’t in control; Dionne is too much in control. Cilla is definitely flying the flag for the Brits here.
WARWICK 0, BLACK 3, CHER 0
Scores on the doors: WARWICK 5, EVERYBODY ELSE 1
From our extensive look at Warwick’s greatest, it’s clear that on the whole everybody else should have jogged on by – but we can’t blame a girl for trying; after all, imitation is the sincerest form flattery, even if it’s not the smartest one.
To hear Dionne Warwick performing these (hopefully) and more (surely) live in venues across the UK later this year, including the iconic Royal Albert Hall, head here.