Monday, September 17, 2012

Song #257 of 9999 - Walk on By by Dionne Warwick

Song #257 of 9999 

Title: Walk on By
Artist: Dionne Warwick
Year: 1964
Album: Make Way for Dionne Warwick

It's hard to give just one week to a year like 1964 and not short-change someone. After all, the year that officially marked the so-called British Invasion saw THREE studio releases by The Beatles, two by The Rolling Stones, debuts by The Kinks and Dusty Springfield. Not to be outdone, American artists were out in full force with Bob Dylan releasing two of his most significant albums, the debut of Simon and Garfunkel, the chart dominance of The Supremes—it's an amazing list. In the meantime, there was still a strong wave of professional songwriters peddling their creations to very talented singers. So I thought before I got caught up in all the hype of 1964, I'd start with one of the latter.

With the recent death of lyricist Hal David, Fresh Air did its thing and aired a previously recorded interview wherein he talked about his relationship with songwriting partner Burt Bacharach and their association with singer Dionne Warwick. One of the songs featured on the show was "Walk on By" and I was immediately struck by how light and airy Warwick's voice was. She would have been just 23 at the time and, while her voice certainly has aged well, I hadn't remembered ever hearing her sing so effortlessly in this upper range. She seems to just let notes evaporate into her head voice and it's really beautiful. Moreover, her phrasing in this arrangement (especially in strings of ascending eighth notes like at 0:25 and the triplets at 1:18) is remarkable for its subtle dynamic shaping. To be honest, I can do without the spastic rhythmic stuff at the end (although it is nicely complimented by the drummer), but otherwise, this is just a fantastic vocal performance, made only better by its restraint.

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