I don't love the new Dionne Warwick as much as I wish I did - when you feel as strongly about an artist as I do about Ms. Warwick, you harbor unextinguishable hopes that she's going to just emerge from nowhere one day with a record so triumphant that all lesser singers are instantly compelled by their consciences to hang their heads in shame. I imagine them taking the stage night after night, their necks evidently gone permanently limp, their eyes firmly fixed on their shoes, still belting out their limp drama-class read-throughs but unable to face the audience, knowing that some therein will have heard the unbelievable new Dionne album, and knowing that these same people therefore now know what good singing really sounds like.
But the new Dionne album is not that album. It's a gospel record - I got pretty excited about that - but I am honestly dumbfounded by the song selection. "Jesus Loves Me"? "Rise, Shine, and Give God the Glory"? "The Battle Hymn of the Republic"? I have great love for tradition in music, but I don't think anybody can redeem "Jesus Loves Me."
So all that's true. I can't deny it. I suspect there are some deep spiritual truths that inform Dionne's having made this album, and I yearn to hear what they are, but I can't find them in many of the songs. But then there's "I'm Going Up," which is a duet with BeBe Winans. Suddenly - from the song's second bar, when Dionne makes her entrance - the physical nature of faith is audible: how, if you ever get even a taste of it, you feel it in your bones. And in your extremities, and in your senses, and in your reflexes. Religious music that doesn't convey this aspect of faith isn't necessarily a failure; I'm not about to condemn Gregorian chant for not being ecstatic enough. But when religious expression meets the three-minute pop song, I want it to tell me how what it has brought to the pop table is not only higher than the usual fare, but better.
Which is exactly what "I'm Going Up" is - a gorgeously syncopated bounce with a mixed-back horn section, a restrained slightly fuzzy electric guitar dipping in and ducking out, and a letter-perfect Warwick vocal that simply must be heard by people who love her style. Second run through the chorus, the way she pulls away from the tail-end of the phrase "in this world I've found"? That's classic Dionne. Her joining BeBe in harmony at the end of his verse? Best duet work I think I've ever heard her do; I have one whole hell of a lot of Dionne Warwick albums, but I've never thought of duet harmony as a particular strength, and I think the corpus generally supports that opinion. Even her ad-libs - another not-the-strong-suit area - are fantastic here. What happened in the the studio on this track? Was anybody filming it? And can we have, please, lots more?
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» The Physicality of Faith and Religious Music from Sacred Journey
“…the physical nature of faith is audible: how, if you ever get even a taste of it, you feel it in your bones. And in your extremities, and in your senses, and in your reflexes. Religious music that doesn’t convey this aspect of faith... [Read More]