It can’t be easy for seasoned professionals to squeeze the life out of 11 airy Cole Porter songs (a dozen on cassette and CD). But Dionne Warwick and her arranger Arif Mardin come amazingly close to doing just that.
Most of the fault is Warwick’s. She can sing the songs, in a voice that rides with brassy equilibrium over the highest arch of their often-challenging melodies. But she doesn’t brighten them. ”I get no kick from champagne,” she tells us in ”I Get a Kick Out of You,” but we can’t picture her sipping it. ”Some like perfume from Spain,” she adds, and we can’t imagine her sniffing it, either; she simply sounds bored.
In ”You’re the Top” she muffs every cue Porter throws her. ”You’re a Bendel bonnet,/A Shakespeare sonnet,/You’re Mickey Mouse,” she sings with no tangible delight, not seeming even to notice that each new lyric offers a more outrageous image than the one before.
She handles some of the more tender songs just as clumsily. Mardin’s arrangements plod after her, throwing up unfocused clouds of strings and tinkling bells. It doesn’t help that the album could just as well have been titled Dionne Warwick Sings Cole Porter’s Greatest Hits; the performances sound all the more numbing because the songs are so familiar. Warwick wakes up for ”Anything Goes,” where her brassiness suits the song’s Broadway exuberance, and for a jazz reprise of ”Night and Day” that ends the record. To be fair, she has her moments elsewhere, too. But she’d have been fairer to Cole Porter — and to herself — if she had never made the album at all. C-