Happy 55th: Dionne Warwick, HERE I AM
55 years ago today, Dionne Warwick released her fifth studio album, an LP which was co-produced by Burt Bacharach and Hal David, a credit which becomes decidedly less startling when you realize that 10 out of the album’s 12 tracks are, in fact, Bacharach/David compositions. Of course, it was never really going to be but so surprising, given that Burt and Hal also co-produced the four albums that preceded it, but had you not been aware of that fact... Well, you must admit that it would’ve been at least a bit more shocking!
Recorded during the summer and fall of 1965 at Bell Sound Studios in New York City, HERE I AM has often been cited as the Warwick album where Burt Bacharach started to his stride as a songwriter, expanding beyond the typical pop songs of the day and getting more creative with his compositions. Lest it be forgotten, however, Warwick also tackled songs by other composers, including “Once in a Lifetime,” written by Anthony Newley and Leslie Bricusse, and “I Love You Porgy,” from Porgy & Bess, even serving up a little religion by covering “This Little Light.”
The album also seemingly had a pop chart advantage with its title track, which had been featured in the hit film What's New, Pussycat? (The movie's theme song, as you may recall, was also a Bacharach / David composition.) Alas, “Here I Am” made it no further than #65 on the Billboard Hot 100, and the follow-up single, “Lookin' with My Eyes,” made it precisely one spot higher before beginning its descent. Indeed, the only top-40 hit to emerge from the album was “Are You There (With Another Girl),” which is the unlikeliest of the three of have become a hit, given its unique instrumentation.
In the end, though, the lack of major pop hits didn’t stop HERE I AM from becoming a commercial and critical success: it climbed to #45 on the Billboard 200 and ascended all the way to #3 on the R&B Albums chart, and in a recent evaluation of the album, AllMusic.com wrote that “the marriage of the duo's well-crafted and distinct pop songs with Warwick's light, supple vocals “ resulted in “several masterpieces.”
We would not presume to debate them, and neither should you: give HERE I AM a spin and confirm the accuracy of their remarks for yourself.