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Magic, Disappointment of Dee Dee Warwick : DEE DEE WARWICK: “She Didn’t Know--The Atco Sessions” Ichiban/Soul Classics (** 1/2)

Dionne Warwick’s younger sister had been recording for seven years before she signed with Atlantic Records’ Atco division and recorded “She Didn’t Know (She Kept on Talking),” the 1970 R&B; classic that opens this 22-song package.

Written by Swamp Dogg, Gary “U.S.” Bonds and Charles Whitehead, the song is the dramatic story of a woman learning quite by accident of her husband’s infidelity, and Warwick sings it with a soul-baring intensity that is reminiscent of the best of Gladys Knight or Candi Staton.

You’d think a record with such vocal authority, and the backing of the great Dixie Flyers rhythm section, would have been enough to make Warwick a star--and the single did break into the R&B; Top 10.

“She Didn’t Know,” however, was largely ignored in the pop world and Atco had trouble finding an audience for Warwick’s follow-up single, a version of Jimmy Webb’s gospel-edged “If This Was the Last Song,” even though it was another superior effort.

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Warwick went back into the studio in late 1970 to record some more songs, including a rendition of the Elvis Presley hit “Suspicious Minds.” For the most part, however, neither the material nor the arrangements recaptured the spark of the first two Atco singles. Though she recorded for several other companies, she still didn’t live up commercially to the early promise.

It’s puzzling how Warwick and the Atco staff could make a few records that are so magical and then rarely come close to that success again. It’s a reminder of the challenge of working with singers who don’t write their own material--finding enough good, tailored songs for them.

*

* Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good) and four stars (excellent).

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