Stephanie Mills “Living On Plastic”(From the LP For The First Time, 1975)

Stephanie Mills “Living On Plastic”(From the LP For The First Time, 1975)

There’s a lot to be said about the megawattage pairing of Dionne Warwick, Burt Bacharach and Hal David. Among 1960’s female pop phenoms, other than The Shirelles to Supremes continuum, and Aretha’s 1967 ascension,. Dionne’s sophisticated Soft Soul was perhaps the most influential. Decade after decade since, there’s been similar sounds that have tried to catch such magic in a bottle.

StephMills-Nice09Enter the original “Dorothy” from The Wiz actually paired with Burt and Hal for her 2nd LP and first for Motown records. Stephanie Mills was still pretty much a Broadway commodity in search of a crossover to Pop radio success at 18 1/2. It’s a bit of an interesting combination, her stringent vocals sometimes seem out of place with the soft settings. Speaking of those, very little had been updated to the Bacharach/David sound since the late 60’s. For all we can tell, this is still Bell Sound in Manhattan circa 1968, somehow 7 years later.

Hence perhaps the timeless nature of the style that still people try to recapture. Bacharach and David’s catalog in particular stands as Post-War Tin Pan Alley Standards, and introverted social criticisms like “Living On Plastic” weren’t exactly foreign to their list of songs either. This ode to the American Dream of passing off responsibility to tomorrows concern seems a bit too ripe and biting to modern ears 40 years later, but completely gets lost in their vast arena of works.

Given the social theater of the song, it seems highly appropriate that the R&B ingenue that started in theater got the first crack at it. It would also be the last time for nearly 12 years that Bacharach and David would collaborate together. Highly underrated, its worth checking out the time blurring done on this LP.

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