Unfamiliar renderings and the absence of starry vocals allow the music to be really...
Morag Reavley 2003
There's always something there to remind us of Burt Bacharach.His songs are endlessly reinterpreted and have accompanied a million supermarket trips and elevator journeys. The hits he penned for the likes of Dionne Warwick and Dusty Springfield simply invented the lounge-jazz genre in the 1960s and 1970s.
After a period in the critical wilderness, Bacharach has of late been enjoying something of a renaissance. Oasis, Elvis Costello, The Divine Comedy, REM, Stereolab, Mike Myers and The White Stripes are among the pundits who have recently revived Bacharach songs, instigated collaborations and sung his praises.
Which makes a compilation of Bacharach's best-known material a timely and worthwhile exercise: what exactly are the qualities which make Burt a modern icon? This anthology of Bacharach's own musical arrangements provides more than a clue.
Unfamiliar renderings and the absence of starry vocals allow the music to be really heard again. Soaring melodies, unexpected key changes, asymmetrical phrasing, shifting time signatures plus those inimitable brass solos demonstrate Bacharach's high musical sophistication. Putting the Bach back into Bacharach.
"Walk On By", Bacharach and David's definitive lament for lost love, is stripped of almost all its lyrics and revealed in all its bitter-sweet beauty, with violin flurries and melancholic saxophone.
The instrumental arrangements are sometimes surprising. "The Look of Love" is brassy, swaggering and upbeat. Incongruous to those used to Dusty's breathy vocals, but it illustrates the versatility of Bacharach's music - something which purveyors of muzak have exploited to his detriment.
Best of all is "(There's) Always Something There To Remind Me." It's gloriously exuberant, from the folksy strings of its introduction to heavy keyboard sweeps and high-octane choruses; this is high cheese at its best.
What does the world need now? An end to war, an equitable global economy and drastic action to prevent the imminent implosion of the environment would be good, butaBurtBacharach album will do very nicely to be going on with.