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Various Artists Magic Moments: The Definitive Burt Bacharach Collection Review

Compilation. Released 2008.  

BBC Review

One of popular music's most accomplished talents.

Michael Quinn 2008

Burt Bacharach compilations have been done many times before, with one retail website currently offering more than 100 variations on the theme. But here's another, a 75-song collection that boasts a Who's Who of popular music from the last five decades and more, and showcases one of the truly great singer-songwriters of the past century.

It's difficult to think of anyone else who has delivered the goods as impeccably and consistently as Bacharach – who turned 80 earlier this year – or who merits or sustains such constant interest. Over three discs, Magic Moments memorably shows why. It also offers a fascinating opportunity to track how Bacharach, while remaining the subtlest and most sophisticated of tunesmiths, has fine-tuned his output to meet the needs of successive popular music fads and fashions while retaining his own uniquely cultured voice.

So, while the first disc opens with the anthemic What The World Needs Now Is Love (courtesy of Dionne Warwick whose heart-stopping, pulse-quickening take on Anyone Who Had A Heart is also here), boasts two Herb Alpert-fronted classics – the sultry This Guy's In Love With You and the magnificently nimble Bond theme Casino Royale – and offers up BJ Thomas's sunny Sixties cinema classic Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head, you’ll also find less familiar but no less fabulous examples of Bacharach's inimitable art in the Nat King Cole-delivered cooler-than-a-snow-shower-in-October instrumental Once In A Blue Moon, the tongue-firmly-in-cheek novelty The Blob, Jimmy Radcliff's lonesome ballad The Forgotten Man and contributions from the likes of Dusty Springfield (the unbeatable, un-betterable The Look of Love), Frankie Avalon, Cliff Richard and Bacharach himself.

Which would have satisfied in itself, but disc two offers more of the same and then some. Perry Como's Magic Moments still blooms with adroitly laid-back sentiment, the Walker Brothers take pop music to operatically transcendental heights with Make It Easy On Yourself, Aretha Franklin hymns love to simply magical effect in I Say A Little Prayer, and Tom Jones bellows and booms his way through What’s New Pussycat? with an infectious sassy swagger. And that's not to mention Gene Pitney, Helen Shapiro, Marty Robbins as well as more from Warwick and Springfield.

Disc three brings things more up to date with two tracks from Bacharach's high-profile late-1990s partnership with Elvis Costello (who also contributes booklet notes for this release), and evidence of more recent collaborations with pop luminaries Neil Diamond, Rufus Wainwright and Will Young. But it also throws a more than useful glance back to curios such as Richard Chamberlain's Blue Guitar and BJ Thomas's now forgotten Everybody’s Out of Town from the mid- and late-1960s, and two very different but equally phenomenal talents Irma Thomas and Keely Smith.

The quickest way to appreciate just how good Bacharach is simply to listen to the man's music. This excellent, expansive and intelligently programmed collection offers ample opportunities to do explore and enjoy one of popular music's most accomplished talents.

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