A collaboration that clicks, with several excellent and endearing versions.
Adrian Edwards 2011-03-22
Ten songs may seem a short measure for an album like this, but a quick glance down its titles – The Look of Love, Walk on By, I’ll Never Fall in Love Again – guarantees a level of expertise that has made Burt Bacharach a legendary songwriting figure in his lifetime. This Ronan Keating-starring collection also includes several numbers written outside Bacharach’s celebrated partnership with lyricist Hal David, including Arthur’s Theme and This House Is Empty Now, with Elvis Costello as lyricist. Neither song, from a little later, quite showcase Bacharach at his innovative best. His collaboration with David on the score for Lost Horizon, released in 1973, was a failure and seemed to knock some of the stuffing out of him.
Keating arrives fresh to Bacharach’s songs with an awareness of their recorded history, yet no slave to their past interpretations. He may not possess the velvet tones of George Michael or the debonair vocal style of Robbie Williams, two of his contemporaries who have previously mined the standards catalogue, yet there’s a sincerity and sense of discovery to his approach that, despite any misgivings regarding the lack of sonority in his voice, is rather endearing. Bacharach, who produced this album alongside Greg Wells, is one of several arrangers. We can relish his talents on the chirpy Something Big and the film song My Little Red Book, as individual and challenging to sing as What’s New Pussycat?, from the same film. Keating tackles both these numbers with great zest, giving them welcome new leases of life.
He sings the very familiar I Just Don’t Know What to Do With Myself at a slower speed than Dusty Springfield, with the intention of giving the song a greater gravitas, and only just falls short of her classic interpretation. All of the sympathetic arrangements display an innate understanding of the Bacharach style, the unorthodox phrasing, the twists in the tunes that have made him a unique and influential songwriter. And with this release, Keating reaffirms his pre-eminence as a major figure in the pop world.