Bacharach's Astonishing Songbook Opened Up by a Motley Galle
Ed Uyeshima | San Francisco, CA USA | 04/28/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Rock music aside, there was not likely a better pop tunesmith in the second half of the 20th century than Burt Bacharach, and this robust two-disc retrospective set shows ample evidence of his infectious, idiosyncratic style, most notably his sophisticated pop melodies accompanied by momentous orchestra swells and infused with a sweeping, unapologetic romanticism. Sometimes amusingly dated but eminently listenable, this set covers the full breadth of Bacharach's career highlighting his 1960's work with his most mutually copasetic partner, lyricist Hal David, and inevitably, the dregs of the 1980's pop treacle he composed with then-wife Carole Bayer Sager ("Arthur's Theme", "Heartlight"). Because the intention is to showcase a number of different artists who had already covered his tunes on their own recordings, there is more of a hodgepodge feel here than with the more satisfying single-disc compilation, 2001's The Very Best of Burt Bacharach.
Consequently, among 41 songs presented, Bacharach's most pervasive muse, Dionne Warwick, is featured only on three classic tracks - the deceptively perky "Do You Know the Way to San Jose?"; the ironically sung "I'll Never Fall in Love Again"; and the syncopated swelling of "Anyone Who Had a Heart". Her radiant voice is missed most on "Alfie" where we instead get a twenty-year old Cher's unnecessarily bombastic performance; "Walk on By" made over into a psychedelic soul epic by Isaac Hayes; the sauntering "Message to Michael" covered by early Motown girl-group, the Marvelettes; Sybil's 1990's dance-club revamp of "Don't Make Me Over"; and "Trains and Boats and Planes" performed by Merseybeat band Billy J. Kramer & the Dakotas. The upside of the multi-artist approach is that we do get Aretha Franklin's saucy, gospel-fueled take on "I Say a Little Prayer"; the Stylistics' Philly soul-styled version of "You'll Never Get to Heaven (If You Break My Heart)"; and Broadway veteran (and future "Law & Order" star) Jerry Orbach's fresh-faced performance of "Promises, Promises".
Other classics included are the Carpenters' "(They Long to Be) Close to You" highlighting Karen's sparkling alto voice; B.J. Thomas' unavoidably sunny "Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head"; Herb Alpert's casually off-key "This Guy's in Love with You"; Jackie DeShannon's symphonic rendition of "What the World Needs Now is Love"; the samba-sized cover of "The Look of Love" by Sergio Mendes and Brasil `66; Tom Jones' Vegas-style, hip-shaking "What's New Pussycat?"; Dusty Springfield's yearning smokiness on "Wishin' and Hopin'" and "I Don't Know What to Do with Myself"; and the 5th Dimension's "One Less Bell to Answer" featuring Marilyn McCoo's studio-polished vocals. Luther Vandross' lengthy, melisma-filled take on "A House Is Not a Home" is also here, as is Bacharach's valedictory collaboration with Elvis Costello on the powerful "God Give Me Strength".
Obscurities are offered in the mix as well, for example, the hard-rocking Pretenders, of all bands, do a 1989 number called "The Windows of the World", and the 5th Dimension covers a long-lost song from the disastrous musical version of "Lost Horizon", a catchy sing-along therapy session called "Living Together, Growing Together". The height of 1960's sexism is represented by Jack Jones' lounge-act singing on "Wives and Lovers", and sad-voiced Gene Pitney is featured on three early sixties tracks uniquely his - "Twenty Four Hours from Tulsa", "Only Love Can Break a Heart" and most famously, "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance". Bacharach himself ends each disk with instrumental versions of "Knowing When to Leave" and "That's What Friends Are For". Even if the performances vary with the artists, this collection shows how impressive Bacharach's expansive songbook truly is."
Truly a G O L D Representation
Allen Stokes | 12/12/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Gold Burt Bacharach & Friends emmersed me immediately in many
long forgotten but not unfelt tunes.
There are so many artists that glorify the music of Burt Bacharach
that I appreciate in such loving gratefullness his gift to so many.
It is so entertaining to have such an eclectic group of musicians
who have given us his music.
I highly recommend this album!
Fine tribute to a superlative artist--BRAVO, BURT BACHARACH
Matthew G. Sherwin | last seen screaming at Amazon customer service | 08/27/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Burt Bacharach was quite an artist in his heyday; and these numbers remain just as beautiful now as they were when they were first released. He collaborated primarily with lyricists Hal David and former wife Carole Bayer Sager; but his remarkable genius as a composer made his music so special that it still touches the hearts of countless people every day. This two CD set has plenty of Burt Bacharach hits performed by a broad spectrum of artists; and the quality of the sound is nothing short of excellent. I like the artwork, too.
Karen and Richard Carpenter open the first CD with their heavenly treatment of "Close To You;" Karen sings this with all her heart and soul and just one listen proves it! Burt's timeless music is showcased perfectly by Karen and Richard; and there's another gem in "Do You Know the Way to San José?" by Dionne Warwick. Dionne's voice, clear as a bell, never wavers and her excellent diction enhances her performance even more. Great! Jackie Deshannon also does a sublime rendition of "What the World Needs Now Is Love;" this ballad is incredibly beautiful and I could never tire of hearing this music. Dusty Springfield does "Wishin' and Hopin'" with panache; and I really like "Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head" by B.J. Thomas. B.J. sings this passionately and the melody is memorable, to say the least. Burt's music shines brighter than silver and gold when B.J. performs this classic piece! "One Less Bell to Answer" also sounds mighty fine when The 5th Dimension handles it.
Dionne Warwick returns to do "I'll Never Fall in Love Again;" I'm really impressed by how well she sings this. What talent that woman has! Aretha Franklin's "I Say A Little Prayer" is wonderful; Aretha really delves deep to be able to convey the subtle nuances in all the lyrics and it all holds its own very well. "The Look of Love" gets a handsome treatment from the great Sergio Mendes & Brasil '66; and The Shirelles outdo even themselves on "Baby It's You." The Dakotas also do a terrific rendition of "Trains and Boats and Planes;" I love every minute of this ballad.
The second CD continues the hits. "Anyone Who Had a Heart" gets the royal treatment from Dionne Warwick; she sings this faultlessly and the music fits in perfectly with her vocals. Jack Jones sings "Wives and Lovers" which is a solid number even if the lyrics are a bit dated or chauvinistic; Jack's voice is smoother than silk and it's amazing to hear him sing this song without skipping a beat. Gene Pitney's "Only Love Can Break a Heart" again demonstrates the power and beauty of Burt Bacharach's music; this music is all THAT good. Bobby Vinton sings "Blue on Blue" with heart and soul; and listen for the theme to the James Bond spoof movie "Casino Royale" which is performed by Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass.
"Promises, Promises" is great when Jerry Orbach does it up right; he does great justice to this tune. Christopher Cross does a fantastic job on "Arthur's Theme;" "Arthur's Theme" is still yet another example of Burt Bacharach's remarkable talent as a composer. Neil Diamond does "Heartlight" with great feeling; and Naked Eyes does "Always Something There to Remind Me" with lots of energy--notice how Burt can even compose music for a younger generation? That's talent!
Sybil does a cover of "Don't Make Me Over" that absolutely floors me whenever I hear it; Sybil has talent and she channels it well into this Bacharach music. The album closes with Burt himself performing "That's What Friends Are For." Great!
Burt Bacharach remains a giant amongst giants; this tribute album does him justice and hopefully he will get new fans as CDs like this one continue to sell into the future. I highly recommend this for fans of Burt Bacharach; and it's a fine starting point for people just discovering the incredible artistry of Burt Bacharach."