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It’s Love That Really Counts: Él Continues Vintage Burt Bacharach Series

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Burt Bacharach - Make It EasyIn 1962 alone, Burt Bacharach premiered more than 30 new compositions, recorded by a variety of artists from Marlene Dietrich to The Drifters.  It’s even fair to say that ’62 was the year the composer truly came into his own.  While previous years offered their share of hits for the songwriter – “I Wake Up Crying,” “Tower of Strength,” “Baby, It’s You,” “Magic Moments,” “The Story of My Life” – the Bacharach sound hadn’t completely crystallized.  With Jerry Butler’s July 1962 single of Bacharach and Hal David’s “Make It Easy on Yourself,” Bacharach became his own producer.  Vee-Jay’s Calvin Carter turned over the sessions to the songwriter when he realized “he felt the song better than anyone else did.”  The credit on the 45 still just read “Arranged by Burt Bacharach,” but a new chapter was being written.  That landmark song with melody, orchestration and production by Bacharach, gives the title to the third volume in a series of Bacharach collections from Cherry Red’s Él label.  Make It Easy on Yourself 1962 follows First Book of Songs 1954-1958 and Long Ago Last Summer 1959-1961 and compiles 27 of Bacharach’s songs (some in multiple versions) from one pivotal year with outgoing partner Bob Hilliard and incoming partner Hal David.

One of the essential “love triangle” songs in all of pop music, the stirring “Make It Easy on Yourself” was the fullest expression yet of the mature Bacharach style.  Ethereal backing vocals melded with majestic strings and wistful, sighing horns before Butler bleakly intoned, “Breaking up is so very hard to do…” in a way that Neil Sedaka couldn’t have imagined.  Bacharach and David found beauty and poetry in the blues: “And if the way I hold you can’t compare to his caress/No words of consolation will make me miss you less/My darling, if this is goodbye/Oh, I just know I’m gonna cry/So run to him before you start crying, too…”   Bacharach’s orchestration melded the above instruments with roiling drums, chiming percussion, and well-placed guitar licks, adding up to just over 2-1/2 minute of tension in which the music and lyrics were in perfect harmony.

The new compilation also makes room for the sublime original recording of “Any Day Now,” the most successful song penned by Bacharach with Bob Hilliard.  Soul great Chuck Jackson anticipates his lover’s departure (“My wild beautiful bird, you will have flown/Any day now, I’ll be all alone…”) with just enough anguish and pathos, finding the space in the offbeat arrangement which featured Bacharach playing an ashtray (!) as percussion.  (Jackson previously recorded Bacharach’s “I Wake Up Crying” in 1961; you can hear it on Long Ago Last Summer.)  A contemporary, more “pop” cover by Philadelphia’s Dee Dee Sharp is included for contrast’s sake.

Indeed, Bacharach and David were turning out stone-cold classics at quite a clip.  (After the success of “Blue on Blue” in 1963, Bacharach would make his partnership with David an exclusive one.)  Tremolo guitar and tinkling piano notes signify Tommy Hunt’s “I Just Don’t Know What to Do with Myself,” another unbearably lonely, and unbelievably beautiful, song.  Hal David, as always, put into the words feelings that so many – perhaps everybody – had experienced at one time or another: “Goin’ to a movie only makes me sad/Parties make me feel as bad/When I’m not with you, I just don’t know what to do…”  Bacharach matched David’s words with another eloquent, sophisticated and dramatic melody that ran the gamut of emotions itself, veering from serene to pensive to pained.  It’s no wonder everybody from Elvis Costello to the White Stripes cottoned to the song.

Tommy Hunt is also the (unexpected) voice you’ll hear on “Don’t Make Me Over.”  This was the song that changed the lives of Dionne Warwick, Burt Bacharach and Hal David forever, beginning pop’s most successful “triangle marriage.”  But not long after Dionne charted with the defiant powerhouse of a ballad, Scepter reused its backing track for Hunt’s recording which sat on the shelf until 1986.  Much as “Any Day Now” was transformed from male to female, “Don’t Make Me Over” works just fine with a male singer, proving early on the adaptability of Bacharach’s hits.  Another great soul man, Jimmy Radcliffe, has his breakup moment with Bacharach and David’s deliciously offbeat, Latin-flavored “There Goes the Forgotten Man.”  One of the best of the quotient of (relatively) rare tracks here is “Don’t Envy Me,” which only received one other recording, by George Hamilton in 1963.  Both Powers’ vocal and the production by Hugo and Luigi are a touch histrionic, but the song has a killer melody rendered with almost reggae-style percussion, not to mention an amusing lyrical conceit from Hal David: the singer has lots of girls, but none of them love him…so he’s “filled with such misery,” imploring, “don’t envy me!”  Bobby Vee’s teen waltz “Anonymous Phone Call” is another enjoyable find, flecked with a light country sound.

There’s more after the jump, including the complete track listing with discographical annotation!

Naturally, Bacharach and co. penned great songs for women, too.  Dionne Warwick sang the original demo of The Shirelles’ “It’s Love That Really Counts,” with Scepter’s Florence Greenberg famously disliking the song but recognizing the talent of the singer.  But “Love” is a fine slow-burner, with Hal David setting a typically noble and kind lyrical sentiment (“Some other guy might give me diamonds and pearls, the kind of thing that means so much to some girls/But in the long run, baby, it’s love that really counts…”) to Bacharach’s beguiling, and hypnotically arranged, melody.  The Shirelles’ version here is orchestrated pop-soul at its finest.  Somewhat less successful is “The Love of a Boy,” with the big-voiced, pint-sized Timi Yuro bringing to life Hal David’s rather questionable concept that “the love of a boy can change a girl into a woman.”  It’s notable, though, for its “Don’t Make Me Over”-like horns.  British teen superstar Helen Shapiro was first out of the gate with the Bacharach/Hilliard “Keep Away from Other Girls,” and it’s a zippy, engaging and youthful romp.

Few know that Marlene Dietrich introduced the song that eventually became “Message to Michael” – in German, as “Kleine Treue Nachtigall,” or “Small True Nightingale.”  For Dietrich’s recording, her longtime arranger/conductor Bacharach proffered the backing track he originally recorded for Jerry Butler’s “Message to Martha.”  Butler’s rendition was recorded first, but sat on the shelf till nearly a year after Dietrich’s German recording was released.  Though albums exist of Bacharach accompanying Dietrich, “Nachtigall” is still the only recording of Dietrich performing a Bacharach song.  A second Dietrich recording, Bacharach’s fine arrangement of Pete Seeger’s “Where Have All the Flowers Gone,” is also somewhat incongruously included here.

“Flowers” does feature a rare arrangement of a folk song from Bacharach, though some of his own material could nearly qualify (think: “What the World Needs Now is Love,” for one).  There are other numerous throwbacks here, too, to Bacharach’s days writing in every conceivable style from rockabilly to blues.  The Four Coins’ square “The Windows of Heaven” was released in 1962 but dated back to 1959, and is all but unrecognizable as the work of Bacharach and David.  Just as foreign to Bacharach’s eventual style are the two sides of a 1962 single by girl group The Russells, “For All Time” b/w “Wastin’ Away for You.”  Both sides – the A, a ballad and the B, a bouncy uptempo number with squeaky-toy sound effects – would likely have been forgotten if not for the fact that a pre-“Don’t Make Me Over” Dionne Warwick sings prominent solo parts on “For All Time,” adding much-needed dollops of soul and spirit.  Trivia: Dionne can also be heard singing backgrounds with her sister Dee Dee and her cousin Cissy Houston on The Drifters’ “Mexican Divorce,” a bona fide Bacharach classic.  The ironically jovial paean (“One day married, next day free/Broken hearts for you and me/Takes no time at all to get a Mexican divorce…”) was covered much later by Bacharach himself with Cissy on lead, and then by Nicolette Larson.

The brassy “Too Late to Worry” appears twice, once in its original version by Babs Tino, and once in a French version sassily sung by (the very Italian) Sophia Loren which was released just a couple of months later.  The girlish Tino also appears with the charming and more Bacharach-esque “Forgive Me (For Giving You Such a Bad Time).”  Both have Hal David lyrics.  A pair of songs for Jack Jones co-written by Bacharach and Bob Hilliard before the composer and singer hit paydirt with the Hal David lyric to “Wives and Lovers” are both enjoyable: the sweet, loping ballad “Dreamin’ All the Time” (with a whistling introduction and chiming, swooning Whoa-oh-oh backing vocals!) and the bluesier, nightclub-style tune “Pick Up the Pieces”(“Been sad since I can’t remember when/It’s time to pick up the pieces/And start all over again…”  The former is a better fit for Jones and one of the best of the hidden gems here.

Blues of a more authentic variety can be sampled on Bacharach and Hilliard’s torch song par excellence “Waiting for Charlie to Come Home,” as recorded by Etta James.  A second recording, from chanteuse Jane Morgan, is also featured.  Morgan, for whom Bacharach arranged and produced a 1962 album, gives “Charlie” a more strident rendition than James.  But the elegant Morgan delivers a classy reading of the big romantic ballad “Forever My Love,” written to plug a Paramount historical epic of the same name.  The song flirts with a classical flavor and is far more pop than soul, but has some of the touches (tremolo guitar, prominent trumpet) that Bacharach would continue to develop.  Another almost-but-not-quite-there ballad on the set is Gene McDaniels’ somber “Another Tear Falls,” which The Walker Brothers turned into a mini-masterpiece thanks to Scott Walker’s dark vocal which ratcheted the tension up another notch.  Lyrically the song is about another woebegone lover, and the atmosphere and orchestration are suitably haunting, but it’s not one of Bacharach’s most memorably melodic compositions.  When it comes to Paul Evans’ “Feelin’ No Pain” from Bacharach and Hilliard, the less said, the better.  Evans sings this novelty in an exaggerated, intoxicated barroom sing-along style.  Only Bacharach’s early use of one of his favorite instruments, the tack piano, saves the song.

Like the previous volumes in this series, Make It Easy on Yourself is made possible due to current U.K. public domain laws.  As a result, the tracks are of variable sound quality.  Liner notes have been derived from Marlene Dietrich’s autobiography My Life.  Unfortunately, there’s no discographical information; see below for the origin of each track.  It’s unclear whether the series will continue beyond this point, though there are still early Bacharach songs that could be anthologized including more from 1962 like Gene Pitney’s “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance,” “Little Betty Falling Star” and “Only Love Can Break a Heart,” Andy Williams’ “Don’t You Believe It,” Cliff Richard’s “Wonderful to be Young,” Dionne Warwick’s “I Smiled Yesterday” and Paul Evans’ “The Bell That Couldn’t Jingle.”  But chances are you’ll smile today at this commendable sampler of one year when Burt Bacharach synthesized pop, soul, R&B and jazz into an unmistakable, singular style.

Burt Bacharach, Make It Easy on Yourself 1962 (Él ACMEM258CD, 2013) (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

  1. Make It Easy on Yourself – Jerry Butler (Vee Jay 451)
  2. Donne-Moi Ma Chance (Too Late to Worry) – Sophia Loren
  3. Dreamin’ All the Time – Jack Jones (Liberty 55469)
  4. Pick Up the Pieces – Jack Jones (Kapp 461)
  5. Forgive Me (For Giving You Such a Bad Time) – Babs Tino (Kapp 472)
  6. Too Late to Worry – Babs Tino (Kapp 458)
  7. I Just Don’t Know What to Do with Myself – Tommy Hunt (Scepter 1236)
  8. Don’t Make Me Over – Tommy Hunt (Kent LP 059, issued 1986)
  9. Waiting for Charlie to Come Home – Etta James (Argo 5409)
  10. Waiting for Charlie to Come Home – Jane Morgan (Kapp LP KS-396)
  11. Forever My Love – Jane Morgan (Kapp 450)
  12. Another Tear Falls – Gene McDaniels (Liberty 55405)
  13. It’s Love That Really Counts – The Shirelles (Scepter 1237)
  14. Any Day Now – Chuck Jackson (Wand 122)
  15. Any Day Now – Dee Dee Sharp (Cameo LP C 1027)
  16. (There Goes) The Forgotten Man – Jimmy Radcliffe (Musicor 1024)
  17. The Love of a Boy – Timi Yuro (Liberty 55469)
  18. The Windows of Heaven – The Four Coins (Jubilee 5419)
  19. Keep Away from Other Girls – Helen Shapiro (Columbia (U.K.) 4908)
  20. Don’t Envy Me – Joey Powers (RCA 47-8119)
  21. For All Time – The Russells (ABC-Paramount 10319-A)
  22. Wastin’ Away for You – The Russells (ABC-Paramount 10319-B)
  23. Feelin’ No Pain – Paul Evans (Kapp 473)
  24. Mexican Divorce – The Drifters (Atlantic 2134)
  25. Anonymous Phone Call – Bobby Vee (Liberty 55521)
  26. Kleine Treue Nachtigall – Marlene Dietrich with Burt Bacharach (Barclay 856)
  27. Where Have All the Flowers Gone – Marlene Dietrich with Burt Bacharach (possibly HMV EP 7EG 8844)

All tracks released in 1962 unless otherwise indicated.

Written by Joe Marchese

November 4, 2013 at 11:26

3 Responses

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  1. Regarding later versions of “Mexican Divorce,” Ry Cooder’s rendition on his “Paradise & Lunch” album is also worth mentioning.


    November 4, 2013 at 15:13

  2. Good stuff. Hopefully, if they get around to the later sixties Bacharach, they will include Merrilee Rush’s version of “What The World Needs Now” from the soundtrack album to the film Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice produced by Quincy Jones.


    November 5, 2013 at 01:20

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