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Archive for the ‘Dusty Springfield’ Category

Shaken, Not Stirred: Ace Mines “The Secret Agent Songbook” With “Come Spy with Us”

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Come Spy with UsFor many, the sound of John Barry epitomizes the sound of the spy thriller. It’s no surprise – with 12 James Bond films under his belt, the late, great British composer imbued his melodies with the right amount of adventure, humor, tension, sophistication, and well, sex. It’s fitting that Barry opens Ace Records’ superlatively entertaining new anthology Come Spy with Me: The Secret Agent Songbook, collecting 25 samples of swinging music from spies and secret agents (and even a handful of detectives!) released between 1962 and 1968, the heyday of the genre.

Come Spy with Me opens with “A Man Alone,” Barry’s 1965 instrumental theme to The Ipcress File. Perhaps his second-most recognizable spy theme after his arrangement of Monty Norman’s “The James Bond Theme,” it inventively utilizes the cimbalom, a type of hammered dulcimer, to achieve its singular sound. Matt Monro had sung the first-ever vocal James Bond theme with Lionel Bart’s “From Russia with Love” as heard in the second 007 film, the first for which Barry provided the score. “Wednesday’s Child,” from 1967’s The Quiller Memorandum, is all the evidence one needs of the rich-voiced crooner’s deep affinity with Barry’s absorbing melodies. The lyrics, incidentally, were written by Mack David; his younger brother Hal would later collaborate with Barry on songs including “We Have All the Time in the World” from the Bond adventure On His Majesty’s Secret Service.

It was Barry, serving in the capacity of arranger, who gave shape to Monty Norman’s composition “The James Bond Theme” for Bond’s screen debut in Dr. No. It set the template for all spy music to come. While the original of the track, with Vic Flick’s indelible guitar part, isn’t here, a fine stand-in is Johnny and the Hurricanes’ 1963 surf-inspired version with prominent tenor sax and organ adding new colors. The most famous artist associated with the music of James Bond is Shirley Bassey. While her showstopping “Goldfinger” might be the quintessential spy song, she’s instead featured belting Lalo Schifrin and Peter Callander’s theme to “The Liquidator” in her most divinely bombastic style. Bassey wasn’t the only one to mine the success of “Goldfinger,” however. Susan Maughan’s “Where the Bullets Fly,” from songwriters Ronald Bridges and Robert Kingston, hails from the 1966 film of the same name, and incorporates about as much of “The James Bond Theme” and John Barry sound as the law would allow! This rarely-heard nugget is a fantastic treat.

Scott Walker not only sings, but co-wrote The Walker Brothers’ Barry-inspired “Deadlier than the Male” from the 1967 film of the same name which starred Richard Johnson and Elke Sommer. Walker’s resonant, haunting baritone meshes beautifully with Reg Guest’s evocative arrangement. (Spy music connoisseurs take note: Walker made a rare return both to traditional melody and the spy genre with his understated performance of David Arnold and Don Black’s sad, achingly gorgeous “Only Myself to Blame” in 1999. The song was written and recorded for the Bond film The World Is Not Enough, but was sadly unused in the actual motion picture; it did, however, appear on the soundtrack album.

Keep reading after the jump! Read the rest of this entry »

Forever Dusty: Four New Releases Celebrate Springfield’s Musical Legacy

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Dusty Heard Them Here FirstDusty Springfield’s ebullient first solo single, 1963’s “I Only Want to Be with You,” announced just how far the former Mary Isobel Catherine Bernadette O’Brien had come from her pop-folk trio The Springfields and the likes of “Silver Threads and Golden Needles.”  The thunderous production and joyous vocals augured for a significant new talent, and the song was selected as one of the very first ever to be played on the BBC’s Top of the Pops.  And indeed, Dusty Springfield remained at the top of the pops for the entirety of her too-short life and career.  The “White Queen of Soul,” Springfield could be breathily sensual one moment and achingly vulnerable the next.  Though Dusty struggled with personal demons for most of her life, she channeled her inner turmoil to create some of the most thrilling three-minute nuggets ever put down on record.  Springfield’s love of American R&B helped break down racial barriers, and she brought a deeply soulful sensibility and emotional honesty to so-called pop fare.  Her legendary talent is now the subject of four recent releases from four different labels.

Leading the pack is Ace Records’ Dusty Heard Them Here First, anthologizing many of the songs that were reinterpreted by Springfield in her own inimitable style.  Some of Dusty’s own versions of those songs have, in turn, been featured on Starbucks Entertainment’s new Opus Collection volume.  Analogue Productions has revisited Springfield’s 1969 classic Dusty in Memphis as a hybrid stereo SACD.  And lastly, the U.K. public domain label Jasmine has collected many of Springfield’s pre-solo sides with The Lana Sisters and The Springfields on a new 2-CD set, The Early Years.  (Remember: though this is a legal release in the E.U., no royalties are paid to the artist and/or copyright holders of these recordings.)

Ace’s new Dusty Heard Them Here First, following similar collections for artists including Elvis Presley and Cliff Richard, is a wide-ranging and illuminating tribute to Springfield’s greatest influences.  It’s also a history in miniature of the many strands of American pop music and R&B which Dusty synthesized into a singular style all her own.  Naturally, the sound of Motown plays a major part on this disc.  A staunch crusader for equal rights, Springfield was one of the foremost voices in bringing the music of the Motor City to the United Kingdom.  Her 1965 television special The Sounds of Motown introduced artists like The Supremes, The Miracles and Martha and the Vandellas to U.K. audiences, and songs from Berry Gordy’s empire were a crucial part of her repertoire.  Here, you’ll hear Motown originals by The Velvelettes (“Needle in a Haystack”), Marvin Gaye (“Can I Get a Witness”), The Miracles (“You’ve Really Got a Hold on Me”) and Gladys Knight and the Pips (the rousing “Ain’t No Sun Since You’ve Been Gone”).  Post-Motown R&B from songwriter-producers Holland-Dozier-Holland’s Hot Wax/Invictus label also got attention from Dusty, and this compilation features The Honey Cone’s “Girls It Ain’t Easy” and The Glass House’s “Crumbs Off the Table.”  Dusty didn’t ignore Motown’s southern-soul counterparts at Stax, either, and Dusty Heard Them Here First includes Carla Thomas’ “Every Ounce of Strength,” recorded by Dusty on the flipside of her mega-hit “You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me” in 1966.

After the jump, we have much more on Dusty Heard Them Here First and the other three above-mentioned titles, including full track listings and order links! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

February 20, 2014 at 10:32

Release Round-Up: Week of February 11

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Camper - Our BelovedCamper Van Beethoven, Our Beloved Revolutionary Sweetheart/Key Lime Pie: Deluxe Editions (Omnivore)

Omnivore expands both Virgin Records releases from the winning alt-folk group, released in 1988 and 1989.

Our Beloved Revolutionary Sweetheart (CD: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.; LP: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)
Key Lime Pie (CD: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.; LP: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Def Leppard SlangDef Leppard, Slang: Deluxe Edition (Bludgeon Riffola)

The band’s fan-favorite 1996 album gets a generous deluxe edition treatment with B-sides and unreleased demos.

Amazon U.S.: 2CD / 2LP
Amazon U.K.: 2CD / 2LP

The Organisation of PopVarious Artists, The Art of The 12″, Volume Three The Organisation of Pop: 30 Years of Zang Tuum Tuub / Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Frankie Said: Deluxe Edition (ZTT/Salvo)

New ZTT comps abound this week, including an updated double-disc retrospective for the U.K. (which differs from last year’s U.S. edition on Razor & Tie) and a CD/DVD edition of the latest Frankie best-of.

The Art of The 12″: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
The Organisation of PopAmazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Frankie SaidAmazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

Visions of EightHenry Mancini, Visions of Eight: Music from the Original Soundtrack / Sid Ramin, Stiletto: Selections from the Soundtrack (Dutton Vocalion)

Some underrated soundtrack goodness is due from this U.K. label. Stiletto features the song “Sugar in the Rain” as written by Marilyn and Alan Bergman, while Visions of Eight also features Just You and Me Together Love, Mancini’s 1977 collaboration LP with poet Joe Laws.

Mancini: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Ramin: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

WizardVarious Artists, The Wizard of Oz: 75th Anniversary Anthology (Sepia)

Produced through the unintended convenience of U.K. copyright/public domain laws, Sepia provides a neat little “bonus disc” to accompany the immortal soundtrack to the 1939 film. (Amazon U.S. /Amazon U.K.)

Ross Culture FactoryDiana Ross, Ross / The Temptations, All Directions / James Brown, Ain’t It Funky The Popcorn /Rod Stewart, The Rod Stewart Album / The Runaways , Live in Japan  (Culture Factory)

Culture Factory dips into the Motown and James Brown catalogues (among others) for vinyl replica CD reissues.

Diana: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
The Temptations: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
J.B. Ain’t It Funky: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
J.B. The PopcornAmazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Rod: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Runaways: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

Dusty SACDDusty Springfield, Dusty in Memphis (Stereo Hybrid SACD) (Analogue Productions)

One of the greatest albums of its decade gets the SACD treatment. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Written by Mike Duquette

February 11, 2014 at 08:28

Review: Burt Bacharach, “Anyone Who Had a Heart: The Art of the Songwriter” Box Set

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Burt - Anyone Who Had a HeartTime stands still for Burt Bacharach.

Rumer’s 2010 single “Some Lovers,” from Bacharach and Steven Sater’s musical of the same name, is the most recent track on Universal U.K.’s new box set Anyone Who Had a Heart: The Art of the Songwriter.  Yet 2010 melts into 1965 like a ray of sunshine on the “cloudy Christmas morning” in the song lyric.  Sleigh bells gently underscore wistful flugelhorns as it begins, with Rumer’s dreamy, comforting vocals gracefully gliding over the bittersweet melody.  “Everything we touch is still a dream,” she sings, and for three minutes or so, it is.  Even shorn of its lyrics, “Some Lovers” would radiate the warm glow of nostalgia without ever seeming dated.  And it’s just one of 137 tracks found on the box’s six CDs, all standing as a testament to the songwriter’s signature style, remarkable consistency, and uncanny ability to render emotions through his musical notes.  The music of Burt Bacharach is sophisticated in its composition but simplicity itself in its piercing directness.  So why is this handsomely-designed, large box less than the sum of its (formidable) parts?

Anyone Who Had a Heart has been released to coincide with Bacharach’s memoir of the same name, and is also available in two 2-CD configurations, one each for the United States and the United Kingdom.  The 6-CD version follows in some rather large footsteps: that of Rhino’s 1998 box set The Look of Love: The Burt Bacharach Collection.  As expertly curated by Patrick Milligan and Alec Cumming, that sublime 3-CD box was the first to trace the arc of Bacharach’s career in context, and it played a mighty role in his career renaissance.  Yet over the ensuing fifteen years, Bacharach has continued to write with a frequency that would impress his much younger colleagues, so the time was certainly right for an updated package.  (The Look of Love concluded with Bacharach and Elvis Costello’s 1996 recording of “God Give Me Strength.”)  The ambitious Anyone Who Had a Heart is the first box since The Look of Love to take on the entirety of Bacharach’s career, though Hip-o Select’s 2004 Something Big: The Complete A&M Years collected all of his solo work for Herb Alpert and Jerry Moss’ label with a handful of rarities included for good measure.  But the new box is best enjoyed as a complement to The Look of Love, not an update or expansion.

Bacharach Box ContentsThe first four discs of this box are dedicated to a chronological account of Bacharach’s work, from 1955’s “(These) Desperate Hours” to 2010’s “Some Lovers.”  The fifth disc is essentially a single-disc distillation of the Hip-o box set, dedicated solely to Bacharach’s own, primarily instrumental recordings of his songbook.  The sixth disc shows the breadth of his influence as it presents an entire collection of jazz interpretations (both vocal and instrumental).  The fifth and sixth discs present an expanded view of his career not found on The Look of Love.  The first four discs cover the same territory as the Rhino box, but best it with 95 tracks vs. 75.  However, the approach by producers Kit Buckler, Paul Conroy and Richard Havers is a more idiosyncratic, less focused one.  Whereas The Look of Love concentrated on original versions of songs – most of which Bacharach produced and/or arranged – Anyone Who Had a Heart casts a wider net to give great attention to cover versions.  This approach does allow for stylistic variety but leaves the listener with a less definitive account of “the essentials.”  The new box is successful in fleshing out the periods that bookend Bacharach’s career, addressing his earliest and most recent songs with more depth than the 3-CD format of The Look of Love allowed.

Hit the jump as we explore the Art of Bacharach! Read the rest of this entry »

Songwriters Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil Are “Born to Be Together” on New Ace CD

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Mann and Weil - Born to Be TogetherBorn to Be Together: could a more apropos title have been devised for a collection of the songs of Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil?  Married since 1961, the team both defines and defies the phrase “unsung heroes.”  Without hit records as recording artists, Mann and Weil have never had the name recognition of their Brill Building-era compatriots like Carole King or Neil Sedaka, but these Grammy Award-winning Rock and Roll Hall of Famers are hardly unsung.  If all they’d ever written was the most played song of the twentieth century, The Righteous Brothers’ “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’,” they would have gone down in the history books.  With over 1,000 songs reportedly under their collective belt and some 100 hits (not a bad track record, eh?) charted, Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil are simply international treasures.  Ace Records has recognized this with Born to Be Together, the label’s second volume of songs from their storied catalogue following 2009’s Glitter and Gold.

A 2004 theatrical revue starring the couple, They Wrote That?, made reference to one of the most frequent exclamations regarding their body of work.  You might find yourself saying that yourself glancing the track listing of this 25-song compendium: “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’,”  “Saturday Night at the Movies,” “We’ve Gotta Get Out of This Place,” “Make Your Own Kind of Music.”  But those hits are just the tip of the iceberg here.

Compilation producer Mick Patrick has expertly woven those familiar tracks (all in their most famous versions) into a tapestry that also takes in lesser-known versions of hit songs and true rarities.  The disc also takes in compositions co-written by Mann and/or Weil with other luminaries, among them Gerry Goffin, Russ Titelman, Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, Ernie Freeman, and of course, Phil Spector.  The specter of Spector lingers on both the majestic songs he produced (“Lovin’ Feelin’,” The Crystals’ “Uptown,” The Ronettes’ darkly seductive “Born to Be Together”) and those he co-wrote as recorded by others (Len Barry’s Philly treatment of “You Baby”).

After the jump: much more on Mann and Weil, including a full track listing and order link! Read the rest of this entry »

Keep On Dancing: Elvis, Dusty, The Wicked Pickett All Appear on “Memphis Boys”

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Just last year, Ace Records’ Kent imprint issued a definitive 3-CD survey of Fame Studios, the Muscle Shoals, Alabama home of many of the greatest soul records ever committed to vinyl.  Over in Tennessee, however, another joyful noise was arriving courtesy of the musicians at Memphis, Tennessee’s American Studios.  Ace is celebrating the multifaceted sounds of Chips Moman and Don Crews’ American Studios with the new Memphis Boys: The Story of American Studios, a 24-track tribute featuring such visitors to Memphis as Dusty Springfield, Wilson Pickett, B.J. Thomas, Solomon Burke and a certain King named Elvis.  While it’s one hell of a listen on its own merits, Memphis Boys also serves as the soundtrack to Roben Jones’ 2011 book of the same name.

Though the artists in front of the microphones inevitably bear more famous names, Memphis Boys introduces you to the work of the session men who created the sound: guitarists Reggie Young and Mike Leech, bassist Tommy Cogbill, drummer Gene Chrisman, keyboardists Bobby Emmons and Bobby Woods.  Between 1964 and 1972, these men held court at 827 Thomas Street, creating the “Memphis Soul Stew” immortalized in song by saxophone giant King Curtis in 1967 and preserved as this compilation’s perfect opening shot.  Curtis was just one of the many Atlantic Records artists who set up shop at American, including the great Solomon Burke, Wilson Pickett, Arthur Conley and Dusty Springfield, represented here by (what else?) “Son of a Preacher Man.”  Though Springfield, a notorious perfectionist, re-cut her vocals in New York City, she likely wouldn’t have been able to dig so deeply without having soaked up the atmosphere at American while the tracks were recorded.

Studio owner Chips Moman produced one-third of the tracks on Memphis Boys, including Merilee Rush’s smash “Angel of the Morning.”  It’s probably the song most associated with American alongside The Box Tops’ “The Letter,” produced by Dan Penn and also featured here.  Moman too was in charge of The Gentrys’ “Keep on Dancing,” the studio’s first major hit and a ridiculously catchy song that was as simple as some of American’s later masterpieces were sophisticated.  Another Moman monument is Joe Simon’s dark “Nine Pound Steel.”  The slow-burning tale of a prisoner, written by Penn (“Dark End of the Street”) and Wayne Carson Thompson (“The Letter”), is a far cry from Sam Cooke’s “Chain Gang.”  The Memphis boys were equally adept at brassy funk (Arthur Conley’s “Funky Street”), sweet pop (Sandy Posey’s “Born a Woman”) and just about every style in between.  Other than the obvious top-notch musicianship, the common thread here is the sheer humanity in each of the tracks, or shall we just call it soul?

There’s plenty more soul after the jump, friends! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

March 19, 2012 at 11:02

Release Round-Up: Week of February 28

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Pink Floyd, The Wall: Experience and Immersion Editions (Capitol/EMI)

The latest Pink Floyd box, featuring live tracks and demos from the vault will make you lose your marbles! (Editor’s note: I am so sorry for typing that.)

The Ventures, The Ventures Play Telstar and The Lonely Bull“Surfing” (The) Ventures in Space The Fabulous Ventures Walk, Don’t Run Vol. 2 (Sundazed)

Five classic Ventures albums, remastered in stereo on CD and vinyl.

Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings, Live at the US Festival 1983 (Shout! Factory)

The first two CD sets in Shout! Factory’s new series of live sets from the infamous California festival.

Shelby Lynne, Just a Little Lovin’ (Analogue)

Country singer Lynne’s 2008 tribute album to Dusty Springfield gets an SACD and audiophile vinyl reissue.

Written by Mike Duquette

February 28, 2012 at 08:23

Double-O Vision: Burt Bacharach’s “Casino Royale” Expanded and Remastered…Again!

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Seven James Bonds at Casino Royale/They came to save the world and win the gal at Casino RoyaleSix of them went to a heavenly spot, the seventh one is going to a place where it’s terribly hot…

Hal David’s lyric captures just a small fraction of the insanity of Charles K. Feldman’s 1967 Casino Royale, the big-budget comic extravaganza that was “too much…for one James Bond!”  And so, David Niven as James Bond was joined by 007s of all shapes and sizes (and genders!), and even by his nephew, Jimmy Bond, portrayed by Woody Allen.  But the iconoclastic score by Burt Bacharach was too much for one soundtrack album, too.  We’ve told the entire (sordid?) tale of the film here, so if you’re not caught up with this Bacharach bacchanal, do click, and join us later.  Back?  Good.  Following two CD reissues on the Varese Sarabande label, a DVD-A from Classic Records and a 2010 edition from Kritzerland that many listeners (including this writer) considered the last word on Casino Royale, Spain’s Quartet Records has thrown its hat into the ring.  Quartet has just announced a 45th Anniversary edition of Bacharach’s seminal score, and it’s a doozy, a slipcased 2-CD set with two booklets, one of which is 64 pages in length.  Yes, Casino Royale is back yet again!  This follows Quartet’s remastered edition of Bacharach’s score to What’s New Pussycat?, the earlier Feldman-produced film also starring Peter Sellers and Woody Allen.

Quartet’s ambitious set not only commemorates the 45th anniversary of this monument to Hollywood excess but also the 50th anniversary of Ian Fleming’s James Bond franchise.  Though the film is hardly canon for the long-running series, its greatest asset is a score that can stand alongside the best of the official Bond scores composed by the legendary John Barry.  Dusty Springfield sang the Academy Award-nominated “The Look of Love” over a scene in which Peter Sellers and Ursula Andress are cavorting, as viewed through a giant fish tank; Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass contribute the instrumental title theme.

Kritzerland’s sold-out expanded edition of Casino Royale (Kritzerland KR 20017-6) offered the score in two presentations.  On the first half of the CD, Bacharach’s music was presented in film order, with material not on the original Colgems album including the climactic song performed by Mike Redway, “Have No Fear, Bond is Here.”  The original album master and the film’s DVD were both utilized for this presentation.   The second half of the disc was the original LP sequence, mastered from a mint vinyl copy, with no added EQ or processing; as good as that sounds (its best yet!), the new, complete presentation made this the definitive treatment of a classic score to date.  What is Quartet bringing to the table?  Hit the jump to find out! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

February 22, 2012 at 09:47

Anyone Who Had a Heart: Shelby Lynne’s Dusty Springfield Tribute, Reissued

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When I Am Shelby Lynne appeared on the Mercury label in 2000, its eponymous singer finally hit on an approach that synthesized her varied influences (country, soul, R&B, rock-and-roll) into a relevant and contemporary whole. Lynne picked up the Best New Artist Grammy, despite having released her first album in 1989, and the album’s title indicated that, finally, the artist knew who she was, and was ready to share her music with the world. Fast-forward eight years, and a number of albums later, and many were surprised to find Lynne releasing Just a Little Lovin’, a countrified tribute to the British chanteuse Dusty Springfield. Journalists and fans alike frequently have invoked the late, great soul goddess when assessing the work of singers like Duffy, Amy Winehouse and even Adele, but the influence of Springfield wasn’t readily apparent in Lynne’s body of work. Yet she transformed what could have been a hackneyed homage into a deeply felt tribute both to Springfield’s indomitable spirit and the timeless songs that figure in her legacy, written by names like Randy Newman, Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, and Burt Bacharach and Hal David. Upon the album’s release, audiophile guide The Absolute Sound ranked the original CD as one of the best-sounding, while Stereophile ranked it the magazine’s Recording of the Month. Now, Just a Little Lovin’ is reappearing on Hybrid Stereo SACD (playable on all CD players) and 200-gram vinyl LP from Analogue Productions, improving what was already a pristine quality recording.

To craft the album, Lynne teamed with producer Phil Ramone. In his days running New York’s A&R Studios, Ramone became a close ally of Bacharach, and actually engineered the session that yielded Springfield’s “The Look of Love” for the film Casino Royale. Lynne had considered tackling the Springfield songbook for a number of years, and credited her friend Barry Manilow with providing the initial encouragement. Lynne and Ramone reinvented the songs, eschewing the elaborate orchestrations of the original recordings in favor of spare, stripped-down arrangements of guitar, keyboard, drum and bass. Ramone recorded Lynne at Capitol Studios with a microphone once used by Frank Sinatra, and though Lynne could be sensual and sultry in Springfield’s mode, the new treatments rendered them wholly unique. Because of this approach, the singer was free to tackle such all-time staples as “The Look of Love,” “Anyone Who Had a Heart,” “You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me,” and “I Only Want to Be with You.”

We’ve got more after the jump, including pre-order links with sound samples!

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

February 7, 2012 at 13:56

A Grande Cup of Burt: Starbucks Brews “Music By Bacharach”

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If you see me walking down the street, and I start to cry…or smile…or laugh…there’s a good chance I might be listening to a song by Burt Bacharach.  Since beginning his songwriting career with 1952’s instrumental “Once in a Blue Moon” as recorded by Nat King Cole, Bacharach has provided the soundtrack to many of our lives, often in tandem with lyricist Hal David.  (Their first collaborations date to 1956, including The Harry Carter Singers’ “Tell the Truth and Shame the Devil,” and Sherry Parsons’ “Peggy’s in the Pantry,” a song Bacharach would rightfully rather forget!)  A new compilation on the Starbucks Entertainment label is bringing Bacharach’s music to coffeehouses around the world, and is making quite a splash in the U.S., actually opening at a none-too-shabby No. 59 on the Billboard 200.  It offers sixteen selections, the majority of them drawn from the most famed period of the composer’s still-thriving career.  This was the time when Angie Dickinson was on his arm, the drink was Martini and Rossi, and the composer-conductor-producer- arranger-performer was proclaimed “The Music Man” on the cover of Newsweek.  The simply-titled and elegantly-designed Music by Bacharach will take you back to the mid-1960s, when Bacharach matched David’s universal lyrics to sophisticated melodies, the likes of which weren’t seen in pop music.  They still aren’t.

Music by Bacharach doesn’t offer any rarities, and doesn’t purport to cover Bacharach’s entire career.  (He’s still active today; in 2011, Bacharach scored a hit in the U.K. with his Ronan Keating collaboration When Ronan Met Burt, and also wrote the original score to the musical Some Lovers, which premiered in San Diego.)  Instead, it focuses on the halcyon hitmaking era, when Bacharach provided 39 consecutive chart hits for Dionne Warwick alone.  Appropriately enough, the collection offers two songs by Warwick, the third part of the Bacharach/David “triangle marriage.”  Also figuring prominently with two tracks each are Dusty Springfield and Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass.  Bacharach himself participated in nine of the album’s sixteen tracks, with the remaining seven tracks all well-chosen “cover” recordings. Though far from comprehensive, the collection is a potent and well-curated time capsule nonetheless.

Warwick is represented by her first hit (No. 21 pop), “Don’t Make Me Over,” written to order by Bacharach and David for the young firebrand, as well as with her iconic reading of “Walk on By.”  Across the pond, many considered Dusty Springfield to be Bacharach’s supreme interpreter, and her catalogue is tapped for the charming “Wishin’ and Hopin’” (originally a Warwick B-side) and the incendiary “I Just Don’t Know What to Do with Myself,” first recorded by Tommy Hunt.  Warwick’s own recording arrived two years after Springfield’s, in a rare reversal.  Herb Alpert is heard on the theme to Casino Royale as well as on the 1968 “This Guy’s in Love with You,” somewhat unbelievably the very first pop No. 1 for Bacharach and David.  Another iconic performance, Jackie DeShannon’s original 1965 take of “What the World Needs Now is Love,” is also included.  Warwick followed DeShannon with a 1967 version of the song.

The most recent tracks on Music by Bacharach are two 1990s collaborations.  “Anyone Who Had a Heart,” originally a 1963 hit for Warwick, may be one of the most musically challenging of Bacharach’s songs.  It announced Dionne on the scene as her first Top 10 hit in 1963, as the singer navigated with ease the tricky time signature shifts (5/4 to 4/4 to 7/8 and back to 5/4).  Ronald Isley takes on the song here in a supremely soulful rendition from his 2003 Isley Meets Bacharach.  Just a few years earlier, Bacharach had teamed with Elvis Costello for the song “God Give Me Strength,” written for Allison Anders’ film Grace of My Heart.  The song’s success led to a full-blown album collaboration, Painted from Memory, which remains one of the strongest sets of songs in either man’s considerable oeuvre.   From its opening horn salvo, “God Give Me Strength” announced a return to classic form for Bacharach after his successful detour into modern pop in the 1980s (“On My Own,” “That’s What Friends Are For,” “Arthur’s Theme”).  It shares the signature Bacharach sound that’s highlighted on each of the older tracks here.

Hit the jump for much more on Music by Bacharach, including an order link and the full track listing with discography! Read the rest of this entry »