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All The Way To Paradise: BBR Revisits Stephanie Mills, Burt Bacharach, Hal David’s Motown Gem “For The First Time”

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Stephanie Mills For the First TimeFollowing the commercial failure of the big-budget 1973 movie musical Lost Horizon, Burt Bacharach retreated. Tension over the film had led to a split with his longtime songwriting partner Hal David, and their split had in turn led to a breakup of their “triangle marriage” with singer Dionne Warwick. Lawsuits ensued. Only one new Bacharach song emerged in 1974, Gladys Knight and the Pips’ “Seconds,” co-written with playwright Neil Simon for a proposed movie version of the 1968 Bacharach/David/Simon Broadway musical Promises, Promises. A ’74 reunion session with Warwick – in which she sang another new Promises song co-written with Simon and two lyrics by Bobby Russell – was abruptly shelved despite the quality of the material.  (The Warwick session finally saw release in 2013 from Real Gone Music.)  So was another session, also with Russell lyrics, for Glen Campbell. The once-prolific composer was similarly quiet on the recording front in the first months of 1975, only issuing a couple of random songs from the Russell collaboration, one with Tom Jones and one with Bobby Vinton.

That all changed, however, in autumn of 1975 with the release of Stephanie Mills’ For the First Time, a Motown LP written and produced by the team of Bacharach and David. What brought the team together after two years of acrimony? How did they end up at Motown? Was Bacharach actually involved in the day-to-day recording and production of the album? Before those questions were ever answered, For the First Time disappeared without a trace. The reunion was sadly short-lived; another new Bacharach/David song wouldn’t be heard by the public until 1993. But the music stays, as always – and it speaks volumes. Big Break Records has just reissued For the First Time paired with Mills’ 1982 Love Has Lifted Me, an album of Motown outtakes. This splendid release, part of BBR’s month of Motown reissues,  is the first remastered edition of For the First Time since the early days of CD.

For the First Time was Stephanie Mills’ Motown debut, following the teenaged Wiz star’s LP debut on ABC Records in 1974 with Movin’ in the Right Direction. Following its disappointing sales, she didn’t record another album until 1979, when What Cha’ Gonna Do with My Lovin’ solidified her place in the pop and R&B realms. Happily, this new edition allows the song cycle – featuring ten Bacharach/David songs, eight of which were newly-written and six of which would never be recorded by any other artist, to date – to take its rightful place in the pantheon of Stephanie Mills and of its renowned writer-producers.

Though Stephanie Mills at eighteen was roughly five years younger than Dionne Warwick was when Bacharach and David helmed her 1963 debut Presenting Dionne Warwick, the team didn’t make many concessions to her youthful age in crafting a set of immaculate, adult pop-soul narratives. The first sound you hear on the LP is an atypically searing guitar introducing “I Took My Strength from You (I Had None).” This deeply soulful ballad is graced with subtle orchestration and the slightest hint of blues, and gilded with one of Bacharach’s signature instruments – the tack piano – to create a sound unlike on any other record in 1975. Mills brings a sense of control to the deliberate verses, contrasting them with sheer exultancy in the chorus. The singer’s sense of joy in discovering the source of her strength and support is palpable.  (Disco star Sylvester made his own mark on the song in 1978.)

Lyricist David called on Mills’ theatrical gifts – which had been on display in Broadway musicals including Maggie Flynn, starring Shirley Jones and Jack Cassidy, and The Wiz – to bring to life some of his most multi-layered lyrics. “No One Remembers My Name” epitomizes the mature themes contained on the album. The singer is a success who “really made my dreams come true,” and then returns home only to sadly find that “there’s no one to tell it to” in her hometown: “The people I once knew don’t seem to live here anymore/I feel like a stranger outside the house where I was born…” It’s one of David’s many ruminations on the fleeting nature of fame (most famously, “Do You Know the Way to San Jose”) and a sequel of sorts to the Bacharach/David “Send My Picture to Scranton, PA,” in which BJ Thomas’ narrator imagines writing to the people who taunted him in his youth, not to throw his fame at them but because with his success, “maybe now they’ll give kids a helping hand! That’s how it really ought to be, not like the way it was with me…” But the song is also, perhaps moreover, a universal reflection on the theme that you can’t go home again. Mills acquits herself beautifully as a precocious singer with a wisdom and interpretive skill beyond her young years. Much of her style on this song recalls the vocal influence of Diana Ross; now just imagine how heartbreaking it would have been to hear Miss Ross admit, “The past is just a memory/I belong where people smile back at me/They know me and show me they care/That’s why I’m so happy there/They all remember my name…” The singer of the song is most comfortable living in the past, despite the supposed trappings of fame and fortune. It was heady stuff for a pop song sung by an eighteen year-old in 1975.

“There goes the greyhound/I guess I missed the bus again,” sighs Mills in another excitingly complex tune, “Living on Plastic.” The singer explains her philosophy – “living on plastic: living now, and paying later!” David’s lyric is sufficiently empathetic to her situation, but the dramatically twisting-and-turning, thumping melody gives the lie to her sunny outlook as it contrasts pensive verses to a desperate, driving chorus. Despite her repeatedly-stated faith that she’ll “get by,” we’re not so sure. Bacharach adroitly incorporates a dash of funk into his arrangement, sung deliciously by Mills.

Don’t miss a thing; hit the jump for more! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

October 1, 2014 at 10:28

Ace’s “Black America Sings Bacharach and David” Features Dionne, Aretha, Cissy, Nina and More

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Black America Sings BacharachIn retrospect, it might be telling that Burt Bacharach’s first recorded song, “Once in a Blue Moon,” was cut in 1952 by Nat “King” Cole. From those earliest days, Bacharach and his lyrical partner Hal David saw their songs recorded by a host of African-American artists: Johnny Mathis, Gene McDaniels, Joe Williams, Lena Horne, and Etta James among them. Once the duo began to change the sound of American music with their ultra-cool, sophisticated pop-soul compositions, those songs were most frequently interpreted by African-Americans: The Shirelles, Jerry Butler, Lou Johnson, The Drifters, Aretha Franklin, and of course, Dionne Warwick. It’s no small feat to distill the best of Bacharach and David’s R&B recordings onto one disc, but Ace Records has proved up to the task with the release of Let The Music Play: Black America Sings Bacharach and David. This 24-track compilation follows similar releases for Lennon and McCartney, Bob Dylan, and Otis Redding, and draws from the halcyon period between 1962 and 1975. For much of that period, Bacharach and David’s songs were rarely far from the top of the pop and R&B charts. As per Ace’s custom, the set includes both the familiar hits and the lesser-known tracks that just might become future favorites.

Songwriter-producers Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller were among the earliest professionals to champion Bacharach and David’s work. Both teams were integral to the sound of so-called “uptown soul” in which strings and Latin rhythms melded with gutbucket R&B to create some of the most indelible records ever made. Both of those elements are present on Leiber and Stoller’s production of Marv Johnson’s majestic 1963 recording of “Another Tear Falls,” one of B&D’s songs that fell short of hit status. Johnson passionately navigates its martial beat and darkly brooding orchestration, and Bacharach’s signature unexpected melodic shifts and rhythms are already in place. (Just listen to the song seemingly end around the 2 minute, 7 second mark, only to return with a coda – a device which Bacharach would revisit in the future.) Leiber and Stoller also produced a couple of other stunning tracks here, like Jerry Butler’s booming original recording of “Message to Martha” (later “Michael” in Dionne Warwick’s version) and The Drifters’ dramatic “In the Land of Make Believe.” With its nearly-operatic vocals and offbeat jazzy instrumental noodling, it’s one of the more unusual items in the Bacharach and David catalogue and all the more beguiling for it.

Thom Bell, along with his Mighty Three music partners Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff, updated the “uptown soul” ethos for a new generation with The Sound of Philadelphia. Bell, who recently (and correctly) described his own music as “Bacharach-strange,” is represented on Black America Sings Bacharach and David with his 1968 production and arrangement of “Alfie” for The Delfonics. Bell delivered his ultimate homage to Bacharach with his reinvention of “You’ll Never Get to Heaven” for The Stylistics in 1972, but the lush, William Hart-led “Alfie” is no less classy. Bacharach’s influence on Philly soul is evident elsewhere, too. The Orlons made the most of a straightforward Richard Rome arrangement of “Anyone Who Had a Heart,” but it wasn’t enough to restore the “South Street” group to chart supremacy. Future “Hustle” man Van McCoy produced and arranged “Don’t Make Me Over” for Philly’s Brenda and the Tabulations, and also hewed closely to Bacharach’s original template.

Cissy Houston more radically overhauled her niece Dionne’s second hit, “This Empty Place,” in 1970. The funky arrangement takes liberties with Bacharach’s original time signatures but gives the powerfully-voiced Houston the opportunity to get down-and-dirty with her vocal. Aretha Franklin, like Houston a powerhouse vocalist, knew when to cut loose and when to play it cool on her hit 1968 recording of “I Say a Little Prayer.” Even the piano that opens Aretha’s “Prayer” is slinky and sexy. Bacharach has always been unduly harsh on his bright arrangement of the song for Dionne Warwick, but Aretha’s recording more vividly brought out its longing and passion. Bobby Womack and Isaac Hayes are expectedly and excitingly torrid on “(They Long to Be) Close to You” and “I Just Don’t Know What to Do with Myself,” respectively. More restrained is Nina Simone’s detached, smoky reading of the sultry “The Look of Love” from 1967, one of the now-ubiquitous song’s first covers.

After the jump, we have plenty more for you, including the complete track listing with discography and order links! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

April 30, 2014 at 10:44

Release Round-Up: Week of January 28

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Uncle Tupelo - No Depression Legacy EditionUncle Tupelo, No Depression: Legacy Edition (Legacy)

After at least two teasers in the form of Record Store Day releases, one of the most beloved alt-country albums is greatly expanded as a double-disc set with a host of rare and unreleased demos. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Tony Bennett - The ClassicsTony Bennett, The Classics (RPM/Columbia/Legacy)

One of the most beloved singers of the 20th century is the subject of a new career-spanning compilation, available in single and double-disc iterations.

1CD: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
2CD: Amazon U.S.

Sinatra with LoveFrank Sinatra, Sinatra, with Love (Capitol/UMe)

The first in a new Sinatra series (now distributed by Universal) explores the Chairman’s romantic side, with an unreleased alternate take on “My Foolish Heart” from Sinatra’s last studio session for Reprise. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Gaslight Anthem B-SidesThe Gaslight Anthem, The B-Sides (SideOneDummy)

The New Jersey rockers compile their rarer tracks on a new single-disc compilation.

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

Presenting Dionne EdselDionne Warwick, Presenting Dionne Warwick/Anyone Who Had a Heart/Make Way for Dionne Warwick/The Sensitive Sound of Dionne WarwickHere I Am/Live in Paris/Here Where There is Love/On Stage and In the MoviesThe Windows of the World/Dionne Warwick in Valley of the Dolls/Promises, Promises/Soulful…PlusI’ll Never Fall in Love Again/Very Dionne/Dionne/Just Being Myself (Edsel)

Sixteen Dionne Warwick albums (plus some bonus tracks) combined on four new sets from Edsel.

Presenting…Amazon U.S. /Amazon U.K.
Here I Am…Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
The Windows…Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
I’ll Never Fall in Love Again…Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

Everybody's Dancin'Kool & The Gang, The Force / Kool & The Gang, Everybody’s Dancin’ / Leon Haywood, Naturally (Big Break Records)

The latest from BBR includes two semi-obscure Kool & The Gang LPs (released between their biggest hit periods of the early-mid ’70s and early-mid ’80s) and a funky classic from Leon Haywood.

The Force: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Everybody’s Dancin’: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Naturally: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

Hazell Dean - BacharachHazell Dean, The Sound of Bacharach and David (Cherry Pop)

An ultra-rare promotional LP from the Hi-NRG queen, making its debut on CD. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

DORY LANGDONDory Previn (Langdon), My Heart is a Hunter (Croydon Municipal)

The debut LP from the Oscar-winning singer/songwriter (otherwise known as The Leprechauns Are Upon Me). Features new sleeve notes by Bob Stanley, author of the recent Yeah Yeah Yeah: The Story of Modern Pop. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Privates on ParadePrivates on Parade: Original London Cast Recording (Stage Door Records)

The original cast recording to this U.K. farce (later made into a film with John Cleese) gets a CD release. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Here Where There Is Love: Edsel Repackages Sixteen Dionne Warwick Albums In Four Sets

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Presenting Dionne EdselFollowing last year’s series of 23 expanded reissues of Dionne Warwick’s Scepter and Warner Bros. catalogue from WEA Japan, the U.K.’s Edsel label is revisiting 16 of those very albums on four new, multi-CD sets.  Each one of Edsel’s sets will contain four original stereo albums in chronological sequence, with two of the new titles adding singles and retaining bonus tracks originally introduced on Rhino Handmade’s expanded reissues.  The titles, due in stores on January 13, are as follows:

  1. Presenting Dionne Warwick (1963) / Anyone Who Had a Heart (1964) / Make Way for Dionne Warwick (1964) / The Sensitive Sound of Dionne Warwick (1965) (2 CDs)
  2. Here I Am (1965) / Dionne Warwick in Paris (1966) / Here Where There is Love (1966) / On Stage and in the Movies (1967) (2 CDs)
  3. The Windows of the World (1967) / In the Valley of the Dolls (1968) / Promises, Promises (1968) / Soulful (1969) (Includes bonus tracks, 3 CDs)
  4. I’ll Never Fall in Love Again (1970) / Very Dionne (1970, with bonus tracks) / Dionne (1972) / Just Being Myself (1973) (Includes bonus tracks, 2 CDs)

Edsel’s series does not include 1967’s The Magic of Believing, 1969’s Dionne Warwick’s Greatest Motion Picture Hits, the Scepter anthologies The Dionne Warwicke Story: A Decade of Gold (1971) and From Within (1972), or any of Warwick’s Warner Bros. albums post-Just Being Myself.  [Motion Picture Hits, The Dionne Warwicke Story and From Within all made their CD debuts in Japan and still await U.S. or U.K. reissue.]  What will you find on these new editions?  The full contents of Rhino Handmade’s 2003 reissue of Soulful are replicated, while other bonus material has been drawn from non-LP singles and Handmade’s expanded editions of The Windows of the World/In the Valley of the Dolls, Promises, Promises/I’ll Never Fall in Love Again and Very Dionne.  In addition, two tracks appear to make their CD debuts outside of Japan, “Amanda” and “He’s Moving On” from the film The Love Machine.  It’s unclear as of this writing whether these will be presented in mono or stereo; the mono single versions were included on the 2013 Japanese remaster of The Dionne Warwicke Story: A Decade of Gold but the stereo versions have never appeared on CD anywhere.

Dionne in Paris EdselThese new reissues also eliminate the duplicated songs heard on Warwick’s second and third albums.  In addition, the new Very Dionne seems to drop the 1970 live recording of “The Look of Love” from the otherwise all-studio original album.  (This track, recorded at New Jersey’s Garden State Arts Center, was joined by nine more tracks – most previously unissued – from the same performance on Handmade’s Very Dionne.  The balance of the concert was scheduled for reissue on an expanded edition of On Stage and in the Movies.  When Handmade abandoned the Warwick series, those four songs remained in the vaults.  One hopes a full standalone release of this dynamic show will arrive soon.)

In summary, all of the bonus tracks from the Rhino Handmade and WEA Japan campaigns have not been reprised by Edsel, but all of the bonus tracks on Edsel’s series do appear on the Japanese discs.  (The lone exceptions would be “Amanda” and “He’s Moving On” if Edsel includes them in stereo.)  We hope to provide further details soon on the remastering and liner notes for this upcoming series, so watch this space.  (And don’t forget to check out The Second Disc’s 2013 Gold Bonus Disc Awards, in which a title from Ms. Warwick and Real Gone Music took home a Reissue of the Year recognition!)

In the meantime, this series promises to deliver an affordable way to acquire the core of Dionne Warwick’s monumental catalogue, much of it crafted in tandem with Burt Bacharach and Hal David.  It’s an alternative to acquiring the costly Japanese reissues or hunting down the out-of-print and pricey album reissues on labels including Sequel, Collectors’ Choice Music and Rhino Handmade.  All four sets, encompassing sixteen albums, are due from Edsel on January 14, and you can pre-order below.

After the jump, you’ll find pre-order links and a complete discography for all titles!  Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

January 2, 2014 at 15:20

Baby, It’s Burt: “The Warner Sound” and “The Atlantic Sound” Compile Rare Bacharach Tracks

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Warner Sound of BacharachIn his 85th year, Burt Bacharach has kept a pace that would wear out many a younger man.  In addition to performing a number of concert engagements, the Oscar, Grammy and Gershwin Prize-winning composer has released a memoir, continued work on three musical theatre projects, co-written songs with Bernie Taupin and J.D. Souther, and even penned a melody for Japanese singer Ringo Sheena.  Though Bacharach keeps moving forward, numerous releases this year have looked back on his illustrious catalogue.  Universal issued The Art of the Songwriter in 6-CD and 2-CD iterations to coincide with the publication of his memoir, Real Gone Music rescued his three sublime “lost” 1974 productions for Dionne Warwick from obscurity, and Warner Music Japan reissued the near-entirety of Warwick’s Scepter and Warner Bros. tenures under the umbrella of Burt Bacharach 85th Birth Anniversary/Dionne Warwick Debut 50th Anniversary.  Two more titles have recently been added to that Japanese reissue series: The Atlantic Sound of Burt Bacharach and The Warner Sound of Burt Bacharach.  These 2-CD anthologies are both packed with rarities and familiar songs alike for a comprehensive overview of the Maestro’s recordings on the Warner family of labels.

The Warner Sound of Burt Bacharach is the more wide-ranging compilation of the two, drawing on recordings made not just for Warner Bros. Records but for Valiant, Festival, Elektra, Reprise, Scepter, and foreign labels like Italy’s CDG and Sweden’s Metronome.  This 2-CD set is arranged chronologically, with the first CD covering 1962 (Dionne Warwick’s “Don’t Make Me Over,” her only appearance on the set) to 1978 (Nicolette Larson’s “Mexican Divorce”), and the second taking in 1981 (Christopher Cross’ Oscar-winning chart-topper “Arthur’s Theme”) to 2004 (Tamia and Gerald Levert’s “Close to You”).

On the Elektra label, Love scored a hit with “My Little Red Book,” presented here in its mono single version.  The composer didn’t care for the band’s melodic liberties, but the Sunset Strip rockers’ version is today better known than the Manfred Mann original.  From the Reprise catalogue, you’ll hear the great arranger Marty Paich with a swinging instrumental version of “Promise Her Anything,” a genuine Bacharach and David rocker originally recorded by Tom Jones.  Trini Lopez’s groovy “Made in Paris” is also heard in its mono single version.  Morgana King is sultry on a Don Costa arrangement of “Walk On By.”  Buddy Greco delivers a hip “What the World Needs Now,” and Tiny Tim makes the same song his own.  Ella Fitzgerald puts her stamp on “I’ll Never Fall in Love Again,” produced like Tiny Tim’s “World” by Richard Perry.  Another production great, Wall of Sound architect Jack Nitzsche, brings a touch of class to the Paris Sisters’ dreamy “Long After Tonight is All Over.”

Numerous tracks on the first CD come from the worldwide Warner vaults.  The two stars of the original Italian production of Promises, Promises – Catherine Spaak and Johnny Dorelli – are heard in their beautiful, low-key performance of “I’ll Never Fall in Love Again” as released on the CDG label.  The Sweden Metronome label yields Svante Thuresson’s “This Guy’s In Love with You,” Siw Malmkvist’s “I Say a Little Prayer,” and one of the strangest songs in Bacharach and David’s entire catalogue, “Cross Town Bus” as sung by the Gals and Pals in English.  Australia’s Festival label – the original home of the Bee Gees – has been tapped for Noeleen Batley’s “Forgive Me (For Giving You Such a Bad Time)” and Jeff Phillips’ “Baby It’s You.”  The treasures on the Warner Bros. label proper are just as eclectic, from Liberace’s gentle “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head” to The Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band’s torrid “I Wake Up Crying.”  Harpers Bizarre’s “Me Japanese Boy (I Love You),” with an atmospheric Nick DeCaro arrangement, is another highlight.  The Everly Brothers truncated Bacharach’s melody to “Trains and Boats and Planes” but their harmony blend is at its peak in a 1967 recording.

The second disc of The Warner Sound emphasizes latter-day R&B as Bacharach branched out with a variety of lyricists.  Chaka Khan is heard on “Stronger Than Before” by Bacharach and Carole Bayer Sager;  Earth Wind and Fire on “Two Hearts” co-written with Philip Bailey and Maurice White; Tevin Campbell on “Don’t Say Goodbye Girl” co-written with Narada Michael Walden and Sally Jo Dakota; and Randy Crawford on “Tell It To Your Heart” from Bacharach and Tonio K.  Mari Ijima’s original version of “Is There Anybody Out There” – penned by Bacharach, John Bettis, James Ingram and Puff Johnson – is a welcome surprise; the song was recorded in 2012 by Dionne Warwick on her Now album.  Ingram is also heard with “Sing for the Children.”  On the 1993 track, co-producer/arranger Thom Bell channeled Bacharach’s classic flugelhorn sound to great effect.  Old favorites are also revisited and reinterpreted on this disc via Everything But the Girl’s “Alfie,” The Pretenders’ “The Windows of the World,” Linda Ronstadt’s “Anyone Who Had a Heart,” Anita Baker’s “The Look of Love,” guitarist Earl Klugh’s “Any Old Time of Day” and frequent Bacharach collaborator Elvis Costello’s “Please Stay.”  With big hits (“Arthur’s Theme”) alongside rarely-anthologized gems (the George Duke-produced “Let Me Be the One” performed by Marilyn Scott), there’s something for everybody here.

After the jump: check out The Atlantic Sound of Burt Bacharach!  Plus: track listings with discography and order links for both titles! Read the rest of this entry »

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 »

Don’t Make Him Over: New Box Set Chronicles Burt Bacharach’s “Art of the Songwriter” On Six CDs

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Burt - Anyone Who Had a HeartBurt Bacharach has been speaking through his music for the past 60+ years, since his very first recorded composition,“Once in a Blue Moon,“ appeared on Nat “King“ Cole’s Penthouse Serenade in 1952.  But today, Bacharach is speaking in his own voice with the publication of his first-ever memoir, Anyone Who Had a Heart: My Life and Music.  Co-written by Robert Greenfield (Ahmet Ertegun biography The Last Sultan), the book has been described by Kirkus Reviews as “illuminating and gritty“ while Mitchell Cohen in Rock’s Back Pages praised its “tales of multiple takes, artists bravely attempting to navigate those whiplash changes and hat-size tempos.“  (The latter refers to Frank Sinatra’s quip of Bacharach, “He writes in hat sizes – seven and three-fourths!“)

With the book’s release today, it might come as a surprise that no new anthology of Bacharach’s music has been released as a tie-in.  Yet.  Universal U.K. has planned such a title, but it’s not scheduled to be released until June 10, to coincide with the British publication of the autobiography.  Anyone Who Had a Heart: The Best of Burt Bacharach – The Art of the Songwriter is a 6-CD box set (twice the number of discs as Rhino’s definitive The Look of Love – The Burt Bacharach Collection from 1998).  The first four CDs trace Bacharach’s career in a roughly chronological fashion, from 1955’s “These Desperate Hours,“ performed by Mel Torme, to 2010’s  “Some Lovers,“ sung by Rumer from the 2011 musical of the same name.  The fifth CD compiles highlights from Bacharach’s solo recording career (already addressed in full on Hip-o Select’s Something Big box set) and the sixth offers an eclectic array of Bacharach songs as performed mainly by jazz artists.

Here’s where the plot thickens: the set will also be offered as a standard 2-CD edition, but the U.S. and U.K. versions appear to differ significantly, with both 2-CD versions including unique tracks not on the box set (and not on each other).  The U.S. release arrives a bit earlier, on May 28.

After the jump: we take a closer look, plus you’ll find track listings for all three versions, plus pre-order links! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

May 7, 2013 at 10:04

Nobody Does It Better: James Bond Turns 50, Capitol Celebrates with New CD Anthology

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When Sean Connery first uttered the immortal words “Bond…James Bond” fifty years ago in the film Dr. No, the template for the long-running movie series was already set.  That soon-to-be-signature phrase was joined in the film by a piece of music that would quickly rival those three words for familiarity.  John Barry’s arrangement of “The James Bond Theme” not only helped cement the silver screen icon of 007 but virtually became a genre unto itself, that of spy music.  The spy film craze may have hit its peak in the swinging sixties, but Ian Fleming’s immortal character of the debonair Bond has endured over some 23 “official” films (including this year’s upcoming Skyfall), plus a couple of unofficial ones.  He has been portrayed by six actors in those 23 films, from Connery to Daniel Craig.  Since Dr. No, James Bond and music have been closely intertwined, and the film franchise continues to attract the very best: it’s been all but confirmed that record-breaking artist Adele will mark her return to music with the recently-leaked Skyfall theme.  Now, 50 years of Bond music is being compiled by Capitol Records as Best of Bond…James Bond, set for an October 9 release in both standard and deluxe editions.  It joins the recent DVD/BD box set, Bond 50, which contains each and every official Bond film to date!

While similar (and similarly-titled!) compilations have arrived on a periodic basis in the CD era, the new set in its deluxe two-disc form is the most comprehensive collection of Bond-related music yet with 50 tracks.  Both versions stand as a tribute to John Barry, the late composer who will forever be associated with the film series.  The disc opens with his original arrangement of “The James Bond Theme.”  Though credited to Monty Norman, Barry long maintained in and out of the courtroom that the composition was, in fact, his own.  (The confusion stems from the fact that Barry was presented with Norman’s theme, and rearranged it in the style of his previous instrumental “Bea’s Knees,” almost wholly transforming the music along the way.  He was reportedly paid under $1,000.00 for his troubles!)  Barry went on to score eleven of the films between 1963’s From Russia with Love through 1987’s The Living Daylights, ceding movies along the way to George Martin, Marvin Hamlisch and Bill Conti.  Since Barry’s retirement from the Bond franchise, the longest-standing composer has been David Arnold, with five films under his belt between 1997’s Tomorrow Never Dies and 2008’s Quantum of Solace.  (The score to Skyfall has been crafted by director Sam Mendes’ frequent collaborator Thomas Newman.)  Either consciously or subconsciously, however, every composer has been influenced by the template set by John Barry.  Indeed, his famous arrangement of the Norman theme has been quoted in each film’s score.  Best of Bond also is a reminder of the gargantuan talents of two other contributors, both of whom passed away in 2012: Marvin Hamlisch (The Spy Who Loved Me) and Hal David (On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.)

The first CD (also available as a stand-alone disc) features 23 tracks: the theme to every one of the films from 1962’s Dr. No through 2008’s Quantum of Solace, plus the “secondary” theme to On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969), Louis Armstrong’s “We Have All the Time in the World.”  This CD includes Chris Cornell’s “You Know My Name” from Casino Royale (2006), the first main Bond theme to not appear on the movie’s soundtrack album.  Other highlights include the very first vocal Bond theme, Lionel Bart’s “From Russia with Love” as performed by Matt Monro; Leslie Bricusse, Anthony Newley and John Barry’s “Goldfinger” from the iconic Dame Shirley Bassey; Barry and Don Black’s booming “Thunderball” from Tom Jones; Paul and Linda McCartney’s Wings-performed “Live and Let Die;” Carole Bayer Sager and Marvin Hamlisch’s “Nobody Does It Better” (from The Spy Who Loved Me); Barry and Duran Duran’s “A View to a Kill;” and Barry and Pål Waaktaar’s “The Living Daylights,” performed by Waaktaar’s band a-ha.

What’s on Disc 2?  Hit the jump! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

September 27, 2012 at 09:49

Always Something There: Dionne Warwick Celebrates 50 Years with Bacharach, David, Ramone on “Now”

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Were there a competition to crown Most Striking Album Cover of 2012, Dionne Warwick might win it hands-down for the image adorning Now, the singer’s new album due on October 30 internationally and November 6 in North America.  Now is a celebration of Warwick’s 50 years in music, looking back on a solo career that began in 1962 with Burt Bacharach and Hal David’s “Don’t Make Me Over.”  That song soared to No. 21 Pop/No. 5 R&B, setting Warwick on a course that would see her place more than 50 singles on the Billboard Hot 100 between 1962 and 1998.  Many of those classics, of course, were penned and produced by the other two members of her “triangle marriage,” Bacharach and David, and so it’s fitting that she’s returning to their catalogues for Now.  The album, too, shall stand as a tribute to David, who passed away on September 1 at the age of 91.  Although this isn’t a catalogue release per se, its retrospective nature hopefully makes it a prime candidate for coverage here at The Second Disc!

The twelve-track album features new recordings of eight Warwick/Bacharach/David favorites, plus four songs never before performed by the singer.  Now is set apart from past remake projects (including 1998’s Dionne Sings Dionne and 2006’s duets album My Friends and Me) by the presence of Phil Ramone in the producer’s chair.  A 33-time Grammy Award nominee with 14 trophies under his belt, Ramone was an engineer on a number of Warwick’s 1960s hits recorded at his own A&R Studios in New York City.  A close ally of Bacharach’s, Ramone also engineered the original Broadway Cast Recording of Bacharach and David’s Promises, Promises, and intuitively shaped the sound of those hit records with the artist and the songwriters/producers.  He told journalist Marc Myers in 2010, “Eventually, I became Burt’s hearing frame in the control room. When he trusted me, he’d stop coming in from the studio area to discuss things. Instead, he’d just turn around after a take, and I would either give a thumbs-up or indicate we needed another one…Despite what you read, Burt wasn’t tough on Dionne. There was mutual respect between Burt, Dionne and Hal. They had a special thing, and all wanted the same result—a hit.”  Of course, they earned many such hits, including the songs re-recorded for Now, including “Don’t Make Me Over,” Reach Out for Me” (No. 1 R&B, No. 20 Pop), “Make It Easy on Yourself” (No. 37 Pop, No. 26 R&B and No. 2 AC) and “I Say a Little Prayer” (No. 4 Pop, No. 8 R&B), performed a duet between Warwick and her son, David Elliott.  Another past triumph, the multi-layered, dynamic “Are You There (with Another Girl)” was chosen for the new album at the request of none other than Stevie Wonder!

In addition to those familiar songs, Warwick is also turning her attention to two lesser-known songs from 1972’s Warner Bros. debut Dionne.  Despite a number of truly stunning songs, that album would prove to be the final collaboration between Bacharach, David and Warwick for more than a decade, with the dissolution of the Bacharach/David team leading to lawsuits between all parties.  Though time eventually healed all wounds, this fine album got lost in the shuffle, and so Dionne returns to two exquisite Bacharach/David compositions from the LP: “Be Aware” (also performed by Barbra Streisand and Laura Nyro) and “I Just Have to Breathe.”

After the jump: which four songs new to Warwick appear on Now?  Hit the jump to read on! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

September 11, 2012 at 13:13

In Memoriam: Hal David (1921-2012)

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What’s it all about?

For Hal David, it was about dedication to his craft, a tireless commitment to songwriters’ rights and a desire to bring the world a message of love, sweet love – a sentiment that’s never gone out of fashion.  The Oscar, Grammy and Gershwin Prize-winning lyricist and former president of performance rights organization ASCAP passed away on September 1.  He left behind a world made immeasurably richer by his gift of song.  Hal David’s turns of phrase in songs like “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head,” “I Say a Little Prayer,” “Alfie,” and yes, “What the World Needs Now is Love,” became part of the cultural lexicon, yet he largely avoided the spotlight, allowing his beautiful words to speak (volumes) for themselves.

There’s a wonderful, if perhaps apocryphal, story about Mrs. Oscar Hammerstein.  Legend has it that Mrs. Hammerstein overheard a conversation in which Jerome Kern, the composer with whom lyricist Oscar collaborated on the musical Show Boat, was being praised with nary a mention of her husband: “Nobody but Jerome Kern could have written ‘Old Man River.’”  Mrs. Hammerstein then stepped in: “Excuse me.  Jerome Kern didn’t write ‘Old Man River.’  Jerome Kern wrote da-da-DA-da…”  And indeed, Harold Lane David often remained in the shadow of his most prominent collaborator and melody man, Burt Bacharach.  But who but his friend and partner David could so simply, naturally and eloquently have set the perfect words to Bacharach’s sophisticated, sultry and stunningly inventive music?  Nobody else even came close.

Hal David followed in the footsteps of his Oscar-nominated older brother Mack David (writer of “Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo,” “I’m Just a Lucky So-and So” and “Baby, It’s You” with Burt Bacharach) in pursuing the art of lyric writing.  His collaboration with Bacharach began in early 1956 with The Harry Carter Singers’ rendition of “Tell the Truth and Shame the Devil,” followed a scant three months later by Sherry Parsons’ “Peggy’s in the Pantry.”  But from such inauspicious beginnings came one of the most successful pairings ever, on both a commercial and artistic level.  In a little over one year, Bacharach and David had scored their first hit with Marty Robbins’ “The Story of My Life.”  A second success followed just two months later with Perry Como’s “Magic Moments.”  When Dionne Warwick recorded their “Don’t Make Me Over” in 1962, Bacharach and David’s urbane pop-soul style had crystallized.  Their careers escalated to the next level, and the two gentlemen wrote and produced a nearly-unparalleled string of hits for the singer as the decade progressed.  The “triangle marriage” of Bacharach, David and Warwick broke up in the early 1970s amidst a flurry of lawsuits and broken promises, and the divorce seemed permanent.  But in 1993, Bacharach and David reunited to write “Sunny Weather Lover,” recorded by Warwick; the duo’s final recorded song together would prove to be 2003’s “Beginnings,” written for the Broadway musical revue The Look of Love and performed on record not by Dionne, but by Cilla Black.

Though the songs written with Bacharach undoubtedly form David’s greatest legacy to the popular songbook, his universal touch graced the compositions of many other esteemed composers.  With John Barry, he wrote the poignant James Bond theme “We Have All the Time in the World,” recorded by Louis Armstrong for On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.  With Albert Hammond, he delivered a chart-topper to Julio Iglesias and Willie Nelson, “To All the Girls I’ve Loved Before,” and gifted “99 Miles from L.A.” to Art Garfunkel.  Cher and Dionne Warwick both recorded “Early Morning Strangers,” written with Barry Manilow.  Early collaborations with Paul Hampton (“Sea of Heartbreak,” included on Johnny Cash’s famed list of the most important country songs of all time) and Sherman Edwards (“Broken Hearted Melody,” “Johnny Get Angry”) yielded pop hits and standards.  He wrote film themes with Henry Mancini and Maurice Jarre, and a stage musical with Michel Legrand.

There will always be something to remind us of Hal David: those resplendent songs, recorded by everyone from Aretha Franklin and Barbra Streisand to Iggy Pop and the White Stripes.  His elegant words still hold enormous meaning today, whether humorous (“What do you get when you kiss a guy?  You get enough germs to catch pneumonia/After you do, he’ll never phone ya!”) or more often, marked with optimism, deceptive simplicity, and a deeply-ingrained belief in the human spirit.

The windows of the world are covered in rain

There must be something we can do…

Let the sun shine through.

Rest in peace, Hal David.

Written by Joe Marchese

September 2, 2012 at 00:58