Burt Bacharach

Burt Bacharach

The Look of Love: The Burt Bacharach Collection

Rhino

Never before have I wrestled with such a musical beast. There lay three discs of music orchestrated by Burt Bacharach, whose impact on the popular music scene is undeniable. So here’s the dilemma: balancing the perspective of a career that has spanned more than three decades and left an indelible imprint, and my relative disgust for all that he stands for artistically.

And yet, to do that would virtually deny my dirty secret of a Top 40, melody-hungry childhood. I loved B.J. Thomas’ “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head,” which stayed in my mind long after the movie Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid — remember the bicycle scene? — did. At various times, I found myself humming “Do You Know the Way to San Jose” and “I’ll Never Fall in Love Again” (both courtesy of Dionne Warwick). I mean, let’s face it: Nobody knew the importance of the melody in a song better than Bacharach, which is perhaps why the great Marlene Dietrich chose him as her arranger for her legendary cabaret shows of the 1950s and ’60s. Whether it was the over-the-top use of lush string arrangements or piano flourishes, or subtle percussive droplets or a light guitar strum, Bacharach knew something other arrangers did not, or could not, know.

But my God, how sappy, how insipid, how corny can one person be? Have I become so cynical in embracing, over the years, funk, punk, “alternative,” and other, hipper forms of music that I just can’t appreciate such shameless pop fluff? Well, er, yes. But even back then, I’m not so sure I liked Bacharach’s work. His roster of artist/collaborators reads like a who’s who of schmaltz: Warwick (his obvious favorite), Perry Como (!), Jerry Butler, Marty Robbins, the Drifters, the Shirelles, the Stylistics, Tom Jones, Bobby Vinton, Jack Jones, Tony Orlando, Bobby Goldsboro, the Fifth Dimension, Rick Nelson, Herb Alpert, the Carpenters, even Christopher Cross. Got any of THEIR box sets? Virtually every song on this box set could be the punch line to a joke at a karaoke bar singalong. If the phrase “easy listening” was in the dictionary, Burt’s toothy grin would be right there, smiling innocently back at us all.

On the flipside is how impressive that same roster reads when you look at Bacharach’s range of influence. Say what you (or I) will, but the man has worked with some of the biggest names in popular music, and the result of their work together has produced incredibly successful songs over the years. And yes, while we’re there, much has been made of Elvis Costello’s desire to collaborate with Bacharach, with the fruit of that labor saved for the final track on the third disc, “God Give Me Strength.” (And yes, it’s not a half-bad song, though not a deal-breaker.)

You see my dilemma then, don’t you? So I’ll just split the difference, and appreciate the man for a lifetime of achievement, and pass on the sum of its parts. Maybe it’s karma. Maybe I just don’t want to wind up in the Elevator from Hell on my passing. Just don’t make me over. I couldn’t handle the second time around. Rhino Records, 10635 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90025; http://www.rhino.com

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with *

Recently on Ink 19...

  • Best of Film 2021
    Best of Film 2021

    Lily and Generoso select and review their ten favorite features, seven supplemental films, and two prized repertory releases of 2021.

  • I Saw A Dozen Faces…
    I Saw A Dozen Faces…

    From The Windbreakers to Bark, Tim Lee is a trooper in the rock and roll trenches…and he’s lived to tell it all in his new memoir.

  • The Lyons
    The Lyons

    A man on his deathbed is surrounded by bickering family members, many of which you would strangle him given the chance. In other words: a brilliant comedy!

  • The Reading Room
    The Reading Room

    Today’s episode features author Anna-Marie O’Brien talking about her book Adventures of a Metalhead Librarian: A Rock N’ Roll Memoir with Ink 19’s Rose Petralia.

  • Bush Tetras
    Bush Tetras

    Rhythm and Paranoia (Wharf Cat). Review by Scott Adams.

  • Tom Tom Club
    Tom Tom Club

    The Good The Bad and the Funky (Nacional). Review by Julius C. Lacking.

  • Barnes & Barnes
    Barnes & Barnes

    Pancake Dream (Demented Punk Records). Review by Carl F. Gauze.

  • Jeremiah Lockwood
    Jeremiah Lockwood

    A Great Miracle: Jeremiah Lockwood’s Guitar Soli Chanukah Album (Reboot). Review by Bob Pomeroy.

  • Metallica: The $24.95 Book
    Metallica: The $24.95 Book

    From an underground band that pioneered the thrash metal sound, to arguably the biggest rock act in the new millennium, Metallica has had a long and tumultuous history. Ben Apatoff scours a myriad of sources to catalog this history in his new book.

  • Araceli Lemos
    Araceli Lemos

    Shortly after AFI Fest 2021 wrapped, Generoso spoke at length with director, Araceli Lemos about her award-winning and potent feature debut, Holy Emy. Lemos’s film uses elements of body horror in her story about the exoticization of two Filipina sisters living in Greece and how that exploitation creates a distance between them.

From the Archives