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No Lack of Bacharach

Music by Bacharach features 16 prime recordings associated with a man whose name is synonymous with a certain kind of complex yet accessible pop music.

Burt Bacharach transcends the role as a behind-the-scenes songsmith. Despite the fact that he didn’t sing much and mostly worked in the service of others, Bacharach was a ‘60s star. He hosted prime-time television specials, was pictured on magazine covers and, with his wife at the time—screen star Angie Dickinson—appeared in a series of commercials (“Say yes!”).

There are a variety of reasons for his exceptional success. For one, he’s photogenic and has a kind of quiet charisma. More importantly, the now 83-year-old composer/producer/arranger is an absolutely distinctive song stylist. Back when Bacharach was right up there with The Beatles and Motown when it came to AM airplay, the songs he wrote with lyricist Hal David were instantly identifiable, whether they were sung by Dionne Warwick (their favorite interpreter), Dusty Springfield, Barbra Streisand, or a host of other top pop, R&B, rock ‘n’ roll or jazz artists.

Bacharach and David put dozens of songs in the Top 40 during their heyday, which began in the early ‘60s and lasted for more than a decade. Adult pop was their forte, but they moved into film and theater with ease and their material appealed to artists of all stripes. Songs like “Walk on By,” “Alfie” and “What the World Needs Now Is Love” where recorded by just about every singer who ever appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show.

The vast appeal of the Bacharach/David songbook was part of what made assembling Music by Bacharach great fun. The process centered on mixing and matching, with a seemingly endless assortment of selections to choose from.

Take the entrancing “Trains and Boats and Planes,” for example. Everyone from chanteuse Peggy Lee to country singer Dwight Yoakam to avant-gardist Fred Frith has put a unique spin on it. I opted for the Brazilian vocalist Astrud Gilberto’s languid and lovely 1969 interpretation, operating from a position of strength.

Indeed, all the dilemmas that arose when making selections for this compilation fell in the excess-of-riches realm. That’s what you get with this guy.

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