There are plenty of Burt Bacharach compilations out there already, so you might wonder why we need another one. But this CD – the third in a series – is considerably different than the usual ‘greatest hits’ affair. In fact, there’s a good chance that you’ll be rather unfamiliar with the songs – or at least the performances – on this record.
Consisting entirely of recordings made in 1962 – a period when Bacharach was starting to get a level of control over the arrangement and recording of his music – this features a whole bunch of rarities. But don’t think that these are inferior Bacharach recordings – far from it. In fact, pretty much everything here is essential listening.
The album opens up with Jerry Butler’s Make It Easy on Yourself, probably the best-known performance here and a suitably dramatic one, Butler’s baritone voice adding a suitable sense of drama to the recording. But the more interesting stuff follows.
For starters, there’s a bouncy French language version of Too Late to Worry, sung – as Donne-Moi Ma Chance – by none other than Sophia Loren. This is every bit as fantastic as you’d hope it to be! Another European icon closes out the album – Marlene Dietrich’s Kleine Treue Nachtigall (One Small Nightingale) and Where Have All the Flowers Gone are both performed in German and feature sympathetic, restrained instrumentation and impressive vocal performances. Dietrich also provides (via her autobiography) the booklet notes about her time working with Bacharach.
Other classic songs turn up here in unfamiliar guises – ex-Flamingos frontman Tommy Hunt’s rendition of I Just Don’t Know What to Do with Myself might not be quite as impressive as Dusty Springfield’s version, but in all honesty, it’s not that far short, and it’s interesting to hear the song sung from a male perspective. Hunt also provides a decent version of Don’t Make Me Over.
A pair of Jack Jones ditties – Dreamin’ All the Time and Pick Up the Pieces – are first-rate easy listening classics, while Joey Powers gives Don’t Envy Me a pop slant. A B-side from The Drifters, Mexican Divorce, is rather magnificent, having a proto-Spaghetti Western feel (listening to tracks like this and some of Bacharach’s pop productions, it’s clear that he had a certain influence on Ennio Morricone).It also features Dionne Warwick among the backing singers.
The early Sixties girl group sound is represented by Babs Tino’s rather brilliant Forgive Me (For Giving You Such a Bad Time) and Too Late to Worry, a couple of classic Bacharach / David numbers that mix regretful lyrics with up-tempo music that no doubt had the broken-hearted weeping on the dancefloor. The Shirelles provide a pleasingly laid back version of Its Love that Really Counts, while Timi Yuro’s The Love of a Boy is suitably dramatic and Helen Shapiro’s Keep Away from Other Girls is a slice of no-nonsense, lively pop.
A couple of numbers from female vocal group The Russells are impressive – the laid back For All Time and the almost Euro-pop/Giallo soundtrack sound of Wastin’ Away will leave you wanting more from this act!
There are back to back versions of Waiting for Charlie (or Charley) to Come Home – Etta James provides the best, a bluesy, moody rendition, while Jane Morgan’s version is more dramatic but perhaps overly smooth compared to James’ grittier version. Morgan also delivers a similarly epic version of Forever My Love.
Similarly, there are two versions of Any Day Now to compare and contrast – Chuck Jackson’s rendition is soulful enough, but Dee Dee Sharp’s more up-tempo pop version is better of the two. What’s interesting about these double recordings is how much a song can be altered to suit a particular vocalist, even by the same producer.
There are certainly moments that are perhaps not first division Bacharach recordings – Gene McDaniels’ Another Tear Falls, Jimmy Radcliffe’s (There Goes) The Forgotten Man, Bobby Vee’s Anonymous Phone Call and Paul Evans’ Feelin’ No Pain are not bad records, but in terms of both song quality and performance are not quite up to the high standards you might expect. Similarly, The Four Coins’ The Windows of Heaven is perhaps a little too cheesy, with its male vocal harmony rendition. Given that this album features 27 songs recorded over a single year, we can perhaps forgive the odd, and slight, slide and to put it into context – by most other people’s standards, this is still first-rate stuff.
Certainly, most of the songs on this album feature the trademark Bacharach sound – epic ballads and lively dance numbers, meticulously produced and performed, slick but emotional. Whether you want to call this pop, lounge or whatever doesn’t matter – the simple fact is that these are great, timeless examples of master songwriters, producers and – for the most part – performers coming together in a creative peak. This is essential stuff.