From Select magazine, March 1996

The Look of Love: The Classic Songs of Burt Bacharach

The Manics, Gene, Oasis, Tom Jones. Class acts all, and theyv'e all covered the songs of the genius writing team of Burt Bacharach and Hal David. In the wake of Mike Flowers Pops, Noel's fixation and the rehabiliation of all things easy listening, here is another Bacharach compilation of hit versions. But first a word of caution. One listen may render the rest of your current record collection pale and redundant.

Forget the Beatles, Stones, and all them long-haired druggies. Burt and Hal (whose immense contribution shouldn't be neglected) wrote all the good songs in the '60s. The faux thrills of "Revolver" or "Let It Bleed" can't hold a candle to, say, Dionne Warwick's "Walk On By." And you actually know everything here already, even if the majority of the tracks were actually covers recorded without Bacharach's involvement; beautifully orchestrated modern folk songs is what they are.

Burt was reportedly turned onto his own kind of melodies by listening to Charlie Parker and DeBussy, which might explained the stragely unpredictable inevitability which characterises these timeless melodies. If you profess an affinity with "quality" songwriting or even own The La's LP, there is no excuse for not owning "Promises, Promises."

That the immortal cannon was composed before 1970 is proof of the rare genius that often strikes in unlikely places. Voices like Dusty Springfield and Aretha Franklin (who could sing "Hypersonic" by Fluffy and make it immeasurably suave), when combined with songs of such complicated simplicity as "The Look of Love" and "Do You Know The Way To San Jose," sound even better. Did The Carpenters ever equal the warm seamlessness of their version of "Close To You?" In some respects the singers are secondary -- Scott Walker may have ahad the best voice of the '60s, but he did sings some rubbish. Hal and Burt, it seemed, couldn't write a bad song, even if you'd threatened them with front row seats at Altamont (in white dinner jackets).

The omission of Dionne's "Message to Michael" and the unlawful murder of Trains and Boats and Plains" by Billy J. Kramer is forgivable only because of the incredible riches elsewhere -- there's an hour of near-perfect music there centring on the timeless fact that everyone is fated to have a broken heart at least once. By a similar fatal inevitablity, your permanent aghastness peters out with the turn of the '80s, after which he didn' have a hit for a decade. Even Burt was capable of bloomers, but even the bloody minded inclusion of "Arthur's Theme" by Christoper Cross (fat U.S. male vocalist with a woman's voice, not junior rappers with back-to-back trews) cannot queer the act. So, apart from the last five, these songs are required listening for anyone with hearing."
(five out of five stars)
Soundbite: "Burt -- in earnest."

Ian Harrison