From Mojo, January 1998.

Bacharach & Costello: "A dozen songs now..."

Elvis Costello has been talking exclusively to MOJO about the progress of his keenly-anticipated collaboration with Burt Bacharach for an album of new material. Their first work together was the intense ballad GOD GIVE ME STRENGTH for the film Grace Of My Heart, a song they wrote by phone, leaving completed sections on each other's answering machines. Now they have had three "intense brainstorming sessions" actually together in the same room. "We've got a dozens songs now," says Costello. "We're trying to make it a bit thicker... bigger and stronger. Emotionally speaking, God Give Me Strength sounds like a Patridge Family song next to a couple fo the others we've written since." The partnership began at the suggestion of Grace Of My Heart's soundtrack producer Larry Klein and music supervisor Karyn Rachtman, who put together a series of surviving songwriters of the Brill Building era with contemporary artists they had influenced. Allison Anders, who directed the musical bio-pic (loosely based on the life of such songwriters as Carole King), requested a ballad "of the kind that Burt would've written for Dusty Springfield, but it has to reflect the loss that Denise [the film's main character] had just had, a disastrous love affair." That such a major song was created over the phone ("I wouldn't recomment that to anyone," says Costello) is testament to the talent involved. The collaboration has continued to negotiate the geographical divide, with Bacharach in LA and Costello in Dublin, and Costello admits they have got as far as "a very definite shape" to the album. "It's very much composed as a piece." However, the pair are still "a fair way" from being ready to enter the studio, which means the earliest possible release date would be summer 1998, but more likely autumn. Costello denies reports that he has already cut half an hour's worth of Bacharach standards. "It would be wonderful to sing those songs, but I don't know whether I could really add anything to the way they were done on the originals. But that doesn't mean that we might not nick a couple of more obscure songs from both our catalogues as part of the repertoire that we'd perform in concert. But whether or not they'll make it onto the album would be down to whether they're better than the new songs we've written. Because the new ones have surely got to be more interesting. They certainly feel that way to me."