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The Burt Bacharach Mix

September 2nd, 2012 Leave a comment Go to comments

To mark Saturday’s passing at the age of 91 of Hal David, lyricist of all those great songs composed by Burt Bacharach in the 1960s, I am reposting this mix, originally from 11 May 2008. Last year I posted a Covered With Soul mix of Bacharach/David songs to mark Hal’s 90th birthday; that link has been updated.

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Happy birthday, Burt Bacharach. The great man turns 80 on May 12. To celebrate, here is a mix CD-R of songs by Burt Bacharach and Hal David (right).

It is probably redundant to deliberate at length about Burt’s life and massive influence, other than to point out how incongruous it is that there were times when it was seen as somehow uncool to dig Bacharach’s music. That, to me, is the equivalent of coffee being declared socially unacceptable. Still, a few words seem necessary.

Bacharach and lyricist Hal David probably were the most prolific Brill Building partnership; if others exceeded their output, then certainly not with as much success. And consider some of these Brill alumni: Goffin & King, Mann & Weil, Leiber & Stoller, Sedaka & Greenfield, Barry & Greenwich, Neil Diamond, Laura Nyro… The pair scored their first major hit soon after taking over a cubicle in the Brill Building in 1957: Perry Como’s “Magic Moments”. Over the next few years they scored a series of minor hits.

The breakthrough arguably was meeting Dionne Warwick in 1961, who would become something of a muse for the songwriters. Warwick was to act as a demo artist on new songs which would then be given to others. Warwick’s interpretations, however, were usually quite perfect. And so many songs were written with Dionne in mind. Some of these Warwick be the first to record, others would be given to other artists first, to be covered later by Warwick (who had 22 US Top 40 hits with Bacharach/David songs). The triumvirate fell apart in the early ‘70s amid a flurry of lawsuits.

Soon the Bacharach style became unfashionable, incongruously labelled as an easy listening merchant. That he wasn’t: many Bacharach songs are best heard as soul songs. Still, when Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s singer Holly Johnson wanted to record a version of (Do You Know The Way To) San José, his laddish colleagues vociferously opposed the idea. In the event, they did record it, and their version is quite lovely. Arguably this was a significant step towards the rehabilitation of Bacharach which was complete by the late 90s, with even the likes of Oasis’ chief plagiarist Gallagher (Liam? Noel? I can never tell them apart. The one with the mono-brow) paying tribute to Bacharach.

Bacharach had made something of a comeback with a few hits in the 1980s, co-written with wife Carole Bayer Sager, such as Arthur’s Theme, On My Own and Dionne Warwick’s comeback saccharine hit That’s What Friends Are For (as so often with Bacharach and Warwick, it had been previously recorded, by Rod Stewart for the soundtrack of 1982’s Nightshift). Bacharach went back to his roots, in a way, when he composed, with occasional collaborator Elvis Costello, the song God Give Me Strength for the 1996 film Grace Of My Heart, which was loosely based on Brill alumni Carle King. Bacharach’s 1998 album with Elvis Costello, Painted From Memory, was a patchy effort, as was his 2005 solo album, At This Time.

Incidentally, Burt’s unusual surname is German; there is a town called Bacharach in the Rhineland.

On this mix-tape (timed to fit on a CD-R) I have tried to mix well-known versions with some that are less famous. Soul singer Lou Johnson recorded several Bacharach songs before they became hits, though Kentucky Bluebird (later a Warwick hit as Message To Michael) was recorded by fellow soulster Jerry Butler a year earlier. Lyn Collins in her 1974 recording proves further that many Bacharach songs are really soul songs, as do Aretha Franklin and Isaac Hayes (of course, Warwick’s version of Don’t Make Me Over left no doubt about its place in soul history). Although absent from this set, Luther Vandross also was an outstanding interpreter of Bacharch.

While most of Hal David’s lyrics capture universal emotions with great perception and imagination, a few were shockingly sexist, at least by our standards today. I have deliberately appended the two worst offenders (one always sung by women) at the end.

1. Burt Bacharach – Alfie (1966)
2. The Shirelles – Baby, It’s You (1962)
3. Dionne Warwick – Walk On By (1964)
4. Dusty Springfield – I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself (1964)
5. Cilla Black – Anyone Who Had A Heart (1964)
6. Jackie DeShannon – What The World Needs Now Is Love (1968)
7. Aretha Franklin – I Say A Little Prayer (1968)
8. Lyn Collins – Don’t Make Me Over (1974)
9. Herb Alpert – This Guy’s In Love With You (1968)
10. Elvis Costello & Burt Bacharach – I’ll Never Fall In Love Again (2000)
11. Frankie Goes To Hollywood – San José (The Way) (1984)
12. Sandie Shaw – Always Something There To Remind Me (1964)
13. Nancy Wilson – Reach Out For Me (1965)
14. Carpenters – (They Long To Be) Close To You (1970)
15. B.J. Thomas – Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head (1969)
16. Walker Brothers – Make It Easy On Yourself (1966)
17. Gene Pitney – Only Love Can Break A Heart (1963)
18. Lou Johnson – Kentucky Bluebird (Message To Martha) (1964)
19. Billy J. Kramer & the Dakotas – Trains And Boats And Planes (1965)
20. The 5th Dimension – One Less Bell To Answer (1970)
21. The Stylistics – You’ll Never Get to Heaven (If You Break My Heart) (1971)
22. Isaac Hayes – The Look Of Love (live) (1973)
23. Brook Benton – A House Is Not A Home (1963)
24. Jack Jones – Wives And Lovers (1963)
25. Ani DiFranco – Wishin’ And Hopin’ (1997)

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  1. Simon
    May 12th, 2008 at 13:07 | #1

    I love the Bacharach/David era, especially the soul versions. Those talent shows, the American Idol/X Factor type things always give these songs to people to do. But they always miss the subtleties and complexities. They sound so simple but the melody lines are so precise, so in tune with the chords and more importantly the rhythm of the chords. People miss the sense of rhythm that Burt Bacharach has. And Hal David’s lyrics are also very rhythmic. Some fantastic singers have no sense of rhythm whatsoever. It’s vital for these.Having said I love Bacharach; I hate – with a passion – magic moments! It’ll never be too soon if I don’t hear that song ever again. It just grates on my like no other song, apart from mmm-bop…Meanwhile, my favourite Bacharach tune/recording is an instrumental version of Another Spring Will Rise. I’ll have to dig that out and post it. Absolutely beautiful.

  2. Kathleen
    May 12th, 2008 at 16:20 | #2

    I’m so glad you included a song from the Elvis/Burt CD from 2000. I have it and frequently use songs from it on mixed CDs for other people.

  3. Peter
    May 13th, 2008 at 01:36 | #3

    You mention the “Bacharach style” – it’s interesting how his influence has widened from the purveyor of lightweight ballad to a major figure in the baroque/chamber pop genre. Eric Matthews, Belle & Sebastian, the High Llamas – all count Bacharach as an influence. He’s an underrated but important figure in pop music.

  4. jb
    May 15th, 2008 at 13:28 | #4

    The Frankie Goes to Hollywood version of “Do You Know the Way to San Jose” was a revelation–I know this band only as the people who foisted the godawful “Relax” on us in the 80s, and I was unaware they had actual talent. Good songs help, of course. And “You’ll Never Get to Heaven if You Break My Heart” is glorious.I’d cast a vote for Dionne Warwick’s version of “Kentucky Bluebird,” which she titled “Message to Michael.” What a superb mix this is. Thanks a lot.

  5. billie
    May 18th, 2008 at 08:12 | #5

    The Live Stiffs (1979) album has Elvis Costello doing a very fine version of “I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself.” Not a bad song to sing in a punk/new wave/rock and roll concert. Thanks for this mix!

  6. yesyesyes
    May 31st, 2008 at 03:54 | #6

    I looked all over for that Tom Clay song on CD. Finally found it on an import. It is great.

  7. Anonymous
    June 23rd, 2008 at 15:31 | #7

    Thanks a lot – great introduction to a magnificent composer … I only knew the Costello/Bacharach CD which iss great. Thanks again, beautiful with all those picture sleeves embedded.

  8. Julie
    September 7th, 2012 at 21:03 | #8

    Do you have a link that works for Macs? This one downloaded something that needs to be installed to open the files, but it’s for Windows only.

    Thanks, I love your posts.

  9. Rhod
    September 7th, 2012 at 22:55 | #9

    Greast share, terrific versions of quality songs.

    Regards

    Rhod

  10. lugworm
    September 8th, 2012 at 02:19 | #10

    Thanks for re-posting. Great post.

  11. halfhearteddude
    September 8th, 2012 at 09:46 | #11

    Julie, you will need an unzipping/decompressing programme. Try WinRar for Mac or something simlar (StuffIt Expander might work, if Mac still ship that piece of rubbish software). You can get it here: http://winrar-for-mac.en.softonic.com/mac

  12. Royal Cyclops
    January 8th, 2016 at 01:19 | #12

    Re-up, Please, Please Please????

    Thanks for all you do!!

  13. Otis Applepie
    December 17th, 2017 at 20:16 | #13

    looks like this needs a repost again… hope you can offer it! thanks!!

  14. halfhearteddude
    December 17th, 2017 at 22:07 | #14

    Ho Otis, I’ve posted a very similar mix since then:

    http://www.halfhearteddude.com/2017/09/bacharach-david-songbook-1/

    For Bacharach stuff, also check out:

    The Lesser Known Bacharach Songbook: http://www.halfhearteddude.com/2013/05/bacharach-songbook/

    Bacharach/David Covered With Soul: http://www.halfhearteddude.com/2011/05/covered-with-soul-vol-7/

    Original versions of Bacharach sings: http://www.halfhearteddude.com/2013/02/originals-bacharach/

  1. February 21st, 2016 at 08:15 | #1