Love is growing in the street,
Right through the concrete

Sunday, 25 April 2010

Burt Bacharach - MAKE IT EASY ON YOURSELF (1969)

Listening to Burt Bacharach's arrangements on his own-name releases always reminds me of what marks these recordings as a league above the ranks of singers he farmed his compositions out to. The Bacharach style of melody-driven pop is as ubiquitous and distinctly pastiched as whole genres of music, but even now, after his influence is perhaps finally waning, it's clear that Burt was still an absolute original.

Take one example of the sort here, in the form of a clip from 1970's 'The Phantom Tollbooth'. All elements are there; the flurries of strings, the infectious, sunny vocal melody, the walk-on solos, the woodwind, the call-and-response instrumentation... however you can always tell the well-intentioned imitators from the real deal. Where a melody like 'Milo's Song' strays; repeating its key melody with neat efficiency and soft glides, you're left wanting in Bacharach's own recordings. With fine tact, they avoid the caricatured tunes which drowned the charts in his wake. For an example (not from this album), the first time I heard Bacharach's '(They Long To Be) Close To You' was a revelation for how different the emphasis was when compared to the famous Carpenters version. With the latter you remember the sweet main refrain and its indelible lyrics. However, with the former, this bouncy, saccharine opening section is a slow horn section, with vocals as no more than a supporting instrument. The emphasis of the song is shifted completely to Bacharach's avuncular croon on the chorus - a gorgeous melody which is downplayed entirely in The Carpenter's rendition.

His most famous lyrics are often completely absent from his solo-albums, in fact. The emphasis is much more on the instruments, with the lyrical melody replaced rather than simply replicated. Not anchored to just the one instrument (voice), these versions draw attention to the great expression possible from contrasting the bold, big-band instruments he had at his disposal. Seemingly to underlie this relegation of vocal melody from 'lead' to 'support' is Bacharach's decision to have a chorus of uncredited soul singers deliver the majority of lyrical content on this album.

His own voice is rough and unpolished, but its appeal is in its sincere, comforting timbre. On the title track, 'Make It Easy on Yourself', Burt sings solo for the only song on the album. The qualities of his singing voice really shine on account of the affecting simplicity of the lyric's repeated aphorism: "Make it easy on yourself... because breaking up is a hard thing to do". The sentiment may seem corny in writing, but the pathetic mood which the track evokes makes the futility of the humour in such a situation the more moving. Similarly, the reflective 'This Guy's in Love With You' and, with an even more desperate refrain, 'Wanting Things', both step back from overselling their emotion. The songs share the same strengths as (avid fan) Brian Wilson's songwriting for the Love You Beach Boys album in 1977. Both succeed for their realistically ineloquent portrait of infatuation.@160kbs


1. Promises, Promises
2. I'll Never Fall in Love Again
3. Knowing When To Leave
4. Any Day Now
5. Wanting Things
6. Pacific Coast Highway
7. She's Gone Away
8. Whoever You Are I Love You
9. Make it Easy on Yourself
10. Do You Know The Way To San Jose
11. This Guy's in Love With You

[reuploaded 29.03.11]

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