Monday, November 07, 2005

Burt Who?

I have never thought of Burt Bacharach as having opinions about anything besides love and broken hearts. I am impressed by his most recent project and look forward to hearing the results.

Penning lyrics for 1st time, Bacharach gets topical
By Jim Bessman
Sun Nov 6,11:34 PM ET

Bacharach and ... Bacharach?

It's true. The celebrated composer, whose surname is usually paired with Hal David's, has -- for the first time in six decades of writing love songs -- penned his own lyrics.

And Burt Bacharach has a lot to say on his new Columbia album, "At This Time," which came out November 1.

"The reason I came up with the album title is because at this time in my life, I basically think we're all screwed!" says the usually soft-spoken composer. The lyrics reflect his grave concerns with the state of the world -- lead track "Please Explain" invokes his classic "What the World Needs Now Is Love" -- and especially the United States.

"It taps into so many areas," he says, singling out "people who aren't being truthful." In "Who Are These People?," they are clearly those people in power. "This is coming from a guy who's written love songs all his life!" he adds. "I've never rocked the boat, never been political. But there's no other way: I had to speak my heart with my music and words, too."

For assistance, Bacharach turned to lyricist Tonio K., with whom he wrote eight songs for the new project.

He did not call on the "brilliant" David, with whom he has written such pop standards as "The Look of Love," because, in part, "I (did not) know where he stood on some of the issues."

In addition to shaking up the lyrical content, he also rethought the musical elements. "I was working with structures that weren't like a normal song," says Bacharach, whose hits have always hewn to sophisticated pop-song formats. The new tunes are quite to the contrary, with "no vocal starting at the top and going to the end."

The album's closing track, "Always Taking Aim," even employs what Bacharach characterizes as "a Greek chorus ... It just turned out to be a different kind of form: instrumental with vocal interjections of key things that were important for me to say."

Also affecting Bacharach's atypical song structures was Dr. Dre, who supplied drum loops for several tracks. Other collaborators include Chris Botti, Rufus Wainwright and Elvis Costello (with whom Bacharach partnered for the 1998 album "Painted From Memory").

"Dre gave me these loops, and as confining and challenging as they are, the sound is extraordinary, and they're a great foundation to work over," Bacharach says.

But he emphasizes that "At This Time" is not "angry music ... I don't know how else to go than to make music that's melodic and beautiful."

"There's always an underlying hope" on the new material, he concludes. "Even at the end, love is always there, 'always taking aim."'


Reprinted without permission.

Dick Mac Recommends:

At This Time
Burt Bacharach

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