Monday, August 08, 2005

You get enough germs to catch pneumonia

It's unfortunate that most of the younger set probably know Dionne Warwick best as the shameless shill for the ($3.99 a minute) Psychic Friends Network, formerly a late-night infomercial staple. Burt Bacharach, who has made cameos in the Austin Powers movies and collaborated with Elvis Costello, fares much better among youngsters in reputation and recognition. But who remembers Hal David, who completed the once unstoppable pop trio? Poor Hal.

Burt Bacharach (composer), Hal David (lyricist), and Dionne Warwick (singer) had their best success when working together in the 60s, with an incredible string of twenty Top 40 hits over a decade's span. These songs alone would guarantee the Bacharach/David songwriting duo a spot in heaven, but they also penned a number of hits for other artists, among them "The Look of Love" (Dusty Springfield), "(They Long to Be) Close to You" (the Carpenters), and "Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head" (B. J. Thomas). The pair met while working in the Brill Building in New York City and started collaborating in 1957, and Warwick joined the team in 1962. Bacharach's arrangements are both breezy and sophisticated, doling out just the right amount of hooks and unshakable melodies. David's lyrics alternate between pathos and (often naïve) optimism, sometimes within the same song, and Warwick sings with a sweet pop voice that can turn on the moxie on demand.

"Walk on By" (Stephin's selection for 1964 on the list) is a gently devastating broken-hearted song, with a simple and perfect weeping piano break, mirroring the singer's tears. Astute Merritt fans will recognize the title "I'll Never Fall in Love Again" being quoted for the final line of "Summer Lies" on The Wayward Bus, and also I should point out that the Three Terrors performed a cover of the theme song for the film The Blob (written by Bacharach and Mack David, Hal's older brother) as part of their "The Three Terrors Go Hollywood" performance in 2001. The Dionne Warwick collection on Rhino Records (Her All-Time Greatest Hits) was listed by Stephin as one of his favorites in Chickfactor #6, and with twenty-four solid tracks (twenty-three of them being Bacharach/David compositions from 1962 to 1970), that compilation is the one to get. The three-disc Bacharach boxed set The Look of Love has a lot of high points, but there's a tendency on that collection to include the hit recordings, instead of the superior renditions. (Herb Alpert really shouldn't be allowed to sing, even if he owns the damn record company.)

Dionne Warwick - "Walk on By"
Dionne Warwick - "I'll Never Fall in Love Again"

By request, "They Were You" is back up for another week:

"They Were You" from the Fantasticks


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