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The Look of LoveThe Look of Love: The Burt Bacharach Collection (Rhino 1998) - With this three-CD set, Rhino Records gathers 75 original recordings spanning Burt Bacharach's recording career. With definitive performances by such artists as Gene Pitney ("The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence"), Dusty Springfield ("The Look of Love"), and Jackie DeShannon ("What the World Needs Now is Love"), the collection reflects Bacharach's cool and sophisticated songwriting style.

Though pop music has always been his forte, Bacharach's first number hit was a 1957 country song, "The Story of My Life," recorded by Marty Robbins. Bacharach's collaboration in the 1960's with lyricist Hal David led to a dominant place on the pop charts and fame for singer Dionne Warwick with songs like "Walk on By" and "I'll Never Fall in Love Again."

Burt Bacharach todayBacharach was a New York native, and even during his recorded heyday, commuted from California to New York for recording sessions. Explains Bacharach, "Remember, these records were cut live. We'd normally do three songs in a three-hour session."

All of the hits are on The Look of Love, performed by the original artists. Thus, the collection includes "Blue on Blue" by Bobby Vinton, Chuck Jackson performing "Any Day Now (My Wild Beautiful Bird)," Tom Jones' million seller, "What's New Pussycat?", and "Close to You" by the Carpenters.

Also included are hit singles like "Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head" by B. J. Thomas (from the movie, "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid"), and "This Guy's in Love With You," performed by Herb Alpert. Surprisingly, this song was the first number one single for both Alpert and Bacharach

Bacharach's body of work is so large that sometimes it eludes even him. He recalls strolling by a piano in a bar in Florida and hearing a familiar melody. "I thought 'I know that song,'" Bacharach recalls. The pianist said, "You recognize it?" "Did I write it?" Bacharach asked. The pianist replied, "You did."

Yet Bacharach is best remembered for his work with Dionne Warwick, including "Anyone Who Had a Heart" and "Do You Know the Way to San Jose?" Says Bacharach, "Dionne was a blessing. The more I did with Dionne, the most I saw we could do. She was so fluid. Dionne was understated, as opposed to those singers who always try to blow you away. It is like someone with a great smile. You have to know when to show it. You can't use it all the time."

With the rebirth of the hipster cocktail-lounge scene, and his cameo role in the hit film, "Austin Powers," Burt Bacharach finds himself back in the spotlight. The Look of Love is an outstanding collection, and should be enjoyed by all fans of pop music.

Lyle LovettLyle Lovett, Step Inside This House (MCA 1998) - Lyle Lovett, who won the Best Country Album grammy for his last album, Road to Ensenada, returns with a double-CD followup. And an unusual followup it is, as Step Inside this House consists entirely of covers of songs written by such Texas songwriters as Townes Van Zandt, Michael Martin Murphey, and Guy Clark.

Like an elegant black and white movie, Step Inside This House draws you gently into the precision of the songs, all written in the Texas singer/songwriter tradition. The mix allows Lovett's voice to occupy the center stage, which is appropriate with these storytelling songs.

Lyle Lovett photoThe centerpiece of the album is four songs by Townes Van Zandt (who died New Year's Day 1997), including the understated gem, "Flyin' Shoes." Also included are four songs written by Walter Hyatt (who died in the ValueJet plane crash in 1996), including "Teach Me About Love."

Also included are songs written by Eric Taylor, Robert Earl Keen (a friend of Lovett's since college), and David Rodriguez.

The musicians on Step Inside This House include Viktor Krauss on bass, Russ Kunkel on drums, Matt Rollings on piano, Sam Bush on mandolin, Jerry Douglas on dobro and weissenborn, Dean Parks on guitar, and Stuart Duncan on fiddle. The production leans towards an understated acoustic feel, with subtle elements of country and folk.

Yet, the best songs come from Stephen Fromholtz, including "Bears" and the "Texas Trilogy," which concludes with the lovely "Bosque County Romance," with backing vocals by Allison Krause. Now age 53, Fromholtz has not gained mainstream attention: there's a joke that "the difference between Steve Fromholtz and Elvis is that some people think that Elvis is still alive."

Lovett has an accessible and intelligent approach: it's easy to understand why women are comfortable around him. For an absorbing trip into the realm of the Texas singer/songwriter, try Step Inside This House.

- Randy Krbechek © 1998

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