Painted From Memory
By: Eric G.
Inspired by their kitsch-y collaboration for the Grace Of My Heart Soundtrack, Elvis Costello and Burt Bacharach reprise “God Give Me Strength” off that album along with eleven new songs crafted by Bacharach and sung by Costello, who also penned the lyrics. Bacharach is best known for being the songwriting force behind Dionne Warwick’s career with such sugary classics as “Do You Know The Way To San Jose?” and “Walk On By.” Mr. Costello, on the other hand, is not so easy to pin down. His transition from angry young man into high-brow jack of all trades has been a bumpy ride, but he seems to have a handle on his current status as elder statesman. This collection of songs finds both musicians adhering to the format with a relatively delicate ease.
Bacharach’s signature touch is all over every song. Sprightly horns and dashes of strings create an elegant atmosphere that is definitely not of this time. The retro feel gives the songs an instantly recognizable, almost classic quality. Costello has been working on his dramatic vocal range most recently on his All This Useless Beauty album (his last with the Attractions), and he pulls it off here. He disguises his malign for women and general disgust for stupidity in clever couplets that mutate with the tone of each track. Bacharach’s light piano playing is most effective on “I Still Have That Other Girl” and “Such Unlikely Lovers” because of the intimate setting it creates.
This is light rock to the extreme, but Costello’s presence curbs its campy leanings somewhat. The Verve label enlisted former Costello collaborator Bill Frisell to head up an interpretive jazz album of these songs, which is a testament to their strength. Painted From Memory succeeds because of its sheer audacity and its careful reconstruction of a period in music long since passed.