Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Reach Out For Me

Reach Out (AM10)
Artist: Burt Bacharach
Produced by: Burt Bacharach
Engineered by: Phil Ramone
Tracks: 1) Reach Out For Me (2:52); 2) Alfie (3:07); 3) Bond Street (2:06); 4) Are You There (With Another Girl)? (2:55); 5) What the World Needs Now (4:18); 6) The Look of Love (2:43); 7) A House is Not a Home (3:50) 8) I Say a Little Prayer (2:28) 9) The Windows of the World (2:31) 10) Lisa (3:40); 11) Message to Michael (3:21)

The 50s left us immersed in mid-century standards.  Crooners like Johnny Mathis, Nat Cole and Sinatra topped the charts, yet coupled with a newfound appreciation for doo-wop and soul; for rock n roll.  Bill Haley’s "Rock Around the Clock" was like the shot heard round the world, yet he didn’t write it. The singer/songwriter was a 60s construct, and from it the American audience developed eclectic and eccentric tastes. From Bobby Vinton to the Dave Clark Five, the 45s stacked on any hi fi spindle were rarely confined to any single genre. Yet it wasn’t until Rubber Soul (AM9) that the 60s fully ventured away from a post war mindset and into eastern psychedelia and western country. While the Beatles went to India, Brian Wilson found Americana, arrangements that spoke less to surf and more to exotica; the 60s, indeed, were all over the place.

'67 was the year of Sgt. Pepper and Magical Mystery; of Are You Experienced, Donovan, Days of Future Past and "Pleasant Valley Sunday." We don’t have years like that anymore. There was country, psychedelia, blues, classical…and there was Burt Bacharach’s Reach Out, an odd yet deserving AM9. Here was the culmination of Bacharach’s brilliance as a producer. Though released after Pet Sounds, Bacharach’s influence over Brian’s genius was readily apparent. While not fully realized until Reach Out, that Bacharach sound was a filmscore to the 60s. Many of the songs on Reach Out were instrumental versions of songs already popular, from "The Look of Love" to "Alfie." This is sensational pop espousing incredible songwriting, stellar production and intense musicianship. Even Burt’s gravelly, untrained vocal for "A House is Not a Home" works on a theatrical level. Significantly, though, one never feels the absence of vocals as a loss here. In fact, one is more likely to hear the songs in a new light without the elegant vocals of Warwick or Springfield. The missing Hal David lyrics will remain something of a ghostly presence (you'll be singing them), but the instrumental arrangements have a certain purity. You get to know Bacharach as Bacharach a bit better; and it's well worth making his acquaintance. By Track 3, "Bond Street" (the Benny Hill theme), you may just want to throw yourself a "sexy party."