© Tina Tyrell

The pantheon of American Song Book writers…

In my recent Complete Ella Fitzgerald Song Books article, I called out Burt Bacharach and Hal David (others) as song writer/composers that belonged in the same conversation with the greats that Ella and Norman Granz targeted with the Verve Records “Ella Sings…” Song Book series.

I want to follow up on that because I think it’s both important and cool to view the corpus of the Great American Song Book as a living, growing thing.

Right on the heels of the generation of foundational standards writers like Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, the Gershwin bros, Duke Ellington, Rodgers and Hart, Jerome Kern and Johnny Mercer — the Ella Song Books — came another generation of equally talented composers and lyricists that took their turn with baton and pen.

I can think of few (Henry Mancini maybe?) that experienced greater success in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s than Burt Bacharach and Hal David.

As Steve Tyrell says in the liner notes of his fabulous tribute album — Back to Bacharach — Burt and Hal effectively…

“…created the modern chapter of the Great American Song Book … the new standards of the twentieth century were born.”

Who better to offer tribute…

… to the “Burt Bacharach & Hal David Song Book” than Steve Tyrell?

Well sure, scores of artists  — everyone from Bobby Vinton to Sergio Mendes — released Bacharach-David (B-D) songs.

And yes, Dionne Warwick IS the face/voice most often associated with B-D material … but I have seen Steve a few times over the last several years, and he never performs without offering tribute to Burt, Hal and the influence they had on his development.

Tyrell’s a creative guy … leveraging blues and R&B stylings into his material in unique ways that I really enjoy; but I especially appreciate his interpretation of Bacharach’s complex yet elegant melodies and Hal David’s beautiful poetry.

Knowing the history…

…of Steve’s long relationship with team B-D adds sort of a spiritual element to the listening on this LP. The emotional ties between these guys goes back decades but becomes particularly poignant during their collaboration to make Back to Bacharach.

The CD took over six years to complete — being derailed by the diagnosis, long fight against cancer and ultimate tragic passing of Steve’s wife Stephanie. At Stephanie’s memorial, Bacharach played “A House Is Not A Home” (James Ingram sang); I can’t imagine what that moment meant to Steve, or what that song means to him today.

Hal David’s passing last summer drops additional sentimental ballast to the listening of this LP … Back to Bacharach is indeed a heartfelt tribute.

Then there’s the LP…

Tyrell, long time production and musical partner Bob Mann and mix master Bill Schnee bring their Grammy winning touch to Back to Bacharach … rendering a wonderfully laid down, high production value LP of the center-cut popular hits from Bacharach and Davids’ deep catalog.

ALL of the 14 songs on the set list are top tier Bacharach-David hits — classics  all — so you’d think it would be hard to highlight a subset. That said, my favorite B-D numbers seem to be stacked up near the front of the CD.

Tracks one through four roll out with … “Walk On By” with cool back ground singers and 70’s era organ; classic Shaft style guitar (Bob Mann) tinged, slightly funky and very elegant version of “The Look of Love”; Herb Albert joins in the fun with “This Guy’s In Love With You” (overplayed a bit in the 70’s but still one of my favorite love songs); the elegantly sad and soulful “One Less Bell To Answer”.

“One Less Bell To Answer” – Steve Tyrell *

The iconic “What The World Needs Now” brings an all-star cast of feature participants … Burt Bacharach is there with a cool vocal cameo and his piano; and a really well done vocal weave of Tyrell with Martina McBride, James Taylor, Rod Stewart and the lovely Dionne Warwick herself … whew!

As a rule, I’m not especially strong on Rod Stewart and James Taylor singing the standards, but it works here. This song maintains it’s identity (often the pitfall of “We are the World” style collaborations) and is really well done with each of the contributors adding something that is actually a net positive!

“What the World Needs Now” – Steve Tyrell (feat. Burt Bacharach, Martina McBride, Rod Stewart, James Taylor, & Dionne Warwick)*

The remainder of Back to Bacharach is solid gold … and Allan Broadbent’s arrangement of “A House Is Not A Home” is superb.

Hal David, Burt Bacharach and Steve Tyrell … a great combination. Spin Back to Bacharach and then add some vintage Dionne Warwick (Walk On By LP maybe) for your own tribute to the song mastery of Bacharach and David.

Back to Bacharach – Steve Tyrell
(VS_Guy ratings: “+++” pluses are good; “~” for meh to middling;  “- – -” minuses are not good)

1. Walk On By 3:28 ++++ my favorite Dionne Warwick number
2. The Look Of Love 4:57 ++++ funky and elegant
3. This Guy 3:42 ++++ classic B-D love song featuring Herb Alpert
4. One Less Bell To Answer 3:16 ++++ Soul pain
5. What The World Needs Now 4:49 +++ Dionne, Burt, James, Rod, Martina
6. Reach Out For Me 3:44 +++
7. I Say A Little Prayer For You 3:24 +++
8. I Just Don’t Know What To Do 3:16 ++++ sweet and sad
9. There’s Always Something There To Remind Me 3:43 +++
10. Don’t Make Me Over 3:19 +++ Patti Austin is wonderful
11. Close To You 3:42 ++ was never strong on the Carpenter’s but Steve carries the number well
12. A House Is Not A Home 3:51 ++++ great song; poignant in the context of Tyrell’s loss
13. Alfie 4:43 +++ this song lays well for Steve
14. Raindrops 3:50 +++ too much of this number in 70’s but I love ST’s version (Burt’s intro and outro on this version is nice)

[* Please remember that all songs streamed here are for REVIEW PURPOSES ONLY and are NOT intended as a substitute for properly purchased original record company product. Give a listen and then please support the artists via iTunes, Amazon or your favorite music store. Artists/Record Labels — NO DOWNLOADS ARE SUPPORTED on this site; please contact me directly regarding the removal of any potentially infringing material.] 

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