LET THE MUSIC PLAY: BLACK AMERICA DOES BACHARACH AND DAVID.

LET THE MUSIC PLAY: BLACK AMERICA DOES BACHARACH AND DAVID.

It was in the Brill Building in 1957, that Burt Bacharach and Hal David first met. They were both aspiring songwriters. Burt was a twenty-nine year old music graduate from Kansas. Hal was the older of the two. He was a thirty-six year old New Yorker. Despite the differences in their age and background, Bacharach and David would go on to form one of the most successful songwriting partnerships ever. 

Their successful songwriting partnership started with Marty Robbins’ cover of The Story Of My Life. It reached number one in the US Country charts and number fifteen in the US Billboard 100 in late 1957. Then two months later, in February 1958, Perry Como covered Magic Moments. Reaching number four in the US Billboard 100. Over the Atlantic, Bacharach and David made history.

Perry Como’s Magic Moments and Michael Holidays’ cover of The Story Of My Life gave Bacharach and David consecutive number ones. This was the first of many records that Bacharach and David would go on to break. Their songs would be covered by some of the biggest names in music. Everyone from Aretha Franklin, Dionne Warwick, Dusty Springfield, The Beatles, The Delfonics and Isaac Hayes covered Bacharach and David. These artists brought fame, fortune and critical acclaim Bacharach and David’s way. This lasted right through to the early seventies, when the Bacharach and David partnership ended. Since then, numerous compilations have been released to celebrate the music of Bacharach and David. However, Ace Records recently released compilation Let The Music Play: Black America Does Bacharach and David is a refreshing alternative to previous compilations.

Let The Music Play: Black America Does Bacharach and David features some of the most successful American artists cover of Bacharach and David. There’s everything from soul superstars and disco divas. This includes Dionne Warwick, Irma Thomas, Aretha Franklin, Cissy Houston. The Drifters, James Carr, Gloria Gaynor, Mavis Staples and Gladys Knight and The Pips. As compilations go, Let The Music Play: Black America Does Bacharach and David literally oozes quality. That’s why it’s going to be so difficult to pick the highlights.

It seems fitting that Dionne Warwick’s cover of Make It Easy On Yourself opens Let The Music Play: Black America Does Bacharach and David. When Bacharach and David penned this track, Dionne was desperate to record it. Much to her displeasure, Jerry Butler released the original version. It gave Jerry a top ten hit. However,  Make It Easy On Yourself was the title-track on Dionne’s 1963 album. Her delivery is wistful, rueful and full of heartbreak and is a reminder of why Dionne was one of the finest exponents of Bacharach and David’s music.

Irma Thomas, the Soul Queen Of New Orleans is, without doubt, one of the most underrated soul singers. Proof of this is her emotive powerhouse on Long After Tonight Is All Over. This was one of two Bacharach and David songs Irma recorded in 1964. Sadly, neither song saw the light of day until 1964. Long After Tonight Is All Over is a hidden gem that features Irma in her prime.

Aretha Franklin’s version of Say A Little Prayer is the definitive version of this song about the Vietnam War. Although many artists have recorded this song, none of them come close to Aretha. Released as single in 1968, it reached number ten in the US Billboard 100 and number three in the US R&B charts. This resulted in the single being certified gold. It was taken from Aretha’s 1968 album Aretha Now. It reached number three in the US Billboard 200 and number one in the US R&B charts, resulting in another gold single for Aretha. During this period, Aretha was crowned The Queen Of Soul. 

The Drifters version of In The Land Of Make Believe featured on the B-Side to Vaya Con Dios. Released in 1964 on Capitol Records, it reached number forty-three in the US Billboard 100. It was arranged by Gary Sherman, and produced by Lieber and Stoller. Johnny Moore takes charge of the lead vocal. Meanwhile the rest of The Drifters and The Sweet Inspiration add some deliciously soulful and heartfelt harmonies. Why this wasn’t chosen as the the single, seems a missed opportunity? Especially with The Drifters’ career on the slide. 

Roy Hamilton’s heartfelt, hopeful and impassioned pleading vocal on Let The Music Play. It was recorded in 1966, when Roy was signed to RCA. Sadly, RCA never released the track as a single. It only came to light in 1997, when Kent released the compilation Rare, Collectable and Soulful. At last, this soulful delight was heard by a wider audience, who appreciated its beauty.

Lou Johnson’s cover of The Last One To Be Loved is produced by Bacharach and David. It epitomises what their music is about. Lush strings cascade, harmonies coo and bursts of drama interject. They’re the perfect foil for Roy’s impassioned, sometimes, dramatic vocal. Incredibly, The Last One To Be Loved was only the B-Side to Message To Martha. Sadly, the single wasn’t a commercial success. Despite this, Lou’s version of The Last One To Be Loved is definitive take on this track. It manages to surpass Dionne Warwick’s cover.

In 1970, Willie Tee had just signed to Capitol Records and was in the process of recording his debut album. One of the songs he covered was Reach Out For Me. He was laying is reputation on the life. After all, Dionne Warwick cut the ultimate version. However, Willie, with the help of producer David Axelrod, breathes new life and meaning into this track. Soulful and needy, it’s a tantalising taste of what Willie Tee was capable of.

Many artists have recorded The Look Of Love. So much so, that it’s now regarded as a standard. The song is synonymous with Dusty Springfield. It features on her Dusty In Memphis album. That was her finest hour. Nina Simone also covered The Look Of Love on her 1967 album Silk and Soul. It was released on RCA Victor after Dusty’s version. Arranged by Sammy Lowe and Danny Davis, the tempo rises, and the jazz tinged arrangement is understated. This allows Nina’s sultry vocal to shine. She delivers a vocal masterclass. One wonders if Nina’s version had been released first would Dusty’s version have been so successful?

James Carr is one of  over one-hundred artists to record What The World Needs Now Is Love. Sadly, his version was never released until 2004. Recorded in 1968, just after the assassination of Martin Luther King, James transforms the track. It’s an emotive epic. Spine-tingling describes his version. From the opening bars of Quinton Church and Rudolph Russell’s production you’re truly spellbound. His vocal fuses gospel and Southern Soul. As for the arrangement, it’s a fusion of  gospel, jazz, R&B and Southern Soul. The addition of rasping horns proves just the finishing touch to what’s one of the most powerful covers of this classic. 

Gladys Knight and The Pips’ wistful, rueful version of One Less Bell To Answer is a track from her Motown album If I Were Your Woman. Released in 1971, this marked the end of an era. She left Motown in 1972, signing to Buddah Records. At Buddah, she didn’t have to play second fiddle to Diana Ross. As a result, Gladys’ career was transformed. She enjoyed a series of commercially successful and critically acclaimed albums. Before that, If I Were Your Woman reached number thirty-five in the US Billboard 200 and four in the US R&B charts. One of the album’s highlights was If I Were Your Woman, where Gladys’ rueful delivery makes the lyrics come to life.

What better way to close Let The Music Play: Black America Does Bacharach and David than with Mavis Staples’ haunting cover of A House Is Not A Home. Produced by Steve Cropper, it’s a track from Mavis’ eponymous debut album. It was released on Volt in 1969. Mavis unleashes a vocal that’s equal parts hurt, heartbreak and regret. This proves a beautiful and captivating way to close this homage to Bacharach and David.

When it comes to songwriting partnerships, they don’t come much better than Bacharach and David. They’re right up there with the best. Between 1957 and the early seventies, commercial success and critical acclaim came their way. Artists were almost beating a path to their doors, so desperate were they to be the first to record Bacharach and David’s latest songs. A Bacharach and David song could launch a career. That was often the case. Bacharach and David were game-changers. Artists who previously, had struggled, had their careers transformed by Bacharach and David. Among them were Dionne Warwick. Her career was transformed with Bacharach and David’s patronage. This was the case with a whole host of artists. For other artists, looking to give their career a boost, a Bacharach and David often did the trick. That’s one reason why so many artists covered Bacharach and David.

Among them are some of the biggest names in music. Many of them feature on Let The Music Play: Black America Does Bacharach and David. It features soul superstars and even Gloria Gaynor, disco diva. Mostly though, Let The Music Play: Black America Does Bacharach and David is just quality soul music. Love and love lost sit side-by-side with tearjerkers and celebratory songs. Then there’s songs with lyrics full of social comment, including Aretha’s classic I Say A Little Prayer. Probably the most powerful track is James Carr’s poignant transformation of What The World Needs Now Is Love. It’s truly heart-wrenching and spellbinding. James slightly changes the lyrics, to take account of the assassination of Martin Luther King. That one song is worth the price of Let The Music Play: Black America Does Bacharach and David. However, there’s much more to Let The Music Play: Black America Does Bacharach and David than one track.

Indeed. A total of twenty-six tracks feature on Let The Music Play: Black America Does Bacharach and David. Classics, familiar faces and hidden gems sit side-by-side. Each of these tracks ooze quality and emotion. That’s why Let The Music Play: Black America Does Bacharach and David is one of Ace Records’ best compilations of 2014. Let The Music Play: Black America Does Bacharach and David is also a refreshing alternative to the usual Bacharach and David compilations that are released. Let The Music Play: Black America Does Bacharach and David is the perfect homage to of the greatest songwriters in musical history, whose music has touched the hearts of everyone.

LET THE MUSIC PLAY: BLACK AMERICA DOES BACHARACH AND DAVID.

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