Burt Bacharach’s songs are deft research in gentle and darkish, order and chaos, major-key optimism and minor-key doubt. The lyrics to songs like “Walk on By,” “I Just Don’t Know What to Do with Myself,” “Trains and Boats and Planes,” and so many others convey messy, overwhelming feelings, whereas the music itself sounds exquisitely and exactingly crafted. Every component heightens the opposite to make the music extra relatable and in some way much more pleasurable to anybody who has a coronary heart. On “Tears at the Birthday Party,” which Bacharach co-wrote with Elvis Costello for his or her 1998 album Painted From Reminiscence, the distinction between pleased and unhappy is nearly cartoonish: “I see you share your cake with him, unwrapping presents that I should have sent,” Costello sings, understanding he can’t watch however can’t look away both. What might need been maudlin turns into witty, even winking, due to Bacharach’s casually swinging association, which is each sympathetic and sugary.
Bacharach and Costello had been exceptionally properly matched, every bringing one thing barely glimpsed within the different to the floor. Costello has collaborated intimately with the Brodsky Quartet, the Roots, Anne Sofie von Otter, and Allen Toussaint, however few challenged him fairly as a lot as Bacharach. In return, he offers Bacharach a few of his darkest sentiments to attain, exceedingly bleak situations with titles like “In the Darkest Place” and “The Sweetest Punch.” They’re by no means fairly as bitter as Costello’s notoriously bitter love songs on 1979’s Armed Forces, however they nonetheless want Bacharach’s gentle contact. That distinction enlivens The Songs of Elvis Costello and Burt Bacharach, which places Painted From Reminiscence on vinyl together with subsequent collaborations, stay cuts, and covers Costello recorded within the ’70s and ’80s.
They wrote their first music collectively through fax machine. Within the mid Nineteen Nineties, Costello despatched Bacharach concepts for a music referred to as “God Give Me Strength,” and Bacharach responded by sharpening just a few traces and including a brand new bridge, which turned out to be the lacking piece. The completed composition first appeared on the 1996 soundtrack to Grace of My Coronary heart, Allison Anders’ movie primarily based loosely on the profession of Carole King. All the weather that might outline their collaborative album had been already current within the music: the strings and flugelhorns, the elegant expression of inelegant emotions. It opens as a traditional breakup music, with Costello lamenting the lack of a lover and begging God for the flexibility to “wipe her from my memory.” However the bridge reveals a darker aspect to his predicament: “See, I’m only human,” he sings, making an attempt to exonerate himself for what comes subsequent: “I want him to hurt.” It’s the primary he’s talked about one other man, the third piece on this love triangle, and when Costello returns to the music’s prayerful chorus, it’s with a brand new recognition of the depths he has sunk and of the violent ideas he now harbors in her absence.