Burt Bacharach – Reach Out – What to Listen For

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Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with advice on What to Listen For (WTLF) as you critically evaluate your copy of Reach Out.

What to listen for? Brightness, Blare, Lifelessness, Smear.

We played a good-sized stack of these recently, but not many of them sounded like this one. The majority of copies had a tendency to be bright, which is MURDER when the horns start blaring at the levels we like to play our records at.

In addition there are plenty of copies out there that lack energy, while others suffer from transient smearing, clearly audible on the brass.

What is a vintage A&M record without Tubey Magic? The best copies have loads of it, without ever becoming thick, fat, or overly smooth, or losing bass definition. 

It takes a special copy to make these easy listening numbers sound as fresh and invigorating as they no doubt did in the studio, and that’s what the best Hot Stampers are all about.

Above all this is simply a fun album of pop tunes, cleverly arranged and played with gusto. (I would be very surprised if these West Coast sessions weren’t Wrecking Crew to a man, or woman as the case may be. Bacharach is known to be a stickler so the best of the best session guys and gals are probably the only ones he would consider.)

When it sounds this good the music is positively wonderful. There are tons of Burt Bacharach hits here — The Look Of Love (sounding even better than it does on Casino Royale!), Message To Michael, Alfie, What The World Needs Now, I Say A Little Prayer and many more.

The Songs

Most of the material really works, while some of it is not much more than passable (and the less said about the vocal the better).

That said, you just might fall in love with some of these songs. Anyone who’s crazy about the Casino Royale soundtrack is probably going to have a good time with this record, at a fraction of the cost a Hot Stamper copy of the album would set you back (and we haven’t had one in years; in case you were wondering, finding clean good sounding copies at an affordable price is just not in the cards anymore). 

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Reach Out For Me
Alfie
Bond Street
Are You There (With Another Girl)
What The World Needs Now Is Love

Side Two

The Look Of Love
A House Is Not A Home
I Say A Little Prayer
The Windows Of The World
Lisa
Message To Michael

AMG Review

Burt Bacharach’s second album will either delight or sorely disappoint modern listeners, depending upon how aware they are of who he really is. It’s easy to forget, amidst his ’90s revival, that Bacharach was never fundamentally a “rock” songwriter.

Some listeners will also be thrown by the presence of “Lisa,” a throwback to pre-’60s pop. But that is a valid part of what Bacharach was about — he grew up in an environment in which big-band jazz represented mainstream music, and was aspiring to make it as a pop composer when rock & roll hit. So it should be expected that he would have had an affinity for elegant pop music, which he would indulge on his first album for a soft-jazz and pop label like A&M.

Reach Out isn’t a Rosetta Stone to understanding his music, but it does present Bacharach’s vision of his work at its most straightforward, and it is enjoyable on its own terms, as a snapshot of his own sensibilities at that time.

Liner Note Excerpts

Put down by no one, whether peers or followers, put on by nothing, whether fame or wealth; put off by neither pressure nor competitor, Bacharach is a very special man.

He bestrides, like Gulliver, the warring worlds of the Establishments’ Academy Award system – from whom he has wrought two Oscar nominations for “Alfie” & “What’s New Pussycat” – and the contemporary Top Forty scene where the buying power lies in the hands of the very young.

It is effortless to praise him because he has done so much, so widely and so well.

Marlene Dietrich doted on him as her arranger and conductor, adores him as a man.

From Hollywood to New York, across to Europe and to the British Isles in military camps and in brutally sophisticated nightclubs, he built upon his formal training as a pianist by adding technique and style and charm.

As a songwriter, he decided to create tunes people could hum, and by now, few singers anywhere in the world haven’t sung them.

On this album, his first for A&M Records with whom he has a close and vastly rewarding relationship, he has written, arranged, assembles all eleven songs, conducted the orchestra and produced the entire album, and because he knows there is nothing you can do that can’t be done, he has played piano on all of the tracks and sung on one of them. This one is called “A House Is Not A Home,” and it is something else.

So is Burt Bacharach.