This isn’t the first album to pay tribute to pop songwriters Burt Bacharach and Hal David and it probably won’t be the last. It might, however, wind up being remembered as the best.
Because Bacharach and David’s compositions constitute mainstream pop, some listeners undoubtedly dismiss them as inconsequential. But there’s a reason why their fans and interpreters have included everyone from Elvis Costello to Isaac Hayes to Love's Arthur Lee: Bacharach and David’s creations may be mainstream, but they’re also first-rate. British singer Rumer appreciates them, takes them seriously, and has the talent to do them justice.
She enlists a couple of important collaborators here, starting with arranger and orchestrator Rob Shirakbari, her husband, who served as musical director for both Bacharach and Dionne Warwick, with whom he worked for 25 and 30 years, respectively. Also lending a hand is Bacharach himself: he plays piano on “This Girl’s in Love,” and it was he who requested that the album include the relatively obscure “The Last One to Be Loved” and “Land of Make Believe.”
Such tracks notwithstanding, you’ll know much of this program if you listened to the radio during the 1960s and '70s. Among the many hits featured are “You’ll Never Get to Heaven (If You Break My Heart),” “Are You There (With Another Girl),” and “Walk on By” (all hits for Dionne Warwick); “What the World Needs Now Is Love” (Jackie DeShannon); and “One Less Bell to Answer” (Fifth Dimension).
Interpreting songs that have been as well and widely covered as these presented an obvious challenge but Rumer proved equal to it. According to a press release, she sometimes said to herself, “Forget all the other versions—what is this song about?” In some cases, her answer resulted in a cover that recalls the earlier readings, but in others, the Rumer rendition is fresh. “The Look of Love,” for example, is even more ethereal than Dusty Springfield’s version and incorporates enough hint of bossa nova to make it a perfect companion to Stan Getz and Astrud Gilberto’s “The Girl from Ipanema.” Other standouts include “(They Long to Be) Close to You,” which is moodier and at least as emotive as the classic Carpenters number; and “This Girl’s in Love,” which eschews the bouncy pop of the Herb Alpert and Dionne Warwick hits; instead, we feel the pain of unrequited love as Rumer conveys the anguish in lines like “my hands are shaking/don’t let my heart keep breaking say you’re in love and you’ll be my guy/If not I’ll just die.”