Elvis Costello with Burt Bacharach, `Painted From Memory' / * ½
This particular combination of artists automatically triggers a ``huh?'' reaction. But it isn't all that strange.
Bacharach and Costello collaborated on the song ``God Give Me Strength,'' from the film ``Grace of My Heart.'' They hit it off and decided to work together again.
Hence this album, which was two years in the making.
Unfortunately, both men are resting on their laurels. None of the 11 songs here is as strong as ``God Give Me Strength,'' and that was memorable only as a derivative nod to Carole King, whom the movie obliquely portrayed.
With Bacharach conducting a 24-piece orchestra, the album has a lush, lulling sound. Costello's vocals have the usual thick quality, like he has a mouth full of peanut butter. These factors, along with the dominant mid-tempo grooves, add up to Snooze City, baby. (And none of these tunes was designed to be a lullaby.)
Aren't these the guys who wrote jaunty little numbers like ``Alison,'' ``Watching the Detectives,'' ``Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head'' and ``What the World Needs Now''? Well, what this album needs now is a shot of adrenaline.
Costello has been in a real slump, mucking around in ill-conceived projects with the likes of the Brodsky Quartet. This is his first CD for Mercury after a long stint on Warner Bros., and he is being portrayed as giving the old-school Bacharach an introduction to the hip world of rock.
But with the likes of Stereolab, Eric Matthews and Chicago's Aluminum Group regularly paying homage to him, ol' Burt could have found a much cooler partner for his comeback.