Review of Painted From Memory
Music Central Online, 1998-10-05
- Ian Landau

Elvis Costello With Burt Bacharach
Painted From Memory

After wowing us with their combined talents on the song "God Give Me Strength" (from the 1996 film "Grace of My Heart"), Elvis Costello and Burt Bacharach give the people more of what they want on Painted From Memory. As longtime fans of Costello know, he's been a keen admirer of Bacharach for years. Pairing up with the legendary balladeer helps him bring to full fruition the sophisticated pop leanings he has exhibited since his earliest recordings. With Costello handling lyrics and vocals while Bacharach conducts a 24-piece orchestra, the album becomes a wet dream for devotees of serious, complex pop. Certainly one element that strikes you right away is Costello's voice, which has only gotten stronger and more supple with age. (The Mercury suits who just signed him will surely be smiling.) It immediately blows you away on the soaring opener "In the Darkest Place." Even when he's joined by cheesy backing vocalists (one of this album's very few missteps) on the very next song, "Toledo," he still comes through as a man possessed of powerful middle-aged regret. Bacharach, too, is in top form, as he lightly dabs the title track with his unmistakable soft strings and gives "I Still Have That Other Girl" a sweeping arrangement worthy of one of his classic movie soundtrack tunes. These lush sounds supporting Costello as he sings his heart out transform these tracks from mere songs into five-minute pop symphonies about the rigors of life and love.

Ian Landau