A.V. Club, April 19, 2002

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Painted From Memory

Elvis Costello & Burt Bacharach

Keith Phipps

In the years following his early, angry-young-man period, Elvis Costello has explored virtually all forms of popular music. Short of a salsa record, Costello has done a little bit of everything, from an album of country covers to a duet with Jimmy Cliff to a collaboration with the unconventional string section The Brodsky Quartet. It hasn't always worked, to be sure, but it has certainly worked often enough to prove one thing: Costello is an extraordinarily fine tunesmith. So is Burt Bacharach, a peerless pop songwriter whose journey back from the oblivion of kitsch hell reaches its completion with the arrival of this fine collaboration. The partnership began in 1996 with Bacharach and Costello's authorship of "God Give Me Strength" (which closes Painted From Memory) for the film Grace Of My Heart. A classic-sounding song in the early-'60s pop mold, its performance lent the film one of its (few) highlights and provided further reason to eagerly anticipate future efforts by the pair. Painted From Memory is everything that song promised. Costello defers to Bacharach's songwriting style, allowing for an album of complex, melodic pop songs fleshed out by a vocal group and full orchestra. Providing lyrics and lead vocals, Costello is fully present and in a direct, melancholy mood. The songs may call for a singer with greater range, but at this point, such complaints are pointless; his compositions seldom sound right in other hands anyway. And the songs on Painted From Memory, from the swinging "Toledo" and "Tears At The Birthday Party" to the gorgeous ballad "What's Her Name Today?," are certainly Costello's as much as they are Bacharach's. Painted From Memory is pretty much the best that could be expected of a Bacharach/Costello pairing, which is to say pretty damn terrific.


The A.V. Club, April 19, 2002

Keith Phipps reviews Painted From Memory.


Painted From Memory album cover.jpg


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