The billing on the cover of Painted From Memory reads "Elvis Costello with Burt Bacharach," but it ought to be the other way around, because the compositions on the album are dominated by Bacharach's signature melodies. Costello, however, is not a silent partner, and Painted From Memory is not the usual crop of breezy love songs that longtime Bacharach collaborator and lyricist Hal David helped pen. Despite the sugary orchestration — the lush strings, the omnipresent flugelhorn — these songs have an edge absent from Bacharach's successful confections of the Sixties and Seventies. That shouldn't be too surprising, as the post-punk poster boy has written some of the most hateful songs ever.
What is surprising is how naturally Costello fits with one of the primary purveyors of the music he and his ilk rebelled against, and the top-notch quality of the overblown pop that the partnership has produced. Chief among them are the regret-laden "Tears at the Birthday Party," the charming romance of "The Sweetest Punch," and the bleak "God Give Me Strength" (originally from the 1996 film, Grace Of My Heart). The album is mostly Bacharach; but instead of sounding like he's following in the footsteps of Dionne Warwick or B.J. Thomas as the hired voice, Costello, with his razor-sharp pen here dulled slightly to fit the occasion, has helped produce some truly unique additions to the vast Bacharach catalog.