Time can be cruel to golden boys who've drifted past middle age. For every suavely mellowing Paul Newman there are dozens of washed-up teen-idol actors, ex-jock sportscasters with bum knees and graying surf musicians lapsed into self-caricature.
And then, at the opposite extreme, there's Burt Bacharach.
At 70, the debonair king of bachelor-pad pop is hotter than at any time since Richard Nixon was president. A new generation of listeners is embracing his plush, string-laden melodies, exchanging flannel shirts and in-your-face irony for a previous generation's ideal of romantic sophistication.
Practically everywhere you look lately, Bacharach is being feted with anniversary concerts, TV specials and tribute albums (three and counting), including one by jazz pianist McCoy Tyner and another from avant-garde darlings John Zorn and Bill Frisell.
Both an audio and video version of One Amazing Night, TNT's April all-star television homage, are due out Nov. 17. And the coup de grace, a 75-song, three-CD Rhino boxed-set retrospective of his work, The Look of Love: The Burt Bacharach Collection, hits record stores Nov. 3.
Meanwhile, Bacharach is busy conducting a mini-tour with his newest songwriting partner, British proto-punker Elvis Costello, in support of their just-released Painted From Memory (Mercury). Pairing silky orchestrations with spiky, urbane lyrics, the recording meshes two distinct sensibilities around themes of lost love. Anchored by a 24-piece orchestra, the four-city tour will stop Tuesday at Universal Amphitheatre; further dates depend on how well Painted From Memory's odd-couple chemistry sells.