At first glance, Burt and Elvis seemed an unusual combination — but this is no musical odd couple, Bacharach (with lyricist Hal David) helped maintain a classic pop songwriting tradition in the midst of the late-'60s rock and acid revolution.
A decade later, Costello emerged as a fully-fledged pop singer/composer in the midst of Britain's wild punk era. Sure, Costello came across as an angry young iconoclast, but there was no disputing his natural melodic fluency and finely-honed lyrical skills (while many contemporaries could scarcely spell and probably thought syntax was a levy on vice).
Fast forward to 1996 and we find the duo teaming up (by phone and fax, Elton John-Bernie Taupin-style) for a memorable song called "God Give Me Strength" on the soundtrack to the movie Grace Of My Heart (loosely inspired by Carole King's songwriting and performing career).
Inevitably, this led to the current collaboration CD Painted From Memory, subtitled The New Songs Of Bacharach & Costello, which blends Bacharach's lush, gently-syncopated orchestrations and Costello's spare, romantic words and worn vocals. Rock fans take heed, this music is ultra-mellow, a seductive dozen songs aimed at dating couples and dateless singles. Best track is undoubtedly the reprised Grace Of My Heart, while "This House Is Empty Now" rates as a modern classic.
But it's pointless trying to separate out the collection. The good news is Costello and Bacharach are likely to team up again sometime. Meanwhile, jazz guitarist Bill Frisell is planning a CD for Verve Records of jazz interpretations of all these songs, with Cassandra Wilson among the guest performers.