Pulse!, October 1998

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Pulse!

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Painted from Memory

Elvis Costello and Burt Bacharach

Scott Schinder

★★★★

It's not surprising that Costello, a trad-pop classicist at heart even in his angry-young-man days, would gravitate toward working with his idols, or that he'd prove an adept enough craftsman to keep up with bigger-than-life musical icons. Just as the songs he co-wrote with Paul McCartney emphasized both artists' strengths, this album-length collaboration with the enormously influential Bacharach is a match made in heaven. In addition to giving Costello (whose recent efforts have largely been respectable ideawise but musically unmemorable) a much-needed sonic makeover, the project offers Bacharach (who hasn't really worked with a first-rate lyricist since splitting with Hal David in the early '70s) lyrics of sufficient emotional substance to do justice to his timelessly elegant melodies.

Indeed, Painted from Memory's dozen co-writes, sung by Costello and arranged by Bacharach, embody the salient qualities of both men's best work. Costello's heartbreaking portraits of wrecked relationships ("In the Darkest Place," "This House Is Empty Now") and wistful ruminations on loss and regret ("Toledo," "Painted from Memory") are perfectly matched with Bacharach's subtly sophisticated tunes, giving the album an unmistakable sense of hard-won experience. And Costello's emotional commitment to the material — e.g. his breathtaking performance on the previously released (and instantly classic) "God Give Me Strength" — more than compensates for his vocal limitations.


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Pulse!, October 1998


Scott Schinder reviews Painted From Memory. (Page 66.)

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