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Here I Am - Isley Meets Bacharach

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Album Review

While the collaboration between soul singer supreme Ron Isley and composer and arranger Burt Bacharach does not have the adventurous scope of Bacharach's collaboration with Elvis Costello — in that the tunes featured here are mostly Bacharach classics — it is every bit as satisfying. At 62, Isley's voice is sweeter and more resonant than ever. Bacharach's new charts for these songs take into consideration the singer of "Harvest for the World," "Fight the Power," and "For the Love of You." Inside these towering, lush harmonic architectures shimmers Isley's golden throat, adding just that sultry hint of deep soul to the proceedings. It might be difficult to picture Isley fronting a full studio orchestra for "Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head," but his version of the tune is an altogether different animal than the B.J. Thomas version. The chart is a smoky, Jimmy Scott-styled jazz chart and Isley makes it the last song in the world. Likewise, "The Look of Love" is slightly more uptempo and the horns are warmer, more up front than on the original. The long instrumental interlude is followed by a sweet moan from the singer who falls into the faux bossa tune as if it's three in the morning. On "This Guy's in Love With You," the pleading at the heart of Isley's vocal takes the listener into a brand new context. The humble, dry delivery of Herb Alpert has been washed away by Bacharach's pianism and a stuttered backbeat that allows the singer to float above the arrangement. "Count on Me," co-written with Tonio K., is the lilting vehicle for Isley in that it contains space for his gospel voice to open just enough to color the cut with altruism. But it's the album opener that's worth its weight in gold; "Alfie," no matter who has sung it, has always been a deeply moving and evocative song. Between Isley and Bacharach, it leaves the realm of nostalgia and becomes its own aching confessional of disillusionment and heartbreak. The spare electric guitar that introduces the theme and the hushed strings behind the singer's voice underscore the conviction. When Isley moves up in his register, he does so all at once. There is no slide; there's just pure conviction in the grain of his sublime voice. This is a winner, a beautiful effort that combines the give and take of the pop song with the emotion of great American soul singing.

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Here I Am - Isley Meets Bacharach, Ron Isley
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