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Reach Out

Burt Bacharach

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Album Review

Burt Bacharach's second album will either delight or sorely disappoint modern listeners, depending upon how aware they are of who he really is. It's easy to forget, amidst his '90s revival, that Bacharach was never fundamentally a "rock" songwriter. Reach Out was reissued in 1995, just as Bacharach's star was rising among more mature rock listeners. Parts of this album do aspire to a kind of big-band pop soulfulness. The rest is quasi-jazz of the light variety, very cleanly and carefully arranged by the composer, who tends to emphasize the obvious. A lot of what is here is very basic, well played but displaying no dazzling interpretive details. That's often a risk when a composer interprets his own work — frequently, it is the outside personality, the performance specialist rather than the composer, who picks up the hidden and unusual sides of a score. Some listeners will also be thrown by the presence of "Lisa," a throwback to pre-'60s pop. But that is a valid part of what Bacharach was about — he grew up in an environment in which big-band jazz represented mainstream music, and was aspiring to make it as a pop composer when rock & roll hit. So it should be expected that he would have had an affinity for elegant pop music, which he would indulge on his first album for a soft-jazz and pop label like A&M. Reach Out isn't a Rosetta Stone to understanding his music, but it does present Bacharach's vision of his work at its most straightforward, and it is enjoyable on its own terms, as a snapshot of his own sensibilities at that time.

Biography

Born: 12 May 1928 in Kansas City, MO

Genre: Pop

Years Active: '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

With a hit-single track record spanning four decades, Burt Bacharach became one of the most important composers of popular music in the 20th century, almost equal to such classic tunesmiths as George Gershwin or Irving Berlin. His sophisticated yet breezy productions borrowed from cool jazz, soul, Brazilian bossa nova, and traditional...
Full bio