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Bacharach's music has the last word

October 30, 2005|Randy Lewis

Burt Bacharach

"At This Time"

(Columbia Records)

* * *

MUCH is being made that on this solo outing (in stores Tuesday) Bacharach has written most of his own lyrics for the first time in his five-decade-and-counting career. True enough, but the celebrated composer's most moving statements remain in his music.

On the surface, the man who wrote the music for "I'll Never Fall in Love Again," "I Say a Little Prayer" and other sophisticated romantic pop gems sounds as though he's emerged from the cozy cocoon of interpersonal relationships to find a sociopolitical world in disarray.

With forward-sounding rhythmic contributions from hip-hop figures including Dr. Dre, and vocal assists from Elvis Costello and Rufus Wainwright, the 77-year-old popmeister quotes himself more than once as he suggests that what the world lacks, perhaps more than in the '60s, is love, sweet love.

These lyrics, most credited to Bacharach and Tonio K., are directly narrative rather than Hal David poetic and aren't, in fact, much to sing about: "Where is the love / Where did it go / Who broke our hearts 'cause we need to know." Each song, however, is deftly linked to the next through a shared lyric as Bacharach courses through emotions from confusion to indignation to resignation to realization. It's his melodies and harmonies -- jarringly dissonant one minute, achingly melancholy the next -- that get the panoply of human feeling across.

Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good) and four stars (excellent). The albums are already released unless otherwise noted.

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