I would hazard a guess that of all the US songwriters of the Sixties, the partnership of Burt Bacharach and Hal David produced more hit songs than anyone else, with a plethora of dedicated compilations nowadays available and most including definitive tracks by their hit songstress, Dionne Warwick who spearheaded so many of the team’s songs toward instant recognition and beyond. LET THE MUSIC PLAY - BLACK AMERICA SINGS BACHARACH & DAVID is no exception and the divine Miss W. comes on strong with the opening track - her break-through song - MAKE IT EASY ON YOURSELF.
Possibly not all the remaining twenty-three songs and their singers are as familiar but that’s the appeal of such a collection and I particularly enjoyed A HOUSE IS NOT A HOME by the soulful Mavis Staples, ONE LESS BELL TO ANSWER rung up by Gladys Knight & the Pips, I CRY ALONE in the company of Ruby & the Romantics, and WALK ON BY in step with Gloria Gaynor. I could go on but frankly, I only need to mention a lovely mellow take of THE LOOK OF LOVE by the usually feisty Nina Simone to wholeheartedly recommend this tribute collection which certainly lives up to its title.
Being an Ace release, the fulsome notes extend to describe each song and artiste along with colourful photographs and label examples topped by helpful catalogue details and year of release.
This compilation from Ace is, as stated on the back cover, a celebration of the songs of Burt Bacharach and Hal David as sung by some of soul's greatest artists. In all honesty few of the versions here are superior to the better known and definitive versions but considering some of these songs are amongst the most popular ever written, there's still much to enjoy and it's interesting to hear the different arrangements, instrumentation and vocals.
Nina Simone's 'The Look of Love' features (unsurprisingly) faultless vocals and has a mid-tempo jazz arrangement and Gloria Gaynor's uptempo take of 'Walk on By' has a brief spoken word intro and is clearly aimed at the dancefloor. Isaac Hayes' slowed down 'I Just Don't Know What to Do With Myself' is almost unrecognisable from Dusty Springfield's definitive version and Aretha Franklin's sublime 'I Say a Little Prayer' needs no introduction. Brenda & The Tabulations 'Don't Make Me Over' remains faithful to Dionne Warwick's original and Irma Thomas' 'Long After Tonight Is all Over' although not dissimilar, is no match for Jimmy Radcliffe's definitive version. Mavis Staples closes the album with the beautifully sung 'A House Is Not a Home'.
Clocking in at 74:12 minutes and housed in a jewel case with excellent liner notes on all of the songs featured and archive photographs, this is a worthwhile and very enjoyable compilation. All of the tracks are in Stereo except 1, 8, 12, 17, 18 & 23 that are Mono.