Elvis Costello

Painted From Memory

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By Holly Crenshaw  

At first, it seems like a forced pairing. Here is Burt Bacharach, the tuxedo-wearing pinnacle of cool, poised next to the ever-geeky Elvis Costello. But in case we need a reminder that appearances don't matter, that message comes through loud and clear on Painted From Memory: The New Songs of Bacharach and Costello.

But set aside their superficial differences and it's obvious how much sense this musical partnership makes. Among contemporary artists, only Costello's soaring melodicism could come close to matching Bacharach's best work from the '60s and '70s, when his inventively sophisticated tunes ruled the charts. Here, their newly co-written songs evoke all the restrained passion of that earlier era. "I Still Have That Other Girl" bears an uncanny resemblance to classic Bacharach / Hal David material, while "This House Is Empty" could be a lyrical descendent of "A House Is Not A Home."

But it's the final track, "God Give Me Strength," that supplies the most breathtaking moment -- a tour de force of brilliant pop songwriting and gut-wrenching singing. If this song doesn't make your heart pound, you might not have a pulse.

Holly Crenshaw, a long-time staff writer for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, writes frequently about music and the arts.