Cross-Over Is A Two-Way Street


By Barry Bassis

Last year, the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra performed a concert of Beatles songs. Now the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra has returned the compliment with an album of songs by Burt Bacharach, “What the World Needs Now …” Although none of these interpretations overshadows the recordings of Dionne Warwick, Aretha Franklin or Dusty Springfield, the album is quite pleasant and has the merit of collecting all these songs on one CD. Bacharach’s genius is creating sophisticated pop songs that never fail to sound fresh, like “I Say a Little Prayer” and “Walk on By.” He made his reputation collaborating with lyricist Hal David, who was never pretentious and could be witty. On the other hand, they could both be sappy (as on “Close to You” or “Magic Moments”) The vocalists are Graham Bickley, Mary Carewe, Alison Jiear and Sarah Lark. Arranger-conductor Richard Balcombe recognized that he couldn’t improve Bacharach’s original flourishes, such as the guiro (a Latin-American percussion instrument) on “The Look of Love” or the saxophone solo on “Arthur’s Theme” but the lush orchestration adds to the romance without inhibiting the rhythmic drive. Jihear’s “Don’t Make Me Over” and “There’s Always Something There to Remind Me” are suitably intense—she is the most soulful of the singers—and “The Look of Love” is ethereal. Bickley’s voice is well suited to “Promises Promises” and “Wives and Lovers” — he sounds a bit like Jack Jones -- but is too light for “Twenty-Four Hours to Tulsa.” Sarah Lark’s buoyant rendition of “San Jose” made me appreciate the clever lyrics more than before and Carewe is charming on “I’ll Never Fall in Love Again.”