BURT BACHARACH died in February, aged 94. Given the working of the music business it’s surprising to see  that, as yet, there haven’t been too many compilations/retrospectives  of the great man’s work to (for want of a better phase) “cash in” on the sad news. Maybe the label execs think there are already too many out there already. And in truth, they’re right. Pop into your local record shop (what a good idea!) or go on line to look for Burt Bacharach compilations – of his own work and various artist collections showcasing his songs – and you’ll find dozens. Most proffer the obvious tunes  – the big hits and the iconic songs , so how refreshing to come across a new BB retrospective that is quite different!

Cherry Red imprint, ÉL RECORDS have just released  a wonderful 4 CD collection that  offers a different perspective on the great man’s work. It’s ‘BURT BACHARACH; DREAM BIG – THE FIRST DECADE OF SONGS’ .

From that  title, it’s obvious that  the set focuses on Bacharach’s early years in the business – when he was searching for his signature sound and working with various partners. Importantly, though, the album suggests music and artists that were key influences on Bacharach as he searched for that “signature” sound.

The first CD in the box covers the period 1952 – 1959 when a young Burt was a jobbing song writer looking for a break in the famed Brill Building. He found that break with the hits ‘The Story Of My Life’ (Marty Robbins) and  ‘Magic Moments’ (Perry Como) and they’re obviously included along with lots and lots of lesser known songs/tunes – some which a maturing Bacharach preferred to forget – like ‘The Blob’ (the theme to an early Steve McQueen movie).

CD 2 looks at 1959-1961 and offers plenty of classic Brill Building sounds and embryonic soul – things like The Drifters’ ‘Please Stay’ and Chuck Jackson’s ‘I Wake Up Cryng’. That trajectory continues with CD 3 – 30 tracks from 1962 that include plenty of Brill Building favourites and soul standards like Jerry Butler’s ’Make It Easy On Yourself’, The Shirelles’ ‘It’s Love That Really Counts’ and Chuck Jackson’s ‘Any Day Now’. It’s also the CD on which we’re introduced to the writer’s chief muse, Dionne Warwick. (pictured together)

The fourth CD in the box set is maybe the most intriguing for musicologists. It offers 21 tracks that are meant to show the kind of music and the artists that influenced and inspired the young Bacharach – remember, he was classically trained and a big jazz fan. So this fourth CD delivers music from artists and composers as diverse as Mel Tormé, Charlie Parker, Leonard Bernstein, Debussy, Ravel and Count Basie! We learn that French Impressionist composers, Brazilian folk music, Bebop and modernist jazz were the sounds that drove and inspired young Burt and listening here to, say, the beautiful ‘Reflets Dans L’eau’ (Debussy) you can hear where things like ‘Alfie’ were born.

‘BURT BACHARACH; DREAM BIG – THE FIRST DECADE OF SONGS’  is out now via ÉL RECORDS and it delivers a wonderful insight to a true genius – a genius who revolutionised popular songwriting by employing a previously unimagined technical sophistication to pop and soul!