The latest songwriter to feature in Ace’s wonderful Songwriter Series is arguably one of THE most important popular tunesmiths of the modern era – Burt Bacharach. The generous 26 tracker focuses on his career between 1952 and 1969 and although only a handful of the selections could be labelled “classic soul”, the album is unmissable for anyone who cares about the evolution of popular music and strives to understand how soul fits into that evolutionary cycle. The album opens with a cut that will help to do just that – Lou Johnson’s ‘Always Something There To Remind Me’. The song, of course, was a UK hit for Sandie Shaw but here you can hear it how it was meant to sound – complete with that delicious run-out vamp. Other soul-specific cuts include Dean Barlow’s 1962 zippy ‘Third Window From The Right’, Adam Wade’s uptown ballad ‘Rain From The Skies’, Dee Clark’s dramatic ‘You’re Telling Our Secrets’ and Dionne Warwick’s ‘Dream Sweet Dreamer’… and speaking of Mr B’s main muse, Ms Warwick is featured vocalist on the rare ‘Move It On The Backbeat’, credited to Burt and the Backbeats. Alongside all this vintage soul, there’s plenty of delicious 60s pop from people like Gene Pitney, Bobby Vee, Doris Day, Frankie Avalon and even leather-clad rock ‘n’ roller Gene Vincent. As a counterpoint the set finishes with what is believed to be Burt’s first recorded composition – the instrumental ‘Once In A Blue Moon’ from the Nat King Cole Trio… a rarity amongst many – and that’s what makes this collection so damn fine. There are many Burt Bacharach compilations out there – but most include the familiar and the famous. Here compilers Mick Patrick and Tony Rounce have gone for the rarer, more obscure items – many of them on CD (legally at least) for the first time. But rare or otherwise, they again show that for consistent mastery of the craft of song writing few can rival Burt Bacharach.