My heartfelt thanks to Rumer for allowing me to review her new album before release, and sincere gratitude to Larry Ciancia from Ciancia Management for the Press Release and Biography, used here with kind permission.
The album opens with ‘The Look of Love‘. God, I can almost hear Dusty. I say ‘almost’ because although Rumer has been likened to Dusty Springfield and Karen Carpenter, it’s not her intention to emulate these wonderful (sadly departed) artistes, rather to draw some influences from their work. The piano, strings and gin-clear vocal help me drift away as I close my eyes (a good job I can type without looking at the keyboard). Love the nylon guitar, too, played by Grecco Buratto. Written by Burt Bacharach, the song was originally intended as an instrumental. Dusty’s original appeared in the 1967 Bond spoof ‘Casino Royale‘. 41 years later, the song was induced into the Grammy Hall of Fame. Phil Ramone was the engineer for the soundtrack.
‘One Less Bell to Answer‘ was written for Keely Smith, again in 1967. It was later covered by Rosemary Clooney and Barbra Streisand. It also appeared in an episode of Glee and was covered by Steps, but we’ll quickly gloss over that …
I will admit I’m not familiar with some of the songs on this album, but even after a couple of listens, I know the record is going to become a firm favourite of mine. ‘One Less Bell..’ has the air of a show-closer. I can see a massive audience, heads swaying, eyes closed, smiling. This is a beautiful song, and running at 3m19s, ends far too quickly! More beautiful piano and strings, and that voice … a pure delight.
Dione Warwick was the lucky recipient of Bacharach and David’s next tune, ‘Are You There (With Another Girl)’. Serene Domenic praised the original in the book ‘Burt Bacharach Song by Song’ as having “droning strings”, “strange fret-sliding guitar” and “orchestral crescendos”. None of those things appear on this 2016 version! Both guitar and string orchestration are beautiful. There is an element of hope in Rumer’s vocal, despite the song being about doubt and confusion in a relationship; “I hear the music coming out of your radio / are you there with another girl instead of me / I hear your laughter and there’s something I’ve got to know / are you there with another girl instead of me?” I like this one a lot. A lot.
‘(They Long to Be) Close to You’ was most memorably sung by Karen Carpenter but was recorded by Richard Chamberlain in 1963 and later Dione Warwick, but The Carpenters version in 1970 is the one that sticks in mind. This new Rumer version, however, recreates that 1970 sound impeccably. Rumer’s vocal cuts above the instrumental and – honestly – makes the hair on my face and neck stand up and listen. Extraordinary. Music does have the ability to move me – not physically or rhythmically, of course (if you saw me you’d understand that I’m not built for physical exertion and sporadic movement or rhythm) – but something deep down inside pokes me with a stick and whispers in my ear, telling me to really listen to what she’s saying and understand it. I’m driven to tears by this, with the deep-down lows of personal disasters and the dizzying highs of my recent life experiences. I smile to myself when I remember The Carpenters version playing during an episode of The Simpsons, during the retelling of the story of when Homer first caught sight of Marge. The rest, as they say, is history. Interesting to note that Rumer and Rob are the only two artists who appear on this track! Rob takes care of the bass, nylon guitar and textures himself.
‘You’ll Never Get To Heaven (If You Break My Heart)’ was another song written for Dione Warwick in 1964. The Stylistics covered it in 1973 and reached Number 23 in the US. Warwick’s b-side, ‘A House is Not a Home’ (more later) also charted in America and Canada. Another song of beautiful piano, strings and vocal, interspersed with a flugelhorn, harp and trumpet.
‘Land of Make Believe’ is, thankfully, not the Bucks Fizz version, rather the version recorded by Warwick, Springfield and many more. Officially titled ‘(In The) Land of Make Believe’, this is another sadly overlooked Bacharach / David classic. A gentle, swinging bossanova groove, the lyrics capture longing, fantasy and a hint of hope. The song was one of the highlights on the ‘Dusty in Memphis’ masterpiece album.
‘A House is Not a Home’ was recorded by Dione Warwick in 1964 for the film of the same name. Later recorded by Dusty, Stevie Wonder, Luther Vandross, Streisand and even Bacharach himself, for his ’65 debut ‘Hit Maker!‘ Another lip-trembler, this. Rising hope from apparent despondency. More beautiful rising strings, some subtle harp and a semi-crescendo in the final third before a quieter piano/string ending.
‘The Last One to Be Loved’ appeared on the ‘Make Way For Dione Warwick’ album in 1964. There appears to be a whole lot more going on in this track – different guitar work, delightful electric piano but the same exquisite vocal, with both Rob and Rumer providing the backing vocal.
Might be worth, at this point, to recognise the artists who appear on this album. Firstly, the album was mixed, arranged and conducted by Rob Shirakbari who, for the uninitiated, is Rumer’s husband! The engineer was Robbie Nelson and assisted by Matt Barnes at RAK Studios, London. Mastering was by Tony Cousins at Metropolis Mastering in London. Engineer was by Rob Shirakbari with Brian O’Shaughnessy and Lynne Earls. Recordings were made at Capitol Studios, Earls Music Production, Apogee Studios, Bark Studio (Alfie would have enjoyed that one), The Dairy Ltd., The Firehouse Recording Studios and The Firepit Recording Studios. Art Direction was by Rumer and Stuart Crouch Creative. Photography by Lisa Candela.
The String Quartet on Tracks 1 & 6:
Concertmaster, 1st Violin: Eric Gorfain
2nd Violin: Daphne Chen
Viola: Leah Katz
Cello: Richard Dodd
String Octet (Capitol Studios) on Tracks 4, 5, 7, 8, 9 & 11:
Concertmaster, 1st Violin: Eric Gorfain
1st Violin: Marisa Kuney
2nd Violin: Daphne Chen
2nd Violin: Amy Wickham
Viola: Leah Katz
Viola: Caroline Buckman
Cello: Richard Dodd
Cello: John Krovoza
22-Piece String Section (Capitol Studios) on Tracks 2, 3 & 12:
Violin: Charlie Bisharat – Concertmaster
Mark Cargill, Susan Chatman, Mario DeLeon, Joel Derouin,
Marisa Kuney, Songa Lee, Natalie Leggett, Sara Parkins,
Michele Richards, Kathleen Robertson, Jenny Takamatsu,
Josefina Vergars, Shalini Vijayan
Viola: Darrin McCann – Principal
Carrie Holzman-Little, Cameron Patrick, Robin Ross
Cello: Timothy Loo – Prinicipal
Giovanna Clayton, Vanessa Freebaim-Smith, Charlie Tyler
Hey, we’re straying from our sheep here (as they say in France). ‘This Girl’s In Love With You’ opens with a Bacharach piano and vocal section which is a pure joy. Herb Alpert recorded this song in 1968, and although more recognised as a trumpet player, he sang vocal for this original Bacharach arrangement. It conspires that Herb approached Burt one day and asked if he “had anything laying around that he didn’t want to use”. Burt found one and gave it to him, saying “this one might do”. The recording reached Number 1 in the US in June 1968!
‘What The World Needs Now is Love’ ends the album with some great orchestration from Rob, with Rumer providing both main and backing vocal. Released originally by Jackie DeShannon in 1965. Dione Warwick turned the song down initially, but recorded it for a later album. Everybody from Cilla Black to Rick Astley have recorded the song, with notable others including Johnny Mathis, Aimee Mann, Judy Garland and even a recording of the song by Des O’Connor appeared in an episode of The Good Life. Burt appeared towards the end of Austin Powers in Goldmember singing the song himself.
One of my favourite pop artists, Pet Shop Boys, have written some classics songs for artists like Dusty, Liza Minnelli and Dame Shirley Bassey. If they’re looking for another classic collaborator to work with in future, they should look no further than Rumer. If they’re looking for a unique sound, I believe there is no better at this time.
‘This Girl’s In Love’ is a joy, pure and simple. Exquisite vocals, production, orchestration – the whole shooting match soothes and excites, fills your with hope and breaks your heart. I can guarantee I won’t hear a better album until Rumer writes another.
- The Look of Love
- Balance of Nature*
- One Less Bell to Answer
- Are You There (With Another Girl)
- (They Long To Be) Close To You
- You’ll Never Get To Heaven (If You Break My Heart)
- Land of Make Believe
- A House is Not a Home
- Walk On By*
- The Last One to Be Loved
- This Girl’s In Love
- What The World Needs Now Is Love
This Girl’s in Love: a Bacharach and David Songbook – released 25 November 2016. See links below where you can pre-order various formats.
“Rumer has given these songs new life. The lady has a golden voice”.
“Rumer was born to sing these songs”.
“There’s something not just about her voice, but her very being that makes her the perfect vehicle for smooth standards”.
“Impeccable melodies and dreamy singing”.
“Listening to her brings a realisation that there aren’t many voices around like hers at the moment”.
LOUDER THAN WAR
“The whole thing is exquisite. Pour yourself a glass of wine, press play and swoon”.
Platinum-selling British singer-songwriter Rumer has announced the release of her new and fourth album This Girl’s In Love: A Bacharach And David Songbook through East West / Warner Music on November 25. The album features some of Burt Bacharach and Hal David’s most memorable co-compositions and sees Rumer bring her extensive experience and singular talent to bear on her most enticing undertaking to date. Recorded at the renowned Capitol Studios with accomplished arranger, composer and orchestrator, Rob Shirakbari – This Girl’s In Love includes an appearance by Bacharach himself on piano. Rumer’s final show of 2016 (following a sold-out London Cadogan Hall last month) will be an album launch date at The Church, Leeds on 25 November 2016. All profits will go to For Life On Earth (www.forlifeonearth.org)
“I couldn’t have made this album five years ago,” admits Rumer; “I think I’ve now got a wide enough emotional palette to draw on for these songs’ characters and stories. That kind of insight only comes as you get older”. Fittingly though, Rumer’s links to Burt Bacharach have been a longstanding constant throughout her recording career. In 2010 (the year her multi-platinum selling debut Seasons Of My Soul was released) Burt invited Rumer to his California home just to hear her sing. That same year saw the release of a special single, Rumer Sings Bacharach at Christmas, featuring ‘Some Lovers’ from the new Bacharach & Sater musical, Gift of the Magi. Another highlight saw Rumer sing for Barack Obama: in 2012 she performed at the White House singing ‘A House Is Not A Home’, as part of a tribute concert honouring the songwriting partnership.
What’s most fitting to This Girl’s In Love is the personal relationship between Rumer and Shirakbari. The pair married in 2015 in Shirakbari’s native Arkansas after first meeting at a Dionne Warwick gala at the Royal Albert Hall where Rumer was to sing a duet of Bacharach & David’s ‘Hasbrook Heights.’ With Shirakbari having worked for 25 years with Bacharach and 30 years with Dionne Warwick—serving as musical director to them both—this could even be deemed ‘a Bacharach romance’. It was a natural project for the newly married couple to create together, with both having great respect and reverence for the song catalogue.
And now, Rumer’s love of Bacharach & David has been captured on a lovingly assembled long-player. Some of the songs on This Girl’s In Love are as familiar as any from the 20th century. Which is why Rumer and Shirakbari decided, in many cases, to remake/remodel them, affording these standards a melancholia that gets right to the emotive core of Bacharach’s melodies and David’s lyrics. Where before ‘(They Long to Be) Close to You’ might have been slightly wistful, here there is a sense that the lyric’s longing is unlikely to be consummated. ‘The Look of Love’ is more sepulchral, with just a taste of the bossa nova tendencies of the ‘60s versions. ‘You’ll Never Get To Heaven’ has all the sophistication of Dionne Warwick’s take, but with a new attention to the cautionary narrative of the lyrics. And Rumer has dug deeper into the catalogue to find the hidden treasure ‘Balance of Nature’ and made it her own.
“In some cases I said, ‘Forget all the other versions – what is the song about?’” Rumer continues, citing as an example ‘What the World Needs Now,’ a 1965 hit for Jackie DeShannon, which Rumer has here invested with a stunning devotional quality. “When I looked at the words, I realised that it was a prayer moment. It’s a song about someone asking God to bring peace to the world.”
She attests that the project is as much a homage to Hal David as it is to Bacharach: his words, capturing emotional crises with consummate simplicity, are key to the duo’s timeless compositions and to Rumer and Shirakbari’s new take on them. “I love Hal,” she says brightly. “You can feel his personality through his lyrics, his opinions and thoughts on the world… there’s so much of his own heart in these songs.”
Elsewhere across This Girl’s In Love, Rumer elects in places for straighter interpretations: ‘Walk On By’ feels familiar to those who grew up on Warwick’s version, but with closer ties to the Brazilian influences implied in much of Bacharach’s music, whilst the title track features Bacharach himself on piano. “An honour” Rumer says. “That track is quite true to the original… I felt it would be a little churlish to mess around with it too much. There’s a reason people like these songs and the original arrangements.”
The version of “A House Is Not a Home” is “not too dissimilar” to the Gershwin Prize iteration Rumer performed at the White House, while “The Last One to Be Loved” was included at Bacharach’s own personal request, as was ‘Land of Make Believe.’
Interpreting a back catalogue already known the world over through versions sung by such accomplished vocalists as Gene Pitney, Cilla Black, Karen Carpenter, Dusty Springfield, Shirley Bassey and, of course, Dionne Warwick was bound to be intimidating, to say the least. However, matched step for step by Shirakbari’s intuitive arrangements and focused orchestrations, Rumer has risen to the occasion magnificently. “There’s a timelessness to these songs,” she observes. “They will last forever.” This Girl’s In Love finds Rumer in possession of a record that rightfully deserves to be cherished alongside its namesake.
Burt Bacharach wrote, “When you are gifted by an artist doing an album of your music you accept that as a compliment but then you get to hear it and it’s so damn good. The Lady has a golden voice and the vocals are clean and clear with great sincerity and Hal David’s lyrics shine through. There are some songs I’ve almost forgotten about and Rumer has given them new life. I thank you for this gift Rumer, it’s special“.
* Balance of Nature and Walk on By were not available to me at time of writing.