Classics and some curiosities in the history of music.
At This Time is an album by American pianist, composer and music producer Burt Bacharach, released in 2005 through Columbia. Guests that appear on the album include Elvis Costello and Rufus Wainwright. In 2006, the album won Bacharach the Grammy Award for Best Pop Instrumental Album.
There was a song I remember Said What the world Needs nowWhere is the love Where did it go Who broke our hearts 'Cause we need to know Where are the dreams That we once knew? Please explain Please explainWhere is the love Where did it go Who broke our hearts 'Cause we need to know Where are the dreams That we once knew? Please explain Please explainThe sun and the moon are crying The stars and our hearts crying Please explain The fathers and mothers are crying Sisters and brothers crying Please explain Please explainThe sun and the moon are crying The stars and our hearts are crying
The veteran songwriter addresses an unjustified war, a treacherous administration, and society's ingrained potential for violence-- with help from Dr. Dre.After nearly six decades in the music business, At This Time is the first album Burt Bacharach has written lyrics for, without the guiding collaborative input of, say, Hal David or Elvis Costello. Normally, Bacharach's the go-to guy for melodies and arrangements: Ever since his days in the famed Brill Building-- where pop music was a suit-and-tie profession-- he's been known for composing supple and sophisticated music that elevates familiar sentiments. Over the years he developed a sheen of affectionate kitsch that has nevertheless made him an unironic hero to younger generations. So, with Bacharach writing the songs, theoretically At This Time should be a major statement, especially given its inspiration: Worried over the state of the nation, Bacharach addresses an unjustified war, a treacherous administration, and society's ingrained potential for violence, trying to sound hopeful despite his worst fears.But real insight is scarce on At This Time, as are lyrics of any kind. To be touted as his first lyrical effort, this is nearly an instrumental album, with full emphasis on lite-jazz orchestration and poignant arrangements. Over largely anonymous loops and beats from Dr. Dre and Prinz Board, Bacharach crafts miniature soundtracks like "Dreams" and "In Our Time", with flourishes of trumpet (courtesy of Chris Botti), bland saxophone, and garishly canned strings. The mood is inquisitive and subdued, but there's no variation across these 11 tracks. A little righteous anger might have added a little spark more than a few of these songs. "Who Are These People?" brings in dramatic horns, pounding tympani, and a howling Elvis Costello, but the result is closer to show tune than protest song.
Bacharach's arrangements dominate At This Time so heavily that when the vocals come in, you listen all the more closely-- which is not such a great idea. Bacharach's lyrics rely on flimsy bromides and rhetorical questions, which range from startlingly direct ("Who Are These People?") to head-scratchingly vague: "The sun and the moon are crying/ The stars and our hearts, crying," Bacharach sings on "Please Explain", which really does demand some sort of explanation. Bacharach seems a little flummoxed by his subject matter. He's angry at the state of the world, but only in the most general terms, which means that At This Time could be adopted by liberals angry at Bush or conservatives angry at wartime dissenters. I'll give Bacharach the benefit of the doubt, though: his overgenerality never feels commercially calculated to move more units to a broader audience.On "Where Did It Go?" he claims he's worried about riding the New York subways, and remembers when he was a kid, he could ride the subways "and never, ever be afraid." This seems like a relatively small problem these days, one more suitable to the 1970s. Bacharach's much more convincing talking about his children and wondering what their futures will hold; the concrete specificity (he even tells us their ages) of this act of paternal protectiveness contains the album's heart, and it's the only time Bacharach sounds directly engaged. It's affecting, albeit only briefly so.Aside from "Where Did It Go?", Bacharach provides vocals on only a few songs. His voice proves surprisingly calming-- a little quieter and quivery with the years, but still smooth, strong, and sober. Unfortunately, he relinquishes the bulk of the vocal duties to what he calls a "Greek chorus" of backing singers. Sounding overly professional, they lack the personality to put these songs and their intended messages across. Only Rufus Wainwright, who sings "Go Ask Shakespeare", invests his part with any energy, in the process redeeming the saccharine lyrics.Overall, At This Time sounds strangely disconnected from our time. It has the straitlaced edge of Bacharach's 60s material, but without any of the charm. Instead, the album feels like it comes from someone at arm's length from the world, for whom celebrity has made the world's real problems merely abstract. At This Time sounds more inspired by upsetting headlines and sensational news reports than real experience. There may be real anger, disappointment, and frustration behind these songs, but you'd be hard-pressed to hear it.