||May 29, 2012
- . . . To the music of Hal David (90) and Burt Bacharach (84).
- . . . The songwriting duo received the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song and were serenaded at the White House with performances in the East Room (taped May 9) by Sheryl Crow, Lyle Lovett, Diana Krall, Shelea, Rumer (who are they?), Michael Feinstein, Arturo Sandoval and actor/comedian Mike Myers of “Austin Powers” fame (Bacharach made cameo appearances in all three of the films).
- . . . Poorly picked from the talent pool.
- . . . President Obama honored the songwriting team for “a lifetime of songwriting excellence.”
- . . . Hal David was unable to travel to Washington due to health reasons – his wife Eunice was in attendance - but Bacharach was there in the front row to watch and listen to his music.
- . . . The Obamas sat nearby.
- . . . For a minute I thought Angie Dickinson (former wife of Bacharach and star of “Police Woman”) was sitting beside him but I was mistaken. It was someone else.
- . . . The show was chintzy and not representative of the classic music of Bacharach/David.
- . . . Here’s why:
- . . . Diana Krall performed “The Look of Love.” She’s not a very good singer, has a very average, un-special voice. She seemed half-awake. Her interpretation was awful. How’d she ever get famous?
- . . . Stevie Wonder did a ridiculous reggae version of “Make It Easy on Yourself,” a beautiful, emotional song meant to be a ballad – not the chugging off-beat romp that Wonder sang, with Sandoval adding his trumpet accompaniment.
- . . . And he dragged out the ending. It was interminable. Why grandstand?
- . . . Sheryl Crow and Lyle Lovett did “I’ll Never Fall in Love Again” and it was pretty nice. Crow was particularly good.
- . . . Shelea – where’d she come from? - played piano and sang “Anyone Who Had a Heart” with a little too much drama. Sandoval again was featured. There needed to be more instrumentation.
- . . . The music provided by the band seemed like a cheap production. Bacharach’s style is all about “BIG” – it’s done with a full-sized orchestra – not with what seemed like a small step up from a combo.
- . . . Mike Myers did “What’s New Pussycat” and had female backup vocalists who wore cat ears. Cute, I guess.
- . . . This Rumer (not Bruce Willis’s daughter), a Pakistani-born British singer/songwriter (according to Wikipedia), did “A House Is Not a Home.” The arrangement was very tame and bland – certainly not reflective of a Bacharach composition. (Dionne Warwick’s and Luther Vandross’s versions were tour de forces.)
- . . . At times she was flat – “pitchy,” as American Idol judge Randy Jackson would say.
- . . . Her voice was too light, not strong, showed no variation, lacked subtlety.
- . . . I heard a faint hint of strings in the band but didn’t see anyone playing violins on stage so they were probably synthesized/artificial/pre-recorded. Why? Too cheap to hire a concertmaster? This was network TV (PBS).
- . . . They need more pledge drives.
- . . . Lyle Lovett came back for his rendition of “(There’s) Always Something There to Remind Me.” He strained to make the notes on this one, sounded pained and made faces while he struggled.
- . . . Michelle and Barack swayed a little in the front row.
- . . . Overall the audience looked dead, bored and staid throughout the whole show.
- . . . Crow came back with “Walk on By” and gave the song the emotional interpretation that it deserved.
- . . . Her southern/western twang sounded nice.
- . . . There were background singers who did the “Don’t . . . Stop” refrains but they seemed barely there and were barely heard, another example of the wimpiness of the whole show.
- . . . But the president seemed to enjoy it. He looked like he was half-singing along and shaking his head.
- . . . Michael Feinstein was next. He’s referred to as an authority on “the American Songbook.”
- . . . (They called him “FEIN-STINE” (like EINSTEIN) instead of “FEIN-STEEN,” which most people use. Why didn’t anybody tell the announcer, I wondered.
- . . . He did his softly-singing, wavering-voiced Broadway interpretation of (“They Long to Be) Close to You,” the full, proper title of the song (ask Hal David).
- . . . His was a cross between the Dionne Warwick version and that of The Carpenters.
- . . . IRRITATING. There’s a line in the song that says “. . . That is why all the guys in town . . . follow you all around . . .”
- . . . Feinstein sang “Why all the ‘boys’ follow you . . .” twice. Why that? Why put his stamp on the song? Get Hal David to chew his a_ _ out.
- . . . Stevie came back to do “Alfie” and performed half of it on harmonica. It was terrific.
- . . . The notes he got out of that thing were amazing. It’s one of the many instruments he plays (that’s him playing it on “That’s What Friends Are For”).
- . . . Burt seemed to like it and was nodding along.
- . . . The Obamas liked it too.
- . . . Wonder got a standing ovation.
- . . . (FYI: Back in 1968 Wonder did a sideline, album for Motown under the name “Eivets Rednow,” (his name spelled backwards) which featured him doing “Alfie” on harmonica. It was also a single release.)
- . . . President Obama got up to present the Gershwin prize to Bacharach and David “on behalf of a grateful nation.”
- . . . Bacharach, a multiple award-winner over the years, said that this particular award represented a “’body’ of my work,” and not just one song or composition (like an Academy Award, which he won for “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head” from the “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” movie in 1969.
- . . . Then he went to the piano and in his typically (but a little bit more so this time out) gruff, raspy voice sang “What the World Need Now is Love” and all the singers came on stage to join him.
- . . . THE BIGGEST QUESTION OF ALL: WHERE WAS DIONNE WARWICK, the third member of the famed pop music, hit-making team who sang all the classic, original versions of the songs?
- . . . She was present at the night before’s similar program at the Library of Congress but not at the White House ceremony.
- . . . Rumor was that she couldn’t get in due to clearance problems. Why that? Did she shoot somebody?
- . . . She gets to be on “Celebrity Apprentice” and “American Idol,” for crissakes.
- . . . There was anticipation for her. What’s a show on Bacharach and David without Warwick?
- . . . The whole music special was a big cheat. I thought she’d appear at the end of the show as part of a grand finale but it didn’t happen.
- . . . It was a BIG DISAPPOINTMENT.
- . . . The main interpreter of the “Bacharach/David Songbook” not on the “event of a lifetime” (intentional overstatement used for dramatic effect).
- . . . Phil Ramone, the highly competent big-time record producer (Billy Joel, Paul Simon, Bob Dylan) was credited as producer of the program. I was shocked to learn that he was responsible for such a poorly orchestrated, lackluster gathering.
- . . . Couldn’t he do better than that?
- . . . UH . . . Trains and Boats and Planes – Dionne Warwick, on Scepter Records, 1966.
© Rocci Fisch/Random Thoughts
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