An often forgotten fact: Burt Bacharach material is extremely difficult to sing. Songs such as “Walk on By” and “Do You Know the Way to San Jose” remain so ingrained into our pop music consciousness that their vocal challenges can be easily overlooked. Dionne Warwick, the best-known Bacharach interpreter, handles rapid chord and tempo changes as well as fluctuating vocal range with apparent ease.
Many other artists have attempted Warwick’s finesse, but with limited success. For example, while Elvis Costello’s collaboration with Bacharach, Painted from Memory, holds some treasures, Costello’s frequent strain to hit the high notes reveals the fact that not every voice is suited for the Bacharach catalog.
These thoughts apply to pop singer Steve Tyrell’s new release Back to Bacharach. Tyrell actually has a direct connection with Bacharach; once a movie music supervisor, Tyrell acquired the Bacharach-penned “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head” for Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid. After performing “The Way You Look Tonight” for the 1991 Father of the Bride remake, Tyrell decided to resurrect his previous singing career, recording covers of standards. In addition, he produced Rod Stewart’s Grammy-winning Stardust: The Great American Songbook, Volume III as well as the Linda Rondstadt/James Ingram hit “Somewhere Out There” in 1986. Clearly he has a great love for pop music as well as standards, which eventually led to his latest CD.
Tyrell possesses a pleasant if slight raspy voice, but has limited range. He put this quality to good use in his version of “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head,” which nicely mimics B. J. Thomas’s original raspy vocal. However, tracks like the aforementioned “Walk on By,” “Always Something There to Remind Me,” and “This Guy’s in Love with You” find Tyrell straining to reach the high notes. While he admirably tackles “One Less Bell to Answer,” his version won’t replace Marilyn McCoo’s wistful vocal on the Fifth Dimension hit. Mostly Tyrell sticks close to Bacharach’s original arrangements, although “The Look of Love” uses bass and guitar lines to give it more of a rock feel. This technique requires fewer high notes, allowing for his lower range.