Michael Ball

Back to Bacharach

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When an artist has a loyal and never fading fan base, has been a star of the stage in London's West End, has recorded several albums of theater-related music, and has even entered the Eurovision Song Contest -- and if everything the artist touches has been a hit -- he could record almost anything he chooses. When that artist is Michael Ball, he chose to release an album of standards written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David titled Back to Bacharach for the Christmas season of 2007, an ideal choice for someone of Ball's easy laid-back style, the modern-day answer to Andy Williams or Perry Como, even if he didn't set out to become that. Virtually all the songs on Back to Bacharach were so well-known that it would be difficult not to compare them to the originals; the only difficulty would be knowing exactly which artist did record the original, since all of them had been so well-covered both by famous and not quite so famous singers. There was nothing to stretch the imagination here, versions of "The Look of Love," "Alfie," "(They Long to Be) Close to You," and "This Guy's in Love with You," all performed in the blandest of vocal styles, perfectly in tune, very pleasant, no chance of alienating any existing fan, but even less chance of acquiring any new ones. The problem with the album lay with the presentation of the songs in such a laid-back style; even when he attempted to inject some dramatic sounds, such as on "Anyone Who Had a Heart," it was nowhere near as exciting as the Cilla Black version over 40 years previously. In former versions, "Make It Easy on Yourself" and "Arthur's Theme" were both satisfying songs and full of richness, but Ball stripped them of all emotions and left them as little more than album filler (which of course they were), but no more so than the lesser-known songs on the album, "This House Is Empty Now" and "Reach Out for Me," the former sounding like a workaday musical song and the latter another attempt at Eurovision. Michael Ball can and has done better than this.

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