The three-CD box set The Look of Love: The Burt Bacharach Collection has virtually all of the best and most significant recordings of songs in which Bacharach was involved as composer. The two-CD The Rare Bacharach 1 (most of it composed by Bacharach and Hal David, though a few of the tunes paired Bacharach with other lyricists) is a good supplement to that box, though not without some minor flaws. To start with the more important positives, the breadth of this set is staggering, with recordings -- largely from the 1960s, and none of them major hits -- by stars including Tommy Sands, Paul Anka, Bobby Vee, Little Peggy March, Johnny Mathis, Perry Como, Bobby Vinton, Connie Francis, Del Shannon, Gene Pitney, the Shirelles, Maxine Brown, the Buckinghams, Herman's Hermits, Freddie & the Dreamers, the Hollies, B.J. Thomas, the 5th Dimension, Tammi Terrell, Engelbert Humperdinck, Andy Williams, Jerry Butler, Frank Ifield, the New Christy Minstrels, and Sylvester. That's just a big portion of the pie: there are also efforts by little-knowns like Noeleen Batley, Julie Rogers, Jimmy Radcliffe, and Australian star Normie Rowe, as well as early-'60s covers from British teen idols Cliff Richard, Adam Faith, and Helen Shapiro.
While much of this is good listening, however, none of it can stand up to the best of Bacharach's work, though a few songs come fairly close, like Pitney's "Fool Killer" (the only song also found on The Look of Love, though the version heard here has strings), Marianne Faithfull's "If I Never Get to Love You," the Exciters' "It's Love That Really Counts," Jimmy Radcliffe's "Long After Tonight Is All Over," the Walker Brothers' "Another Tear Falls," and Jackie DeShannon's "Windows and Doors." There are a few really obscure songs that jump out as worthy of wider recognition, like Etta James' "Waiting for Charlie (To Come Home)," Maxine Brown's "I Cry Alone," Rogers' "The Love of a Boy," and (more surprisingly) Jay & the Americans' vibrant, Latin-tinged "Look in My Eyes, Maria," but not that many. Too, some of these versions are not the originals, which sometimes leaves room for good or unusual little-heard covers (the Walker Brothers' "Another Tear Falls," Faithfull's "If I Never Get to Love You," the Exciters' "It's Love That Really Counts," Mavis Staples' "A House Is Not a Home"), but also sometimes means that you're hearing an interpretation that's clearly inferior to a better-known one (as Rowe's "The Breaking Point" is to Chuck Jackson's, or Dan Johnson's "Mexican Divorce" is to the Drifters'). There's nothing by Bacharach's most renowned interpreter, Dionne Warwick. And a good minority of this is rather unremarkable middle of the road pop without even tenuous links to a pop/rock aesthetic.
To continue the nitpicking, the liner notes are a disappointment, not only offering few specific details about the tracks on the set, but not even listing original release dates or labels (or chart positions, if any). Yes, that's nitpicking, but the very kinds of collectors most likely to pick up a compilation like this are the ones most likely to care about such things. That's not to say this release doesn't offer a lot of pleasure for both the Bacharach scholar and the more general '60s pop/rock fan. With just a little more care, though, it could have been significantly better.