Burt Bacharach’s “Together?” Finally Arrives On CD, Features Jackie DeShannon, Michael McDonald
So went the tagline of director Armenia Balducci’s 1979 film Amo non amo. When the Italian drama starring Jacqueline Bisset, Maximilian Schell and Terence Stamp was slated for U.S. release, though, the decision was made to replace the score by Italian prog/symphonic “horror rock” band Goblin with a new, more accessible soundtrack. Burt Bacharach was tapped, and the Oscar-winning composer went far in lending an American flavor to the film, retitled for the U.S. market as Together? Like the film itself, though, its RCA Victor soundtrack album was seemingly destined for obscurity. But good news has just come from Japan. Together?, featuring vocals from Jackie DeShannon, Michael McDonald and Libby Titus, and songs by Bacharach and Paul Anka, has received its eagerly-awaited, first-ever CD release on December 26, 2012, courtesy of Sony Music Japan.
Bacharach came out swinging as a film composer with his very first Hollywood scoring assignment. He supplied a felicitous and memorable score for 1965’s What’s New Pussycat?, the first of his three consecutive movies with star Peter Sellers. Bacharach and Hal David earned an Academy Award nomination for their playful title song, and followed Pussycat with another animal title: The Fox. “You Caught the Pussycat…Now Chase the Fox!” proclaimed posters for 1966’s After the Fox. For the comedy directed by Vittorio De Sica, Bacharach supplied a swinging score and another fun title track with David. This time the title song was a kooky romp with Sellers in character as the thieving Fox, bolstered by the vocals of The Hollies. Oscar gold didn’t greet After the Fox, but Bacharach and David received a second nomination in 1967 for their title song to Alfie, although the rest of the film wasn’t scored by Bacharach but by Sonny Rollins.
Bacharach, David and Sellers were at it again for 1967’s Casino Royale, which also featured Woody Allen among its all-star cast. (“Small World” Dept.: Allen had starred in Pussycat, and Neil Simon, like Allen an alumnus of Sid Caesar’s writers’ room, had written the screenplay for After the Fox!) The much-troubled Casino Royale yielded a score that was the best part of the picture, and also introduced another Oscar-nominated future standard: “The Look of Love.” Bacharach and David finally made their way to the Academy Awards stage in 1970 when “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head” from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid took home the Best Song statuette; Bacharach also won a solo trophy for his original score.
Following 1973’s disappointing big-screen musical Lost Horizon, though, the Bacharach and David partnership acrimoniously dissolved, and the composer’s profile receded somewhat. He collaborated with lyricists including Neil Simon, Bobby Russell and Norman Gimbel, but his once-prolific pace was a thing of the past. Just one new Bacharach song was recorded in 1974. In 1975 a brief reunion with David resulted in an album for Stephanie Mills; the pairing with Bobby Russell led to two more songs. The composer laid low in 1976 and returned the following year with Futures, an album which introduced a new Bacharach sound: jazzier, funkier. After another hiatus in 1978, he delivered Woman in 1979, a stylistic successor to Futures, with long, extended compositions that could be described as classical-jazz-pop fusion. This was the artistically-revitalized Burt Bacharach who was tapped to return to film scoring for Together?.
Join us after the jump for the rest of the story, won’t you?
The sexually-minded drama Together? a.k.a. Amo Non Amo (I Love You, I Love You Not) might have seemed like an odd project for Bacharach to have chosen as his film comeback. Set in an Italian resort town, the film centered on Louise (Jacqueline Bisset), a recent divorcee coping with her ex-husband, her current lover, her job and her children, not to mention her feelings about sexual liberation. Bacharach turned in an impressive score that has remained criminally unknown since the film’s failure at the box office. Released on RCA Victor, the relatively brief soundtrack to Together? includes four vocal tracks and five instrumental pieces. Bacharach’s primary lyrical foil was Paul Anka, who had actually composed songs in the previous decade with lyricist Hal David! Anka wrote lyrics for “I Don’t Need You Anymore” and “Find Love,” both sung by Jackie DeShannon in a reunion with Bacharach, and “I’ve Got My Mind Made Up,” sung by Michael McDonald. He also contributed lyrics to the mostly-instrumental “I Think I’m Gonna Fall in Love.” Libby Titus, who had collaborated with Bacharach on Woman, co-wrote and performed “In Tune.”
The score is a diverse one if likely too sophisticated for the carnal behavior onscreen. “I Don’t Need You Anymore” reached No. 86 on the Billboard chart in its single release by DeShannon, and this simple, direct statement of love lost made for a fitting and low-key successor to the ravishing Bacharach/DeShannon ballads of the past. It remains one of Bacharach’s most underrated productions, with a truly lovely vocal from DeShannon, still at the top of her game. “Find Love,” also the single’s B-side, was a more urgent plea to “know what to do/If somebody says ‘Let’s get together’ to find love.” Its cinematic strings, complex melodic shifts and big choir set it apart from the radio-ready “I Don’t Need You Anymore.” Libby Titus’ “In Tune” is slinky, breathy and sensual, befitting the adult subject matter of the film.
Michael McDonald’s “I’ve Got My Mind Made Up” is another lost classic. Bacharach revisited the song in 2010 with Italian singer Karima, but McDonald’s expectedly soulful reading is the definitive one. He navigates the song’s varied emotions with the aid of an uncredited female vocalist, anticipating his chart-topping duet with Patti LaBelle on Bacharach’s “On My Own.” Like “Find Love,” “I’ve Got My Mind Made Up” is filled with dramatic tension. Its strong hook and smoky saxophone riff might have scored a success as a single, but McDonald’s contractual obligations with The Doobie Brothers precluded the song from 45 release. Then again, its orchestral splendor might have sat uncomfortably alongside the Doobies’ smooth L.A. pop-rock-soul of the McDonald era. Bacharach’s instrumental compositions are melodic but arranged very much in the vein of his Futures and Woman albums with unusual textures and surprising flourishes. An evocative finale arrangement of “I’ve Got My Mind Made Up” also appears, and on “If We Ever Get Out of Here” and “I Think I’m Gonna Fall in Love,” the composer/arranger utilizes female background vocals to punctuate the swelling choruses.
With a new wife and a new lyricist (both Carole Bayer Sager), Burt Bacharach would soon be on top of both the charts and the Hollywood scene with his score and theme song to 1981’s Arthur. But the original soundtrack to Together? is a bright spot in one of the less-heralded periods of the composer’s long career, and indeed, some of the best that he could do. It’s available now from Sony Music Japan in the Blu-Spec CD format (playable on all CD players), and is housed in an LP-replica paper sleeve. You can likely find it on eBay as well as at the link below, via Amazon.com Marketplace sellers!
Burt Bacharach, Together?: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (Sony Music Japan/RCA Victor EICP-30011, 2012)
- I Don’t Need You Anymore – Jackie DeShannon
- I Think I’m Gonna Fall in Love
- In Tune – Libby Titus
- If We Ever Get Out of Here
- On the Beach
- I’ve Got My Mind Made Up/I Don’t Need You Anymore (Reprise) – Michael McDonald & Jackie DeShannon
- Find Love – Jackie DeShannon
- I’ve Got My Mind Made Up (Instrumental)