The Contante & Sonante label may release a very low number of albums, but the quality is always there. This time BURT BACHARACH and TONIO K delivers demo recordings that have been freshened up for this 2017 CD release. It's quite astonishing to see the name Burt Bacharach on a newly released CD of 2017 - he's about to turn 89 soon!
This is a 14 track collection of songs in more or less soft westcoast style, some of which have been picked up by quite big artists and thus released earlier (we'll get back to that). If you are familiar with the previous releases on this label, you know the type of demo recordings that they aim for. Releases by STEVE DORFF and TOM SNOW prove that you can use pretty basic rhythm tracks and add some vocals and get away with it, as long as it is good stuff of course.
Stylewise this is also close to what the aforementioned artists have sounded like. Already in the opening tune "If I should lose you" it is easy to find similarities to the BOBBY CALDWELL albums of the 90's. On this song, and many others, it is BILLY VALENTINE (of THE VALENTINE BROTHERS) singing, and he's got a perfect voice. Soft but not thin and still with some edge. The song, by the way, was on the CHICAGO "XXVI Live". Furthermore, all westcoast fans will love the westcoast ballad "Never take that chance again" with the sadly lost WARREN WIEBE singing. Of course same goes for BILL CHAMPLIN's efforts in "Count on me" (this one is one of two tracks that were released on the RONALD ISLEY meets BURT BACHARACH album "Here I am" (2003, DreamWorks). Bill is warmly welcome here, since his slightly scarred but great voice is a cool addition to all the softness that you find on this abum. And his harmony vocals… phew! “Do you” is interesting; a good pop tinged westcoast/soul song with BRITTNEY BERTIER singing. Brittney is an actress and vocalist, sounding quite a lot like OLIVIA NEWTON-JOHN.
The final six songs (or so) of the CD is also westcoast pop oriented, though with a few songs that mix other influences a bit. It includes, for example, the soft and slightly power pop:ish "What love can do" (JOHN PAGANO singing), where there's also a BEACH BOYS vibe. However, there's more “tempo” in this song which is needed. “Go ask Shakespeare” has a suggestive & lightly jazzy long intro (the song features JOHN ROBINSON on drums, PAULINHO DA COSTA on percussion and more. However, RUFUS WAINWRIGHT’s lead vocal is too demo:ish even for my taste. It needs to be added that the song was a collaboration with DR DRE (!) who also added drum and bass loops. The finishing song "Someday" is truly soft, and can be said to be a mix of westcoast pop and musicals. The latter underlines one of few downsides on the demo releases; all we westcoast fans love the smoothness, sure, but we also want some variation in tempo and arrangements. That’s what’s missing here. On the other hand, demos songs like these often bring out the very core and heart of each song, where a full-scale production sometimes take away the essense. And when the occasional electric guitar is added, it
makes such a difference (I want more of this!).
At a whole, this is - to be exact - a three-and-a-half in grading. A good album, no doubt. I always loook forward to new releases from Contante & Sonante. There should be dozens and dozens of demos recordings in the basements of many westcoast heroes… waiting to be dug up.