Growing Bold Gracefully

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After working together on music for a movie sound track, Elvis Costello and Burt Bacharach decided to make a go of it on a real record. It was one of many courageous moves for Costello who has experimented with different genres in the past few years -- and cost himself some visibility in the process. For Bacharach, neither collaborations nor visibility have ever been a problem. But there is nothing here that points to Costello reaching for a mere career boost. On Painted From Memory, he has gone in search of the lost pop ballad -- you know, the innocent ideal that slow-dances in the purity of its accompanying melodies. The rich arrangements say what they mean as Costello sings with them under a spotlight. "I Still Have That Other Girl," "Tears at the Birthday Party" and "The Sweetest Punch" all pack the appeal of a forgotten -- but not obliterated -- normalcy. Finally, that normalcy isn't imitated, mocked or retro-ized. Costello and Bacharach have fleshed it out. And now it belongs -- again -- to us.

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