I love easy listening. It’s just so damn — what’s the word? Oh yes, say it with me — easy. Sometimes almost too easy, but not quite. Following an incredibly thought-provoking lecture, I like to unwind with a cup of warm, soothing chamomile, kick my slippered feet up, and kick back with the smooth sounds of the master himself, Burt Bacharach. You can only imagine the faraway look on my face when I was handed a copy of his latest collaboration with none other than Ron Isley, the silky voice behind the seminal Isley Brothers. Rolling Stone Magazine’s legendary David Wild recommended it highly on his quote pasted to the plastic sheath of the case. Let me tell you — it was too much for this music lover.
I was overwhelmed. Throughout countless listens in the past to classic Bacharach compositions like “A House is Not a Home” and “Windows of the World,” I had often wondered to what extent Isley’s angelic vocals could transform these flawless exercises in songwriting. Upon finding this new album, I decided to jump right in with “Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head” — quite possibly the greatest song ever written. Five seconds in, I could not wait any longer and pressed fast forward until Isley’s voice came in. I was immediately blown completely away. Who knew such pain, such heartbreak, and such pathos could be wrenched from such an exceptionally sweet voice? Isley dives, climbs, dips again and swoons with such impressive dexterity that I simply could not take it anymore. I did not dare press on because I knew then that if I forged ahead I could only be sorely disappointed.
So I stared at the cover, frightened and alone. “How to combat this dangerously high level of pleasure?” I thought. Then the most amazing thing happened. I noticed that in front of the satisfied smiles on the confident faces of Bacharach and Isley lay a chessboard. So I pulled out my antique board, bequeathed to me by my late great-grandfather, and — striking my most Bacharachian pose — decided to try my luck yet again at Famen’s Cross. With folded hand firmly on chin, I began. Thirty seconds later, I quit. I suck at chess. Why do knights move in an L? Can somebody please explain that to me in plain English? It just does not make any sense. Honestly, an L? So frazzled and stressed out was I that only one thing, and one thing only, could bring me back to my comfort zone. Mm-hmm — that’s right — “Isley Meets Bacharach,” round two.
“The Look of Love,” quite possibly the second greatest song ever written, began and, yet again, my heart just couldn’t take it. Such longing, such LOVE! Under Bacharach’s hand these songs positively melt my heart until I have to reach for my medication to restore my pulse. Seriously, I’m not fit enough to finish this album. I need to jog more, I think. The power and emotion packed inside can topple an African elephant. At this point in my life, however, I am no African elephant. Hindered once more by my weak heart, my hand was compelled to stop this masterwork yet again.
Like God’s voice, “Isley Meets Bacharach” was not made for mere mortals like me. If I had challenged this, I guarantee you I’d be writing these words while lying in a hospital bed. Therefore I can only assume that this album is one of the greats. My imagination alone must be burdened with the task of understanding its magic. So now all I can do is sip my tea and wonder what may have been.