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Soundbite

Our critics' picks in new releases

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This ambitious, big-budgeted tome reprises the unforgettable songbook of composer Burt Bacharach and lyricist Hal David--and it's absolutely gorgeous. Key to the project's success is Bacharach himself, who produced and penned the expansive arrangements.

Despite the ever-present rush of 101 strings, it's Isley's sentimental crooning that wins the day. Listeners will recognize his trademark yelps and yowls from the Isley Brothers' soul discography, but the cushy context of choirs and cellos is uncharted territory for Ronald. Soaring like a determined kite, Isley's heaven-bound falsetto defies the pull of gravity. And he improvises with abandon, taking Bacharach's memorable melodies to rarefied places they've never been. The ghost of the late Sam Cook is everywhere, a testament to the elegant weave of Isley's velvety R&B.

Move over Dionne Warwick and Dusty Springfield, whose interpretations of the Bacharach-David songbook defy time. If not definitive, Isley's "The Look of Love" comes close.

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