The Look Of Love, The Sound Of Sominex

by Kevin Burton

  All love to the singer and to the composers, maybe not so much to this particular song. 

   The late, great purveyor of blue-eyed soul Dusty Springfield took the Burt Bacharach-Hal David song “The Look of Love” to number 22 on the American chart in 1967.  That gets the song a mention in our 2022 series on Page 7.

   The song was never released in the UK.

   I loved Springfield’s music long before I learned about the stance she took on race relations while on a tour in apartheid South Africa. She demanded that her audiences be de-segregated and eventually was thrown out of the country.  I told that story in November (“Blue-Eyed Soul Shook Up South Africa,” Nov. 14, 2021).

   Pianist Bacharach and lyricist David had a string of huge hits in the 60s, with Dionne Warwick and others.  The team created a distinctive sound that you can’t mistake when you hear one of their tunes.

   Bacharach wrote The Look Of Love for the movie Casino Royale, a spoof of the James Bond movies.  To me it kind of works more as a spoof than a straight torch song. 

   “I had Dusty sing that very sexy,” Bacharach told Record Collector Magazine. “The song is notable for its sensuality and its relaxed bossa nova rhythm,” Wikipedia writes.

   “The film version received an Oscar nomination for songwriters Bacharach and David.  Springfield re-recorded the song the same year for Philips Records with an arrangement about half a minute shorter than the soundtrack version. Both Springfield versions feature a breathy tenor saxophone solo similar in style to Stan Getz’s playing on his early-1960s bossa nova hit recordings like ‘The Girl from Ipanema and ‘Corcovado (Quiet Nights of Quiet Stars)’ the Wikipedia entry reads.

   To me it’s more sleepy than anything.  If this had been the first song I had heard from Springfield, I’m not sure I would have clamored for more. 

   To be fair, it was created to be background music to a steamy scene in a movie, and it worked in that context. 

   “When I’m scoring a picture, whether it’s Butch Cassidy or Casino Royale or What’s New Pussycat?, all those melodies that turned into what became hit songs, came from what I saw on the screen when I was scoring and what I heard,” Bacharach said. “This first thing is you service the motion picture.”

   I can’t help but compare the sparse treatment on “The Look Of Love” it to the full-blown production of “You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me.” It makes me wonder what The Look Of Love would sound like with just a little more tempo and maybe some harmony. 

   For a romantic ballad, I like songs such as “Dream A Little Dream Of Me,” By Mama Cass Elliott or “Baby I’m Yours” by Barbara Lewis. But that’s just me.

   Funny thing is, whoever is playing that sax on The Look Of Love, plays it just like Springfield sings it, kind of haltingly.  Dennis Springer played tenor sax on this the single version, while Teddy Wilson played tenor sax on the movie soundtrack version, according to www.saxontheweb.net.

   Bacharach said Springfield was self-critical of her performances and wanted to hear playbacks in the studio by herself.

   “Springfield might have been the only one who noticed, but she said that she hit a lot of flat notes in the song, which she recorded at 10 o’clock in the morning,” according to Songfacts.

   There are plenty of more knowledgeable observers who disagree with me on “The Look of Love.”

   The film version received an Oscar nomination for songwriters Bacharach and David. It also received a best song nomination at the 1968 Academy Awards. The song was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2008.

Bobbie Gentry performed perhaps the first cover version on The Carol Burnett Show in October 1967,” according to Wikipedia.

   That started a flow of dozens of cover versions. Those who applied their own touch to the song include Claudine Longet, Nina Simone, Sergio Mendez, Nancy Wilson, Andy Williams, The Four Tops, The Delfonics, Isaac Hayes, Dionne Warwick, Gladys Knight and Susanna Hoffs, to name just a few.

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