Mastered from the original master tapes, pressed on dead-quiet MoFi SuperVinyl at RTI, and limited to 2,000 numbered copies, Mobile Fidelity's 180g vinyl LP of Painted from Memory transforms the 1998 set into an essential component of any library (as well as an audiophile reference disc). Always an effort that rewarded solitary listening, it now breathes with ravishing openness, reveals crystalline detail, unfolds against jet-back backgrounds, mesmerizes with a rainbow of textures, and constantly engages with its impossible smoothness. More than ever, the scope of the intricacies, nuances, and phrasings embedded in Bacharach's meticulous compositions can be experienced in full. The orbit of the bridges, refrains, and codas beguiles the senses. Ditto the poetic reach of Costello's singing and lyrics.
Indeed, the level of care and concern invested into every passage of Painted from Memory is immediately gleaned by the ravishing sonics afforded on this super-collectable edition on which any notion of a noise floor is practically moot. Reference-grade presence, tonality, and balance help capture the sweep of the strings, colorful blush of the horn accents, and weight of the piano. Steve Nieve's keyboards, Greg Cohen's bass, Dean Parks' guitar, and Jim Keltner's drums seemingly appear right in the room. Rather than smear together or jockey for position, each instrument enjoys its own place and simultaneously sounds part of the rich, lush, complex albeit completely interwoven tapestry. Graceful, elegant, and classicist-minded, Painted from Memory is a genuine masterpiece – and a true collaboration.
No wonder Costello dedicated a large portion of a chapter from his Unfaithful Music & Disappearing Ink memoir to his time with Bacharach. Among his insights, Costello explains how crafting the album forced him to be a better writer and singer – and a better listener, stating: "Writing those first songs with Burt Bacharach required me to listen to what the music was really saying to me. Sometimes it was speaking so quietly that I needed to listen very intently. I needed time for the meaning and feeling that I sensed in the music to be confirmed by my own words. The strange thing was that the title of a song often came to me in an instant, but then would begin the more excruciating task of negotiating Burt's spacious melodies and rhythmic subtleties."
The very aspects Costello discusses come to the forefront on remarkable torch pieces such as the intensely dramatic "This House Is Empty Now," melancholic "Thief," and Grammy-winning "I Still Have That Other Girl." In addition to Bacharach's suave, sophisticated, strikingly exquisite orchestrations, Costello's vocals carry the day. Straddling two octaves and sighing with pain, bittersweet romance, and wistful reflection, his baritone stretching to convey highs and lows with crooner-like poise, breadth, and fastidiousness. Thrilling, distinctive, and memorable, the performances are just like the entirety of Painted from Memory itself – unforgettably great.
Developed by NEOTECH and RTI, MoFi SuperVinyl is the most exacting-to-specification vinyl compound ever devised. Analog lovers have never seen (or heard) anything like it. Extraordinarily expensive and extremely painstaking to produce, the special proprietary compound addresses two specific areas of improvement: noise floor reduction and enhanced groove definition. The vinyl composition features a new carbonless dye (hold the disc up to the light and see) and produces the world's quietest surfaces. This high-definition formula also allows for the creation of cleaner grooves that are indistinguishable from the original lacquer. MoFi SuperVinyl provides the closest approximation of what the label's engineers hear in the mastering lab.