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This journey into the innocuous isn't without its high points. "Toledo," with its Bacharach trademark sad-sack horn, is an achingly adult twist on betrayal. "It's no use saying that I love you/And that girl really didn't mean a thing to me" says more in a line than other Memory tracks do in their entirety. Another broken bond fuels "The Sweetest Punch," a shimmering gem in which Bacharach steps up his lithe melody-making to great multilayered effect, and the duo's first-ever collaboration "God Give Me Strength" (from the movie Grace of My Heart) is as compelling and empathetic closing out this album as it was in the movie.

The most consistently impressive thing about this collaboration -- if there is anything here that impresses -- is Costello's voice: nimble, impassioned, and committed on virtually every cut. He effectively stretches his very limited range to wrest at least a modicum of genuine emotion from the album's often sterile musical surroundings. Still, while Costello's voice salvages many songs, it is not enough to save Painted from Memory from underachieving.

-- Michael C. Harris

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