Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Barry Manilow: The Greatest Songs of the Eighties (An Album Review)

From an alert reader (my cousin, Chris), writing in response to the prom blog and its reference to Mr. Barry Manilow:

Just a note that the other day as I was driving I-285 and listening to intelligent discussion on a local sports-talk show, they were discussing how unmanly I, and apparently one other man in Atlanta, was to have any Barry Manilow song on their iPod. Not sure how or why, but as I was driving ALONE I looked into the rear-view mirror and saw that I was embarrassed ...

Now, not to cause you any further embarrassment, Chris, but a true Fanilow would neither be ashamed of his appreciation for superior adult-contemporary music and musical genius, nor would he question his own manhood because he happens to have excellent musical taste. I am not a man, but I imagine that if I were, I would still recognize Manilow's talent for what it is: unmatched.

The remorseful e-mail I received from Chris prompted me to grab all of my Manilow CDs (and there are plenty) as I was walking out the door Tuesday so that I could sing my heart out in carpool lines. Much of Manilow's repertoire is on my iPod--where it serves a healthy purpose at the gym, the park, on long car rides--but the iPod is a handy listening device when you're craving certain music, but the rest of the car population is not. What a refreshing change of pace to have the CDs playing at full volume so that I could sing like I was performing in an Up With People halftime show.

Yet I feel compelled to provide the following reader service.

Barry Manilow: The Greatest Songs of the Eighties may be a misleading title.

I borrowed this CD from the public library the same month it was released (November 2008). That alone should tell you something--that someone had already discarded it and donated it to the public library. Maybe they, too, were misled. Barry Manilow + greatest songs of the '80s should = songs by Barry Manilow released in the '80s. Instead, this is a compilation of Manilow COVERS of songs that I would argue are not all that great. Good? Yes. Memorable? Certainly. Greatest? Not so fast, mister. I hastily uploaded it to my iPod, and have regretted it ever since.

Here's why: Islands in the Stream (with Reba McIntire), Open Arms, Never Gonna Give You Up, Have I Told You Lately, I Just Called to Say I Love You, Careless Whisper, Right Here Waiting, Arthur's Theme, Hard to Say I'm Sorry, Time After Time, and I've Had the Time of My Life.

And then he really lost me with (and you won't believe the irony of this at all): Against All Odds.

The reputation of Barry Manilow's musical stylings were largely compromised with this release. If I were independently wealthy, I would gobble up all copies of this disc from eBay, Amazon and public libraries everywhere, just to keep them off the street and keep the kids safe.

I am forever devoted to Manilow (he had me at It's a Miracle). Nothing can shake that. But as he was going through his cover phase, he should have stopped with the '70s. He should not have stooped to '80s covers. (And I am an '80s girl at heart; and I firmly believe some things are better left untouched.)

I do love Barry Manilow. He writes the songs that make all the young girls cry (and make old women sing). I used to dream of being pulled on stage to sing the "Can't Smile Without You" duet with him, but his roadies (does Barry Manilow have roadies?) have never chosen me. And then he moved his show to Las Vegas, where, apparently, it will stay. But if he ever leaves the Las Vegas Hilton and ventures back to our amphitheatre, I'll do whatever it takes. Underwear on the stage. Big poster. Whatever.

A P.S. to Chris, whose favorite Manilow song is Mandy: Mandy may have given without taking, but the legend surrounding that song is that Mandy was a dog.