Picks and Pans Review: Manilow
Dear Barry Manilow fans: Remember how brilliant you thought all us critics were when we wrote about how much we liked 2 A.M. Paradise Cafe last year? Please keep that in mind as you impugn our eardrums and ancestry for saying that this, Barry's first album for RCA, is a dismal disappointment. Everything that Paradise Cafe was—intimate, well-paced, affecting, real—this is not. It is all packaging, with nothing inside the oohing-aahing background singers, the synthesized strings and studio engineering tricks. Manilow has reverted to his addiction to the Big Finish. Some Sweet Day and If You Were Here With Me Tonight are the most flagrant examples of it on this LP, but Manilow far too often follows the pattern of a quiet opening leading to a pull-out-the-stops, blaster climax. The songs are almost all the sappiest sort of romantic pap. In Search of Love (Allan Rich's lyrics to a Manilow/Howie Rice tune) is typical: "See, I'm no exception/I need real affection/What's life worth living for/If not to give it all." In fact the best track on the album in all respects is the 1968 Marvin Gaye/Tammi Terrell hit Ain't Nothin' Like the Real Thing (written by Nick Ashford and Valerie Simpson). Manilow does it as a duet with Muffy Hendrix, one of his backup singers, who sings Barry under the table and out the door to wait for a bus. The shame of it all, of course, is that as we know, fans, Manilow is capable of so much more. So let's just forget this and listen to that guy Springsteen or Sinatra or Tina Turner or whomever for awhile and hope Barry does better next time. Thanks, and please send all complaining letters to Dick Clark. Yours truly
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