Picks and Pans Review: Barry Manilow

updated 08/07/1989 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 08/07/1989 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Barry Manilow

"Take the Manilow challenge!" the album cover demands. "Play this record alongside any current album by any contemporary pop artist of today and see if, song by song, this one doesn't become your favorite album in years!"

There's nothing like hype to make a bad thing worse. Manilow's ability over the years to turn out album after album of truisms drowning in treacle has made his name coincide with rolled eyeballs and the words oh, please. But lately Manilow—with his well-received Paradise Café and Swing Street albums and Broadway show—has segued his talents in the direction of being a stylish vocalist, Sinatra style. This clearly is a man who wants to be more than a heartthrob to swoony devotees.

This album has no all-Manilow compositions (he wrote the music for a couple). What it does contain are songs that sound as if Manilow might have written them, with mushy lyrics and arrangements, dramatic drumbeats and melodramatic codas—songs designed to sound track your less exciting dreams.

The touchy-feely opener, "Please Don't Be Scared," turns simple things into Big Problems: "Please don't be scared/ Because I've stood there too/ Between survival and the right thing to do." "Some Good Things Never Last" reads like an inspirational poster full of white clouds: "They say if you love someone then set them free/ If they come back again/ Then in the end/ It was meant to be."

Some of the album is likable. "Keep Each Other Warm" is upbeat, with Caribbean rhythms and decent lyrics: "When you talk about toleration/ Well I know the score/ And if you want to have liberation/ There's the door." "My Moonlight Memories of You" has some charm, and things end on a positive note about love and the road, a driving ivory-tickler called "A Little Traveling Music, Please." And away we go. (Arista)

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