03/05/2002 at 01:00 AM EST
Another blast from the past: The New York Times reports that Barry Manilow is hot. True. Never a darling of the critics (detractors have long referred to him as "Barry Marshmallow"), the Brooklyn-born troubadour who wrote Top 40 chart-busting songs in the late '70s and into the early '80s ("Mandy," "Ready to Take a Chance Again," "Copacabana") is now back at No. 22 on Billboard's adult contemporary chart. For that he can thank an airy single, "Turn the Radio Up," from an album he released last November, "Here at the Mayflower," named for a building near his childhood home in the New York borough. The sales ranking puts him in the company of stars such as Celine Dion, Enrique Iglesias and Jewel, The Times notes. More astoundingly, the paper says outright, is that in this post-gangsta rap era, "Ultimate Manilow" (a new collection of Manilow's greatest hits) debuted three weeks ago as No. 3 on the Billboard charts. "Oh, Barry is very cool," Arista chief Antonio Reid, whose label has Manilow in its fold, told The Times. "Very cool," Reid added with a chuckle. While The Times is hesitant to label this resurgence of Manilow as a full-fledged comeback, it does admit that he is on a hot streak. Says the man himself: "A new generation is discovering this wonderful catalog of well-crafted songs . . . I stand for something that most guys don't stand for: honest emotion." Honestly.