To many the very embodiment of the soft rock and middle-of-the-road genres, Barry Manilow became an international superstar in the 1970s with a string of hits combining heart-on-sleeve sentiment and finely crafted songs with slick, highly orchestrated production. His ultra-showbiz image (which was likely influenced by his early days as musical director for Bette Midler), appealed to an extremely wide audience. Although Manilow has long been regarded as the antithesis of hip, there is no denying his considerable talent, and his fans are among the most loyal (some might say fanatical) in pop music.
Looks like he made it. Barry Manilow is the No. 1 Adult Contemporary artist of all time. This collection contains a dozen chart-topping standards as well as eight Top Ten hits, including \Mandy
There''s a cynical adage that argues if you stand still long enough, history will eventually catch up with you. It''s tempting to say that about Barry Manilow, an artist whose stubborn, quarter-century dedication to old-fashioned song craft and musical melodrama has earned him few critical praises but a loyal worldwide following in the millions. When a cult of 20-something would-be lounge lizards tried to cash in on Manilow''s shtick in the 1990s, they distanced themselves from its emotional potency with telling dollops of irony and retro-hip cynicism--anything to keep from looking too sincere. This album serves up the high points of Manilow''s long, successful career, rightly focusing on the long string of ''70s hits that built both his legend and record label. They''re a body of songs whose solid craftsmanship is undeniable, but it''s Manilow''s sincerity that crucially sells them--indeed, he didn''t write "I Write the Songs," but who could doubt him? It''s an odd tribute that much here--"Mandy," "Looks Like We Made It," "Copacabana," et. al.--has become the palette for a popular entertainment spectrum that somehow encompasses endless hotel piano bars on one flank and TV sketch-com parody on the other. Good to remember that kitsch, by definition, requires a deep and lasting impact on the culture. Manilow hasn''t just embraced the "K" word; he''s reveled in it with a smile--how could one frown through "Bandstand Boogie" and "Copa" anyway?--and elevated it to something approaching the transcendental through his sheer, joyous force of will. And if his latter work has been unabashedly nostalgic, how could anyone be surprised? --Jerry McCulley
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