....Manilow still knows what satisfies the committed.
Alwyn Turner 2006
His glory years may have been back in the 1970s, but Barry Manilow is enjoying a level of success in the 21st century that few would have predicted. In early-2006 his album 'The Greatest Songs of the Fifties' entered the US charts at #1 (his first new chart-topper for nearly three decades) and now, just ready for the Xmas market, comes the sequel.
Given that its predecessor managed to avoid anything that’s rock & roll, it’s not too surprising that this collection doesn’t find room for, say, "I Am The Walrus" or "Sympathy For The Devil". Instead 'The Greatest Songs of the Sixties' turn out to be the likes of "Blue Velvet", "Can’t Take My Eyes Off You" and "Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head".
It’s all perfectly agreeable and decorous, but it’s not an album that’s going to win over a new audience. It’s too predictable, too bland and too inconsequential. Which is a pity, because at his best Barry was able to conquer the heights of melodrama and show-tune excess in a way that had genuine charm.
Here, however, the dominant note is an over-manning more appropriate to the Seventies than the Sixties. There’s a list of over a hundred individual credits for the playing and production of the music, and the result is that the arrangements – although drawing heavily on the original blueprints for the songs – sound bloated. Nonetheless, there’s a certain old-school Radio 2 appeal to it all, and the huge success it’s already enjoyed in America suggests that Manilow still knows what satisfies the committed. Probably just for the fans, though.