The premise is debatable (can you really call a disc with only one Beatles song a compendium of top '60s tunes?), but the product is anything but. The success of The Greatest Songs of the Fifties
, released eight months prior to this latest exercise in musical time-travel, must have stoked Barry Manilow's interpretive skills, or else he's more a flowerchild at heart than his once overly wide lapels and disco shoes let on. Because formulaic as this disc is, it bespeaks a not easily achieved vocal mastery and a gift for gently prying a song away from its original owner. Which is to say it's better than its predecessor. Hand Manilow a Righteous Brothers tune ("You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'") and he magically minimizes its scale, making it seem more intimate still; pass him a classic made famous by both the Carpenters and Herman's Hermits ("There's a Kind of Hush"), and instead of sending his listeners off on undulating waves of nostalgia, he quietly makes them aware he should have sung it all along (no offense, Herman). "Cherish/Windy," a medley with the Association, works well, but it's the Bacharach numbers that will nudge themselves to the top of easy-listening fans' favourites lists. "This Guy's in Love with You," "What the World Needs Now is Love," and "Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head," memorable as the original renditions are, have been reawakened; given the Manilow spin, they become the kind of songs the whole world wants to sing. --Tammy La Gorce
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. --Alwyn Turner
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