The Bottom Line
Hardcore Barry fans might enjoy hearing him take on Fifties pop, much as they enjoyed his big-band phase, but Manilow's voice and interpretive ability are simply not up to the task, and the songs, while indicative of the era and mood, stay too close to their sources to make such a covers album necessary.
- The mix is a good representation of Fifties pop, well-orchestrated.
- Manilow's vocals simply aren't up to the task of many tracks.
- As a re-interpretation, it falls flat.
- These songs are too iconic to overcome the memory of their originals.
- Dual disc version available
Guide Review - Barry Manilow: The Greatest Songs of the Fifties
"Why hasn't anyone thought of this idea?" Barry is supposed to have said when Clive Davis presented it to him. But of course, someone had -- Clive himself, when he repositioned an aging and dangerously weak-sounding Rod Stewart as a sepiatoned pop crooner. Still, Barry Manilow has always existed outside of rock and roll; he penned words for the American Bandstand
jingle in the Seventies, but out of a love for swing, which the theme is based in. So a project like this seems to make sense, but the elephant in the room is always going to be Barry's voice; it's got a very small range, and frequently goes flat. (Ironic that this album was promoted with a media blitz featuring Manilow on American Idol
, since he would've never passed muster with that show and its straitjacketed standards of what good vocalese is.)
If you're a Barry fan, you may want this anyway, even if he's taking on standards he can't possbly live up to, much less reinterpret -- most of us will miss Mathis on "It's Not For Me To Say," Elvis on "Are You Lonesome Tonight?" or Darin on "Beyond The Sea." Of course, he was featured on Idol's Fifties Night as an arranger, not a singer, and that's where his strength is here... that and an ability to carry Broadway pop into the Top 40. But he's not aiming at pop stardom anymore, merely creating a memento of sorts to his childhood inspirations. And as such, this doesn't rock at all -- "Sincerely" is done as a duet with Phyllis McGuire. Not a trace of Moonglow in it.