Melissa Manchester

Bright Eyes

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On her second album, Melissa Manchester remained largely under the influence of some immediate predecessors, though she was beginning to show evidence of an original talent. The impact of Laura Nyro still could be heard on songs like the title track and "O Heaven (How You've Changed to Me)," with their vibrant gospel tone. If Manchester seemed to come at such a style as a respectful outsider, as opposed to Nyro's obsessively inside approach, it may have been that her arsenal of musical genres were secondhand, acquired through her mentor, Paul Simon, for whom she wrote the bubbly "Ode to Paul." Where Nyro had the intensity of Nina Simone, Manchester was merely eclectic, assimilating elements of jazz, rock, soul, and pre-rock pop with an attractive playfulness that never lost a certain self-consciousness. Her new songwriting partner, Adrienne Anderson, while closer to her sensibility than her previous one, Carole Bayer Sager, nevertheless did not match Manchester's own writing alone. And the improvement in that writing was the real story here: on songs like "Inclined" and "He Is the One," Manchester revealed a talent for sensitive writing combined with assured yet restrained singing on romantic piano ballads that would prove to be her commercial breakout on her next album, after Bell, her tiny record label, was converted into Arista, an aggressive mini-major. As it was, Bright Eyes marked a significant advance over Home to Myself.

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