Barry Manilow

My Dream Duets

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At 71 years old, Barry Manilow has reached the age when he can do anything he pleases, and what pleases him is singing along with old records by dead singers. That's all My Dream Duets is: Manilow brushing off his old cabaret routine so it can spruce up vintage records by Jimmy Durante and Judy Garland. He's not the only new element on these electronically rejiggered duets -- instrumentation, usually synthetic, sometimes as incessant as the drum loop that runs underneath "The Candyman," has been added -- but he's the notable addition, crooning full verses in addition to sliding in some corny asides. For all his showboating, he doesn't do much to distract from his idols. Time and time again, the singer who stands out on My Dream Duets is the original vocalist, the one who cut the track originally and stamped it indelibly with his or her own personality. Manilow recedes out of deference but also practicality: he's not duetting with a living singer; he's singing over an existing track and tailoring his performance to suit established contours. Consequently, there's not much dynamism here, but it's also not stiff because Manilow is so over the top. Perhaps that's Barry's natural response because there's nothing left for him to do but ham it up on the margins but, ultimately, that means My Dream Duets isn't much more than an exceedingly odd curiosity.

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