Long before the world new him as a hit-maker and entertainer, Barry Manilow wrote an original song score for an adaptation of The Drunkard. The show was a success and it fueled Manilow's dreams to take his music to the Great White Way, but a job with Bette Midler and a song called "Mandy" forever changed his career trajectory. Years later after the hits had stopped, Manilow and his writing partner Bruce Sussman rediscovered their love for Broadway musicals and looked to their 1978 hit "Copacabana" as inspiration for a show. Written with Jack Feldman, Copacabana - The Musical played in London's West End in 1994 and a successful American tour followed in 2000. Still, Broadway proved elusive and Manilow set his sights on a new project, Harmony, an original musical about the Comedian Harmonists, who were a popular German vocal act during the '20s and '30s and whose demise was instigated by the rise of the Nazi regime. The musical debuted at the La Jolla Playhouse in 1997, but it has yet to be launched as a Broadway production. In the meantime, Manilow revives songs from Copacabana and Harmony for Scores and, for the most part, successfully reshapes them into solo pop songs that stand on their own. The campy tunes from Copacabana are ripe for this format as the show's genre-shifting songs already lean toward pop. The big-band workout "Dancin' Fool" captures the excitement of that era, while the bombastic "Bolero de Amor" works better in this context rather than the appropriately cheesy stage version. But Manilow's penchant for going over the top gets the best of him with most of the Copa songs as the clichéd "Just Arrived" sounds like a weak cousin to Funny Girl's "I'm the Greatest Star" and tepid ballads like "Who Needs to Dream" demonstrate that Manilow hadn't fully abandoned his saccharine past. The Copa set ends with an unnecessary dance mix update of "Copacabana" that eliminates all the campy fun of the original. Fortunately, Manilow and Sussman took a good leap forward with their score for Harmony. Musically and lyrically these songs are denser and their textures blend together forming a more consistent piece of work. The songs are more theatrical and they outshine Copa's scattershot pop with belters like "This Is Our Time!" and quieter songs like "And What Do You See?" sounding like they leapt off a Broadway stage and onto disc. Manilow and Sussman may not be Rodgers & Hammerstein or Kander & Ebb, but with Harmony they prove that they are capable of writing good melodies, solid lyrics, and big showstoppers. Scores may be the final curtain call for these songs, but it is a fitting tribute to two of Barry Manilow's pet projects.
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AllMusic Review by Aaron Latham
feat: Olivia Newton-John