There are a couple of common misconceptions about Barry Mann, which this album of new recordings of some of his best-known compositions helps to dispel. One is that, after the Top Ten success of his novelty song "Who Put the Bomp (In the Bomp, Bomp, Bomp)" in 1961, Mann turned away from performing to a career as a songwriter exclusively. In fact, he continued to make records intermittently for the next 20 years and even placed some of them in the charts. And since Mann was part of the Brill Building roster of songwriters, people seem to think all his hits came in the early and mid-'60s. Actually, he continued to score hits throughout the '70s and '80s. Soul & Inspiration, part of a series of albums by songwriters sponsored by executive producer Jay Landers at Atlantic Records, shows that, even at 60, Mann is an effective singer and a superb interpreter of his own material. He may not have the voice of Bill Medley of the Righteous Brothers or Eric Burdon of the Animals, who sang the familiar versions of some of these songs, and sometimes he takes a note down so he can reach it, but he is far more than competent as a vocalist. There is a raft of guest stars, among them Carole King, Brenda Russell, Richard Marx, Bryan Adams, Daryl Hall, Deana Carter, J.D. Souther, and Peabo Bryson, but they only support Mann, never stealing the spotlight. And his songs benefit from the simple arrangements they're given here, all of them focused on his piano, in contrast to the massive productions given to some of the originals by Phil Spector. Collected together, these songs not only showcase Mann, but they also celebrate his longtime lyric partner Cynthia Weil, who co-wrote ten of the 11 songs. Weil's words are full of warmth and passion, and Mann's music supports them well. Among the great songwriters of the early '60s, few managed to make the transition to being successful recording artists after the Beatles and Bob Dylan changed the rules that had tended to prevent songwriters from also being professional singers. In Barry Mann's case, Soul & Inspiration demonstrates that a lack of talent was not the reason he remained best known as a songwriter.
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AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann