Barry Manilow

The Greatest Songs of the Sixties

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Barry Manilow's Greatest Songs of the Fifties turned out to be a surprise smash upon its January 2006 release, debuting at number one on the Billboard charts, so a sequel was inevitable. Ever the show biz pro, Manilow knew to strike when the iron was hot, so a mere nine months later he delivered The Greatest Songs of the Sixties, which is not just a continuation of the original, but an improvement. Again, Manilow chooses to largely ignore rock & roll -- he covers the Beatles' "And I Love Her," but that was a ballad, like "Yesterday," that found its way onto many easy listening pop records of the '60s, the kind recorded by José Feliciano, the Lettermen, and the Sandpipers. In its sound and sensibility, The Greatest Songs of the Sixties is strongly reminiscent of these easy listening records -- the production may not be quite as warm, but it features the same blend of Lennon/McCartney and Bacharach/David, augmented by hits from both Dean Martin and Herb Alpert, from both Frank Sinatra and the Association (who indeed back Manilow on a nice medley of "Cherish" and "Windy"). It's not adventurous -- the arrangements are either faithful to the original hits or do not stray much; either way, they could have fit on a record released in 1968 -- but it is well-executed. Like on the Fifties set, Manilow never pushes hard; he eases back, keeping the focus on the song. Occasionally, a synthesizer might be a bit too prominent ("Strangers in the Night" could have used a little less keyboard), but they don't detract from a record that is, at its core, proudly old-fashioned -- and yet Sixties feels a bit less old-fashioned than its predecessor, and that's because Manilow has chosen songs that are popular standards still played on oldies radio and still covered by other singers. He may not improve on these original versions, and he might not find something new in the song, but he sings them well and serves them well, making for a thoroughly pleasant affair.

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