Barry Manilow

Tryin' to Get the Feeling

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Barry Manilow made it to number one again during his first year as a hit artist with a rendition of Beach Boy Bruce Johnston's "I Write the Songs," beating out covers by David Cassidy and Captain and Tennille (who also released a version in Spanish). The modernized (read: no distortion) take-off on Phil Spector's Wall of Sound was what made "Mandy" so very special, and it came back to work here; Manilow sings with a seriousness on "I Write the Songs" that is as determined as his voice is on the title track, David Pomeranz' "Tryin' to Get the Feeling Again." Both titles are light years beyond the rest of the album, even including Bruce Sussman and Barry's reworking of the American Bandstand theme. Like the Four Seasons before him, Barry Manilow is known for his ability to take a song up the charts; the album tracks are secondary and reserved for his most devoted followers. This quest for chart supremacy had a formidable team pooling their talents. It was co-produced by the star and Archies' lead singer Ron Dante, while Bette Midler, Miles Laurie, and Dick Fox are thanked for showing Manilow "Tryin' to Get the Feeling Again." Peter Thom and Phil Galdston's "Why Don't We Live Together" is nice enough, but indicative of the near-miss compositions Manilow himself contributes -- "She's a Star," "You're Leavin' Too Soon" and "A Nice Boy Like Me" -- that might have gotten some Top 40 action due to Manilow's momentum, but without the staying power of the established hits. At least the co-write with Adrienne Anderson, "As Sure as I'm Standin' Here," has a bit of a future, with the David Pomeranz/Manilow hit, "The Old Songs," something to look forward to. The problem with Barry Manilow is also his strength -- that he skillfully mixes Johnny Mathis' adult contemporary charm with Liberace's flamboyance. Both Mathis and Liberace knew how to reign in the excesses, while Barry could care less -- and he doesn't have to. By the same token, his fan base might be more prone to spinning Ultimate Manilow and avoiding the few rough spots of this album. [The CD version contains an extra title, Stephen Sondheim's "Marry Me a Little."]

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