Various Artists

What Love Can Do

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It must be disconcerting to be a once-popular songwriter and/or recording artist of a certain age. In a notoriously fickle business, one minute the world is showering you with platinum record certifications and Grammy Awards and the next -- for no reason you can see -- the parade has moved on. To be sure, you still may have a career: The Today Show and The Tonight Show may be willing to book you occasionally, and audiences aging along with you may be happy to buy tickets to your concerts on the understanding that the bulk of your set list will consist of your hits, played much as they sound on your records. Oldies radio, too, may play your old records, and you may have a healthy income largely consisting of your ASCAP, BMI, or SESAC payments, enough to keep up the mortgage on your Manhattan penthouse, Hollywood mansion, or Nashville farm. But nobody outside your fan club is interested in hearing your new songs, songs that, as far as you are concerned, are just as good as your hits, if not better. Veteran producer Phil Ramone seems to be responding to this dilemma by coming up with a concept to mix the old with the new. Here, he induces seven songwriter/performers with established track records to re-record one of their evergreens and come up with a new song. They are all men, and all stalwarts of the adult contemporary charts: Burt Bacharach (age 81 on the day the album was released), Stephen Bishop (57), Kris Kristofferson (73), Kenny Loggins (61), Richard Marx (45), Paul Williams (68), and Brian Wilson (67). They bring along some pals and, in some cases, interact with each other. (Loggins actually gets a second new song, co-written with Marx.) Pitching in as guests are Peabo Bryson, Eric Clapton, Earl Klugh, Jane Monheit, and Willie Nelson, among others. The remakes are largely dispensable. No one really needs a remake of "God Only Knows," even by its composer. Nelson does a nice, if offhand, reading of Williams' "Rainbow Connection," however, and Bryson does a pleasant one of Bacharach's "Alfie." When it comes to the new songs, the songwriters do not embarrass themselves; these are craftsman-like efforts. It's not surprising that two of them use the word "remember" in their titles. The best is held for last. Wilson's "What Love Can Do," the album closer, is lovely, and it's preceded by Loggins' "What About Now," an uptempo number that really is as good as any of Loggins' hits and better than many. It could be a hit, too, a country hit, that is, if somebody gets it to Kenny Chesney or Tim McGraw. Not that there's anything wrong with Loggins' performance of it here, but no one's going to play a new Kenny Loggins track on the radio.

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