Barry Mann's Lay It All Out, released by the CBS imprint New Design Records, came in the heyday of Carole King's Tapestry and James Taylor's Mud Slide Slim, though it doesn't have the immediacy of those two classics, despite the re-recordings of "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling" and "On Broadway." The album by the master songwriter just seems too lighthearted to find a connection with the masses who found comfort in King songs like "You've Got a Friend" and "So Far Away." That's the pity here -- Al Gorgoni's polite production doesn't reach for the stars. There are four Mann originals, four co-writes with Cynthia Weil (and a cute "Barry Loves Cynthia" in a heart under his photo in the gatefold), two hits the pair wrote with other collaborators, as well as two tunes by Gerry Goffin and Mann. "Holy Rolling" is one of the standouts, a gospel-tinged chant with the Ghetto Fighters on backing vocals. As up-tempo as that driving number is, it just doesn't seem crafted for Top 40 radio. Neither does the laid-back folk version of "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling." For someone who worked so closely with Phil Spector, the lack of a hit song on Lay It All Out is truly surprising, especially given the public's penchant for singer/ songwriters in the early '70s. It's doubly troubling because his rendition of "Lovin' Feeling" is inspired and with a little bit of editing might have been able to drift onto adult contemporary formats in a big way. This was a mere ten years after he charted with "Who Put the Bomp (In the Bomp Bomp Bomp)" and one would imagine a new hit was on his mind. "On Broadway" doesn't add anything new to the legend nor does it come close to the Drifters' 1963 masterpiece, though one of the Goffin co-writes, "Something Better," is easygoing and charming. The second collaboration with Goffin, "Sweet Ophelia," is very difficult, making "Lucretia Mac Evil" by Blood, Sweat & Tears look respectable by comparison, and that's being kind. "Ain't No Way to Go Home," co-written with Weil, is the diamond in the rough, but that ballad just isn't enough on a disc that could have been a breakthrough for Mann with a bit more of the inspiration that made his best known songs so memorable. Even the presence of King, Merry Clayton, and guitarist Vinnie Bell is not enough to lift this album to its true potential, the heights reached by Mann's self-titled 1980 effort on Casablanca.
AllMusic Review by Joe Viglione