In 2011 Barry Manilow delivered his first set of original pop songs since 2001, and the resulting shape-shifting and ambitious 15 Minutes, a concept album about the pitfalls of fame that found the music legend crooning, swearing, and occasionally rapping over some of the riskiest (for Barry Manilow) work he had done in years, earned him as many critical kudos as it did quizzical looks. Having exorcized that particular ghost, Manilow decided to return to the nostalgia-based material that dominated the majority of the decade prior, and the intimate and reliable Night Songs, for better or for worse, is the kind of Manilow outing that should please listeners who prefer albums like 2010's Greatest Love Songs of All Time to more exploratory fare like Here at the Mayflower. Dressed down, yet undeniably elegant, the appropriately titled collection relies solely on Manilow's expressive voice and piano playing, and the occasional soft rumble of upright bass. Comprised of 16 tracks that are almost evenly split between musical standards like "I Fall in Love Too Easily" (Anchors Aweigh), "Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive" (Here Come the Waves), and "It's a New World" (A Star Is Born) and beloved selections from the American Songbook like "I Get Along Without You Very Well," "It Amazes Me," and "Blame It on My Youth," Night Songs has all the easy ardor and Cabernet-stained-teeth warmth of a laid-back, private performance, without the discomfort of actually being the only other person in the room.
Night Songs Review
by James Christopher Monger