Barry Mann

Survivor

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1975's Survivor by master songwriter Barry Mann is the album Kenny Rogers never made. It sounds like a Kenny Rogers album, it looks like a David Pomeranz album, it has a cast of thousands, well, not thousands, but for a recording with Spanky McFarlane, Jerry Yester, Captain & Tennille, songs by Mann & Weil, production by Mann, Terry Melcher and "I Write the Songs" Bruce Johnston and others, the result is a good record that should have been great; a disc with the same flaws of 1980s self-titled release on Casablanca. Want to talk about underachievers, the excellent "Nobody But You" has some angst directed at friend Carole King as well as Paul Simon. "No one ever cried for me when my dreams fell through/No one ever said "lean on me," nobody ever told me "you've got a friend"/Nobody said "I'll be your bridge over troubled water" -- the "nobody but you" must be for his wife, Cynthia Weil, and it has great power and gospel soul. Here he sounds like the pop singer who hit in the '60s, not the Kenny Rogers wannabe who surrounds that great moment; "Crazy Ladies" and "Jesse" sound like outtakes from Rogers' The Gambler album. "Don't Seem Right" and the snappy "I Wanna Do It All" also give the First Edition's lead singer material he should've picked up on. And that's the dilemma: had Kenny Rogers performed the lead vocals this album would've been a monster. Since he didn't, why not have McFarlane and Toni Tennille duet with this unsung rock & roll hero? Bruce Johnston, Terry Melcher and Cynthia Weil should have all been able to step up to the plate and bring this baby home. Of course when the artist delivers five albums on five different major labels in 19 years, well, it is clear that songwriting is what he does and this is just some fun stuff in between. In that light Survivor is a remarkable disc. It's a statement rather than an attempt at giving Carole King some competition. But boy does he ever sound like the aforementioned country/pop superstar all over this recording. As good as it is there is frustration for fans of '60s music because the answer to the question "who put the bomp?" came close to having another moment in the sun.

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