Manilow_scores_span3
March 2005

Barry Manilow
Manilow Scores
Concord Records

If an assortment of retread ABBA tunes can be shaped into a syrupy stage production that attracts capacity crowds from Broadway to London to Toronto and beyond, why couldn't a single, quarter-century-old pop hit be extended into a full-length musical? So, presumably, reasoned Barry Manilow when he transformed his 1978 mambo-to-madness mini-drama "Copacabana" into first a TV special, then a one-act Vegas production, then a fully fleshed-out (so to speak) two-act show that has since been mounted some 100 times worldwide. Cheesy as the endeavor sounds, the 16 tunes Manilow crafted with lyricists Bruce Sussman and Jack Feldman, seven of which fill the first half of Manilow Scores (Concord), seem comparable to much of what's currently being written for the musical stage.

Produced by Phil Ramone, the mix includes two standard-issue showstoppers-the Broadway-or-bust opener "Just Arrived" and the bouncy, boppin' "Dancin' Fool," which bears a striking similarity to Manilow's long ago Dick Clark homage "Bandstand Boogie." "Who Needs to Dream?" is a decent Celine Dion-like love song, the grandiose "Bolero de Amor" is Evita-esque and there's a duet with fellow '70s icon Olivia Newton-John on "This Can't Be Real," a soaring power pop paean of the sort that both once specialized in. The "2005 Dance Mix" update of the title tune is just a slightly tarted-up and extended version of the '78 original and, best of all, the honey-dipped "Sweet Heaven (I'm in Love Again)" harkens back to the breezy Barry of "Can't Smile Without You."

The balance of Scores is devoted to selections from Manilow and Sussman's more ambitious and far more accomplished score for Harmony, based on the true story of the Comedian Harmonists, a wildly popular troupe of comic singers who were the toast of Germany throughout the decadent 1920s. From the peppy, scene-setting title track and razzamatazz of "This Is Our Time!" to the poignant "And What Do You See?" as well as the misty "In This World" and the rousing we-will-prevail finale "Stars in the Night," all seven tunes suggest the polished showmanship of Jerry Herman blended with a soupcon of Andrew Lloyd Webber's calculated, crowd-pleasing panache.

Originally published in March 2005
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