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The Greatest Songs of the Eighties

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Album Review

Barry Manilow's Greatest Songs series enters its fourth decade with no reason to quit, not when the 1980s produced cartloads of adult contemporary nuggets and certainly not when the first three volumes performed so well on the charts. As on previous editions, Manilow and co-producer Clive Davis display a sure hand in their song selection. Virtually all of these are ballads originally performed by Manilow contemporaries or inheritors, artists such as Phil Collins ("Against All Odds"), Christopher Cross ("Arthur's Theme"), Bill Medley ("I've Had the Time of My Life"), Cyndi Lauper ("Time After Time"), Journey ("Open Arms"), Richard Marx ("Right Here Waiting"), and Wham! ("Careless Whisper"). The songs will all be familiar to anyone who lived through the '80s and Manilow sings the songs straight, wringing maximum emotion out of each with the warmth and character of his strong voice. Granted, there's precious little room here for new musical interpretations, barring only a light Brazilian vibe for Stevie Wonder's "I Just Called to Say I Love You." The biggest surprise on The Greatest Songs of the Eighties is a cover of Rick Astley's "Never Gonna Give You Up," a large hit in England and America, but one that retained its popularity in the 2000s when the "rickrolling" prank phenomenon gave it more YouTube popularity than a thousand Richard Marxes. Still, there's no trace of irony in Manilow's version; like all the other songs here, he brings little more to it than what the song originally possessed. One of the intriguing characteristics of earlier volumes in the Greatest Songs series was discovering how Manilow and his co-arrangers would treat their updates of classic songs; here there's virtually no difference between Barry Manilow's covers and the sound of the originals.


Born: 17 June 1943 in Brooklyn, NY

Genre: Pop

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

In terms of record sales and career longevity, Barry Manilow is one of the most successful adult contemporary singers ever. That success hasn't necessarily translated to respect (or even ironic hipster appreciation) in most quarters; instead, Manilow's music has been much maligned by critics and listeners alike, particularly the romantic ballads that defined his career, which were derided as maudlin schlock even during his heyday. It's true that Manilow's taste for swelling choruses and lush arrangements...
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The Greatest Songs of the Eighties, Barry Manilow
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