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Barry Manilow I

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Album Review

Barry Manilow's debut album proves to be a far different animal than its glitzier successors; it's fairly raw and unpolished, though his dramatic vocal style is already well established here. The material roams from impassioned balladeering ("I Am Your Child," "One of These Days") to chunky country ("Sweetwater Jones"), driving rock ("Oh My Lady"), and '40s-style swing ("Cloudburst") — and that's just side one. "Could It Be Magic," of course, is what pulled Manilow above the pack; it's a textbook summary of the dramatic orchestration and swooning vocals that have long marked his style. Some deft arranging doesn't hurt, either; the song glistens from an arrangement that keeps the backing band well in check, where other producers might have let them step all over it. The musical schizophrenia continues unchecked as the album progresses. Guitars surely never sounded so heavy again on as they did on "Flashy Lady," whose trebly, high-end leads could almost be mistaken for Kiss' own Ace Frehley. But just when you think you've got the artist pegged down, he comes back with the poppy R&B of "Friends" and the more familiar mid-tempo musings of "Sweet Life" — a promise, of sorts, that Manilow will adjust to the hand that fame dishes out. He had the confidence to pull it off; anyone opening his debut album with a minute-long spoken-word track that featured his grandfather was obviously not laboring under anybody else's notions of hip. Judging by this unpolished outing, Manilow came across as having plenty to say, but without a clear roadmap of how he wanted to say it. Manilow and producer Ron Dante would clear up that problem on the next album, Barry Manilow II, but if you want a sense of where it began, here's where you start. [The 2006 reissue of the albums adds four bonus tracks including the previously unreleased "Caroline," "Rosalie Rosie" and "Star Children"as well as the rare "Let's Take Some Time to Say Goodbye", which was released as a single and sank without a trace.]

Customer Reviews

Love This Re-issue

This album was re-released in the early 90's with a different album photo, the dark background one and is available on iTunes, to capitalize on Barry's appearance on the television show "Murphy Brown" and sang the song "I Am Your Child" to Murphy's son to lull him to sleep. A live version of this track is available on Barry's boxed set. This album is a typical debut effort any artist would release, it's full of ambition and not much direction, except in Barry's case "Could It Be Magic" hinted at his future. "Sing It" features Barry's grandfather pushing Barry to sing a song in an acetate recording booth, young Barry refusing to be coaxed, I understand the "single" is a distilled version from nearly 10 minutes of recording. "Cloudburst" is Barry's first release featuring his stacked vocal treatment, there will be others in the Barry canon utilizing overdubbed harmonies and swing arrangments. Bette Midler covered "Friends" and had a moderate hit with it. The closing track on this re-issue is a single that vanished upon release, shame really, the song is good. This lp was recorded for Bell records just before it became Arista and Clive Davis wasn't sure of Barry but along came "Mandy" and well..... The remaster of this cd is amazing and the bonus tracks add to this collection.


Born: June 17, 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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