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The Greatest Songs of the Fifties

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Album Review

A kind of a variation on Clive Davis' wildly successful American Classic Songbook albums for Rod Stewart, The Greatest Songs of the Fifties finds Barry Manilow singing vocal pop favorites of the Eisenhower era. Although there are songs that are indeed classics of the rock & roll era, there is no rock & roll here. Manilow has picked songs like "Venus," "Are You Lonesome Tonight?," "All I Have to Do Is Dream," and "Unchained Melody" (which originated in the '50s, but the Righteous Brothers had the biggest hit with it in 1965), which were on the pop crossover side of rock & roll in the latter half of the '50s. These are complemented by pop standards — such as "It's Not for Me to Say," "Sincerely/Teach Me Tonight," "What a Diff'rence a Day Made," "Beyond the Sea" — on an album that, in terms of repertoire, would not be out of step with the MOR pop LPs Mitch Miller produced at Columbia in the '50s and '60s. Of course, The Greatest Songs of the Fifties is a 2006 release, so it has a slick, semi-synthesized sheen and a warm, hazy glaze of nostalgia which, truth be told, isn't all that far removed from Manilow's big hits of the '70s, when Barry was romanticizing the Copacabana and doing big-band medleys on-stage. Given this, it shouldn't be a shock that Barry comes across as a slick, accomplished professional on these songs, never doing anything surprising but never resorting to hammy shtick, either, the way that Rod occasionally does on his songbook albums. That said, Greatest Songs isn't as rich musically as Rod's records, primarily because Manilow doesn't collaborate with an outside arranger here, or even many other producers: as the back cover says, "all song layouts created by Barry Manilow," and he keeps this within the realm of a nostalgic supper club revue. He does it well and he does it professionally, which will certainly make this record pleasing to his fans, but the record is just a shade too predictable (but never unpleasant) for listeners who aren't already firmly within Manilow's camp.

Customer Reviews

Welcome Back, Barry!!

Barry Manilow returned for his third tenure at Arista and this cd was the first of a string of "songbooks" celebrating the best of pop music of a select decade. Barry's "Greatest Songs Of The Fifties" would be the launch of this series, interesting to me he didn't start with earlier decades like the 20's or 30's, those decades produced the greatest pre-rock standards but those songs were touched upon with the Big Band and Sinatra tribute releases. This disc delves into what this title is, the absolute definitve pre-rock pop of the 50's. Barry steered clear of the burgeoning style of rock and roll. "Love Is A Many Splendored Thing" is one of the many outstanding tracks this cd has to offer. 2006 was a rather prolific year for Barry, he would follow up this cd with the "Greatest Songs Of The Sixties" only nine months later.

this is better than JB

JB sounds like a dying rat! this is true music!!!!!!!!!!!! thank u barry

Biography

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...
Full Bio