Saturday, October 25, 2014

Duetting With The Dead (Music Review, Barry Manilow, My Dream Duets)

Natalie Cole started this trend, of singers duetting with dead people. But with Natalie, it was a great idea, since she was singing her father's songs, the duet highlighted the poignancy of the project. A lot of people have followed suit since, most recently Barbra Streisand singing with a young Elvis Presley. I always found this idea a little on the weird side, and when Barry Manilow employed this gimmick on his newest album, "My Dream Duets," I cringed.  In an interview, he says that he did it because he wanted his duets album to stand out. Don't get me wrong, I am as big a  Fanilow as anyone, but i have to admit his singing voice has really deteriorated of late: it's become raspy, and his key isn't what it used to be. On a duets album, it will be all about the voice, and I feel his can't carry the songs through. But Manilow (and his producer, David Foster) wisely makes the dead singers the stars of the tracks. What a fantastic line up. Manilow has great taste, choosing one great singer after another. Moreover, in a lot of cases, he doesn't choose the most cliched songs to sing with them. Any other singer, for example, would choose "Over The Rainbow" to sing with Judy Garland, but he opts for "Zing! Went The Strings Of My Heart," and it made for a zippy track. The best thing about this album is how on each track, the production has cleverly extracted the vocal tracks of these singers, and every single one of them felt like they were in the studio with Manilow. (Curiously, Streisand couldn't duplicate that chemistry on her album) Maybe because Manilow loves and knows these singers and the songs, and he chooses their songs. It may be unbelievable, but almost all the tracks work. There is great joy in him singing with Marilyn Monrow on "I Wanna Be Loved By You," and he weaves seamlessly with Frankie Lymon on "goody Goody."  On some of the tracks, he adds verses and songs that make the track more meaningful. For example, he counterpoints "What A Wonderful World" with Louis Armstrong an original composition of his called "What A Wonderful Life." And on his track with Andy Williams, the predictability of "Moon River" is edged by him singing a verse from one of his other hits, "May Each Day."  But what makes this project such a joy to listen to is it demonstrates a musician's love of music.

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