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Category:    Home > Reviews > Concert > Covers > Standards > Pop > Rock > Barry Manilow – First & Farewell DVD-Video concerts + “The Greatest Songs Of The Sixties” CD

Barry Manilow – First & Farewell DVD-Video concerts + “The Greatest Songs Of The Sixties” CD

 

Picture: C-/C+     Sound: C/B-/B-     Extras: C-     Concerts: B-     Music: C-

 

 

The Barry Manilow comeback blitz continues with a new DVD concert set with an unusual twist and another covers CD that is possibly worse than the last one.  First & Farewell offers his very first videotaped (or otherwise recorded) full length concert from November 1974 in black and white.  The second disc offers a November 2004 set with al the bells and whistles from his farewell tour.  Then there is the Greatest Songs Of The Sixties set that has him attempting to cover some of the greatest songs of the decade simply because he and Clive Davis can afford the royalties.

 

Starting at the beginning, the 1974 concert was taped on reel-to-reel Sony black and white videotape that is lucky it has 240 lines of definition if that.  It can be hard to watch, but is still interesting to watch as he goes through most unfamiliar songs, though It’s A Miracle and Could It Be Magic? would put him on the map, though he had cut a version of Magic in 1971 for Bell Records, the label that became his home label Arista.  Besides a few standards (Shadow Of Your Smile and Hello, Dolly are done as a brief medley) what is most interesting are all the jingles that put him on the map within the industry that he performs here for nine different products.  That may be the unintentional highlight of all these releases.

 

The 2004 concert is on par with the Music & Passion: Live In Las Vegas DVD set we recently covered on the site, though minus his massacre of the 1950s hit from the Vegas set.  Daybreak, I Write The Songs (which he famously did not write), Can’t Smile Without You, Even Now, Mandy and Copacabana are among the songs he hit big with and performs here for likely the several thousandth time.  At least he delivers what his audience wants.

 

The new 2006 CD is a whole different affair.  Since his cover of 1950s songs was his biggest album in a very, very long time, why not the next decade.  Let’s see what he did here:

 

 

Can’t Take My Eyes Off You is an early solo smash for Frankie Valli of The Four Seasons that was again immortalized by Michael Cimino’s masterwork The Deer Hunter in 1978 about Vietnam.  Well, you’ll feel like you walked the killing fields after listening to his gutting-out of this classic.  There’s never a rabid deer around when you need one.

 

Cherish/Windy is an inept medley of two classics by The Association that is just dull and awful minus the whimsy and fun that made the originals so much fun.  This is credited as a duet with the vocal group, but they sound more like session singers than the original band.  These songs hit in 1966 and 1967 respectively, but these covers are just disrespectful.  There used to be an early Sesame Street segment where a Muppet is flying around to Windy.  To bad he didn’t run into the recoding studio to stop this from final mix.  Manilow’s version is so slow that it is more like a mild breeze.  Note he did not cover Along Comes Mary!

 

Can’t Help Falling In Love is the 1962 Elvis Presley classic that was already gutted out by UB40 in 1993 and featured in the Sharon Stone thriller Sliver (reviewed elsewhere on this site), but Manilow’s version will make you want to stab yourself repeatedly.  No reggae here though.

 

There’s A Kind Of Hush is the 1967 Herman’s Hermits classic (see their SACD this set elsewhere on this site that The Carpenters were roundly criticized for remaking into their own big hit.  We’ll after hearing this Manilow cover, you’ll believe Karen could have successfully joined The Go-Gos!  Here’s one hush to skip.

 

Blue Velvet is the 1963 Bobby Vinton classic made famous again by the David Lynch film classic about the horror of the suburbs and other hidden sides of Americana.  Covers like this helped build that nightmare.

 

Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head is the great B.J. Thomas hit record from the hit 1969 film Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid that topped the charts early in 1970.  Manilow stretches out every word to the point of self-satire (as if that had not happened with the first record) and it is a wreck with no depth, nuance, heart or soul.

 

And I Love Her is Manilow’s cover of The Beatles 1964 classic that makes The Monkees sound like Radiohead by comparison.  This is easily one of the worst songs in an album chock-full of them.

 

This Guy’s In Love With You was a big solo hit for Herb Alpert in 1968 (and Dionne Warwick with a slight change in 1969) that worked extraordinarily well for them.  Too bad Manilow sings it with such sluggishness and over-deliberateness that you never believe him for one minute.

 

Everybody Loves Somebody is a Dean Martin classic from 1964 that was one of his biggest-ever this and launched his Reprise Records era.  It is so bad, you will hope Manilow hits himself in the eye with a big pizza pie, but that would be such a waste of good food (unless form a bad chain).

 

You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling is the oft-covered Righteous Brothers classic is another really awful song here that makes the Hall & Oates hit version sound like an R&B classic.  Manilow sounds like he feels nothing here.  You will not either.

 

When I Fall In Love is a great hit record from 1962 from the underrated vocal group The Letterman, but wow, did he botch this one!  That group was always accused of being to light and airy.  In comparison, Manilow’s version makes the original sound like material for No Doubt or The Red Hot Chili Peppers!

 

Strangers In The Night is the Frank Sinatra classic overexposed and not even producer Phil Ramone can save this cover from being a disaster.  The original was last used for a glowing watch commercial.  Staring at the face of a broken watch has more excitement than this!

 

What The World Needs Now Is Love was a big hit for Jackie DeShannon in 1965 and one of the few Bacharach/David classics Dionne Warwick does not have the definitive version of, though Miss Warwick did cut an exceptional version then.  Here, he destroys them all, which is ironic since he did some of the best work of his career by reviving Warwick’s in 1979.

 

 

Three of these (6, 8, 13) are Burt Bacharach/Hal David classics and three of the worst covers you will ever hear. 

 

The Dolby Digital 5.1 on the concerts are interesting.  The 1974 taping was slow magnetic mono from the reel-to-reel and spreads the sound around, but is not bad for its age.  The newer 2004 concert sounds better, but not as great as one would hope.  That leaves the PCM 2.0 16-bit/44.1kHz Stereo on the CD, which is more compressed than usual and is surprisingly flat and dull like the music itself.  This is more like a 1960s without excitement, innovation, Civil Rights movements, art or progress, all to be a lame money machine.  Stick with the DVDs, which offer three bonus tracks total.

 

 

-   Nicholas Sheffo


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