Barry Manilow's fourth album, like his third, dispenses with the personal touches that appeared on the first two, and goes all the way with TV slickness. The sound that Manilow and coproducer Ron Dante have evolved, by integrating jingle aesthetics into tested MOR formulas, is the essence of pop commerciality. Chorally based, totally charted and recorded with a sharp edge, it is up-to-the-minute in its electronic hardness and its heavy, mechanical drum sound, while placating in its apparent sweetness. Like the jingle, it attempts to appeal by grabbing attention (Manilow's records are busy with noise), then proffering a synthetic charm (Manilow's singing is mellifluous, perfectly controlled and always "up").
Whether self-penned or selected from outside, Manilow's material conforms to the demands of advertising. He is the host/model demonstrating a new product with a graciousness as studied as it is emotionally neutral. One such product, "Riders to the Stars," almost exactly reproduces Manilow's discount-disco special, "It's a Miracle." With the substitution of a few words, it could easily be a message from United Airlines. Manilow and Marty Panzer's "This One's for You" expertly duplicates the unctuous joie de vivre of "I Write the Songs." "Looks Like We Made It," cowritten by one of the creators of "Mandy," reprises many of its prototype's changes, though its tune is not as subtle. Here, as in Randy Edelman's "Weekend in New England," the sales pitch dictates a soaring finale. One should not mistake the manic self-congratulation of Manilow's music for real feeling. It's only showbiz with tons of tinsel. (RS 222)
(Posted: Sep 23, 1976)
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