Songs From The Seventies (DVD)

Barry Manilow

Rhino/Stiletto, 2007

REVIEW BY: Duke Egbert


In the spirit of the Pierce Memorial Archives, I have decided, O Ye DV Faithful, to take the plunge. I hereby announce the formation of the UCAMA (Unfairly Critically Abused Musical Artists) Foundation, headquarters to be announced as soon as I secure land in Cleveland. Yes, friends, here we shall defend the critically indefensible: the musicians whom for one reason or another, the critical establishment dismissed but aren’t that bad, damn it. (For example, Fergie is specifically disavowed. There’s some crap even UCAMA won’t defend.) We will offer advocacy for music fans; no more will you have to hide your REO Speedwagon CDs behind a copy of the White Stripes that you’ve never listened to. Free your CD players, brothers and sisters; join UCAMA!

With that announcement, it’s obvious that we have to have a Barry Manilow display; hell, we might have an entire wing devoted to the work of the pop singer because he has taken more critical abuse -- in fact, he has taken more abuse from my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 my fellow writers on the DV -- than almost anyone. (Well, except for Afroman. But Chris was having a bad week.) However, as the Executive Director of UCAMA, I’m going to say it:

Barry Manilow is pretty damn good. He writes great songs, and he does exactly what he wants to -- without pretension or trying to be whatever’s popular at the time.

Now that I have completely destroyed whatever street cred I ever had, let’s talk about his latest: the DVD of his PBS special, Songs From The Seventies. This is Manilow’s love letter to when he first made it big, and he performs a nice selection of his classic hits and songs that really affected him as a person and as an artist. His voice is still in fine fettle (though I think he has transposed “Looks Like We Made It” down a key or two), his piano playing is still nonpareil, and the background musicians are competent to excellent. There’s excellent rapport with his audience, and he seems to genuinely be having fun.

Manilow nails his originals without breaking a sweat; the hauntingly beautiful “Could It Be Magic?,” “New York City Rhythm,” and an a cappella “One Voice” are all wonderful. He even makes “Copacabana” listenable, mostly by stripping it down to guitar and voice only -- I still could go the rest of my life without hearing about Rico and Lola, though.

His choices of covers are interesting, and in some cases brilliant. “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother,” “The Way We Were,” and “It Never Rains In Southern California” are great songs, and Manilow does them justice; while I’m not a big fan of Frankie Valli’s “My Eyes Adored You,” he does a credible job. If I have a complaint, it’s that I wanted more; his version of “You’ve Got A Friend,” relegated to the special features on Disc 2, should have been a highlight. And I’m going to be honest; I wish he’d done more of his own stuff as well. “Even Now” deserves more than thirty seconds in a medley.

I turn forty today, the 28th of February. I no longer care about being cool. My name’s Duke, I like Barry Manilow, and Songs From The Seventies was a damned good time.

Rating: B

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



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