A few weeks ago, I decided to feature some of my 7-inch records (aka 45s).
As I said in a previous column, a woman I met at a former job gave me a box of 45s she found in her attic. Today, I’m featuring five of ‘em.
I chose Barry Manilow for no real reason other than that I’ve never intentionally listened to his music. I wanted to give Barry a chance, and singles are truly the perfect opportunity to do that.
I was always a little pretentious toward Barry, but I was never sure why. I won’t rationalize or justify that statement, but now I do understand it.
Barry does have a cheesy, whimsical style of pop music that doesn’t compete with the realist rock of Elton John or Billy Joel — ironically whom I featured in my previous and first 7-inch record column. Simply put, he’s soft.
I think what bothers people about Barry is that he had the vocal potential to bridge into rock music but never did. His vocals are predictable, and the music doesn’t feature much diversity.
With that being said, I don’t hate it. I can dig deep and find pleasure in the innocent charm channeled in his music. It probably won’t spice up my work day much, but that’s OK.
Music doesn’t always have to shout at you. Sometimes it can just hang out nearby.
“Can’t Smile Without You” has a surprisingly old-fashioned style from even before Barry's time. It does, however, capture the concept of someone meaning so much to you that your feelings match. They feel sad, you feel sad. They are happy, you are happy. We’ve all been there. The track was featured on Barry’s 1978 album “Even Now,” and his version was the most well-known. The song actually was written by Christian Arnold, David Martin and Geoff Morrow.
“Copacabana (At the Copa)” is as tropical as it sounds. The smooth, rhythmic nature of the song reminds me of the Norway indie-folk duo, Kings of Convenience. The sultry, pleasant vibe is so well-executed and easy to listen to. This is by far my favorite of the tracks I listened to for this column. It’s a bit showy and gimmicky, but it’s still a fun listen.
“Sunrise” from the same album was also a bit tropical, but not half as interesting.
“Sweet Life” is a slow song from Barry’s 1973 self-titled album. If you can’t tell by the title, this track is quintessential easy listening — mellow and lighthearted. It reminds me of some of my favorite Elton John songs.
I was excited to hear “They Gave in to the Blues” because I thought it was a double entendre for blues as a genre and blues as an emotion. But, as per usual, Barry got all up in the feels on this one.
“When I Wanted You” is a ballad also from his 1979 album, “One Voice.” This was my least favorite, because I felt it was too sappy and over-dramatic. “Ships,” another song from that album, gave me the same feeling.
Barry never met an edge, he didn’t make round.
By the time I listened to “Ready to Take a Chance Again” from the 1978 album “Foul Play,” I was so over ballads. My day was getting depressing and doing it fast. The music was classical and cinematic, which definitely isn’t my style.
It’s a fair assessment that Barry Manilow isn’t my first pick from musicians of the time period. But I won’t judge anyone who feels differently.