Review – Night Songs by Barry Manilow
I’ve been telling people for years that Barry Manilow is one of the most underrated musicians of all time. In addition to being a terrific vocalist and a consummate showman, Manilow is a top-rate lyricist, composer, producer, and musician. His new album, Night Songs, puts Manilow’s talents on full display in this stripped-down jazzy affair where he’s featured on vocals, piano and bass.
If you enjoyed Manilow’s 1984 concept album 2:00 AM Paradise Cafe, you will love Night Songs. Manilow breathes life into 16 lesser-known standards to create a beautiful collection of music that will please both hardcore and casual fans. It’s the perfect album to play if you’re looking to relax after a long day at work or if you’re trying to set the mood for a romantic evening at home. Whether you’re a Barry Manilow fan or just someone who enjoys sophisticated and sexy music, you owe it to yourself to pick up Night Songs.
The official release date for Night Songs is March 25 but you can purchase it right now on Barry Manilow’s official website.
Below is a track-by-track review of the album:
“I Fall In Love Too Easily”
- This 1944 song by legendary lyricist Sammy Cahn has never sounded better. It’s the perfect song to kick off the album because it embodies the spirit of Night Songs and sets the tone for the album. The vocal on this track is heartfelt and full of emotion without being over the top, and the piano and bass are beautiful.
- “Alone Together” is a jazz standard composed by Arthur Schwartz with lyrics by Howard Dietz. It was first introduced to the public in the 1932 musical Flying Colors and became a hit the same year for Leo Reisman and his orchestra. Prior to this album, I never heard this song but I’m glad it was included. It has an interesting chord progression, a jazzy bridge and a funky bass that keeps things lively.
“Blame It On My Youth”
- This beautiful little song written by Oscar Levant and Edward Heyman in 1934 is perfect for Manilow’s voice and conjures up memories of his tribute album to Frank Sinatra: Manilow Sings Sinatra. This isn’t surprising because Sinatra covered this song on his 1957 album Close To You. It’s easily one of my favorite tracks on the album.
“I Get Along Without You Very Well”
- Composed by Hoagy Carmichael in 1939, this song features lyrics based on a poem written by Jane Brown Thompson. It’s a beautifully sad song about a relationship that has come to an end and the denial associated with it. Think of it as a combination of the John Waite song “Missing You” and Robert Goulet’s “If Ever I Would Leave You” from the musical Camelot – only much prettier. Manilow’s emotive vocal on this number is perfect for the subject matter and the piano is gorgeous.
“You’re Getting To Be A Habit With Me”
- “You’re Getting To Be A Habit With Me” is a wonderfully jazzy song with an infectious melody that will have you playing it over and over again. This song originally appeared in the film version of the musical 42nd Street, and it’s abundantly clear that Manilow loves this number because it comes through in his fun, upbeat vocal.
“It Amazes Me”
- This song is the title track of Liza Minnelli’s second studio album, and it’s a poignant track about being loved. Manilow’s vocals are spot on and sincere. Hopefully this moving rendition with help this song get the attention it deserved when it was first released in 1965.
“But Not For Me”
- Similar to “You’re Getting To Be A Habit With Me,” this is a lovely upbeat number that provides a nice break in between the more serious songs. It’s been sung by everyone from Judy Garland to Rod Stewart, yet Manilow’s version still comes off as fun and fresh.
“It’s A New World”
- Judy Garland is one of Manilow’s greatest influences so it’s not surprising that he included a song she sang in the 1954 musical film A Star Is Born. It’s a gorgeous piano-driven number that Manilow delivers with style and grace. Judy would be proud.
“While We’re Young”
- This pleasant mid-tempo ballad from the 1940s was previously sung by artists including Peggy Lee and Perry Como. Manilow delivers a strong vocal on this track and makes it his own.
“You Don’t Know What Love Is”
- First made popular by Broadway star Carol Bruce, “You Don’t Know What Love Is” has been covered by various artists since its inception in 1941, and it appeared on the soundtrack for the 1999 film The Talented Mr. Ripley. Like many songs from this era, it’s short yet substantive – and Manilow’s sultry rendition is spellbinding.
“Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate The Positive”
- On 2:00 AM Paradise Cafe Manilow put music to an unreleased Johnny Mercer song: “When October Goes.” Therefore, it’s not surprising that Manilow should pay tribute to Mercer by singing “Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate The Positive” on this album. This is arguably the most upbeat number on Night Songs and Manilow clearly had a great time recording it. Between the jazzy piano and the infectious melody, this is one track you’ll have a hard time getting out of your head.
“My One And Only Love”
- This song first made popular by Frank Sinatra in 1953 is deftly sung and played by Manilow. The bridge is lovely and the vocal is hauntingly beautiful. Simply stated: it’s gorgeous.
“I’ve Never Been In Love Before”
- From the 1950 musical Guys and Dolls, this song features a high-energy performance from Manilow. Not only does he’s joyfully play the piano and deliver a swing-infused vocal, the listener is also treated to some great scat singing.
“I Walk A Little Faster”
- This obscure standard written by Cy Coleman was most notably sung by Fiona Apple in 2009, and it’s clever lyrics tell the story of a person who is hopeful that true love is just around the corner. It has a unique melody and a chorus that builds in a fascinating way. As will all the tracks on this album, Manilow’s performance is solid and sincere.
“Here’s That Rainy Day”
- First introduced in the 1953 musical Carnival in Flanders, this song was composed by Jimmy Van Heusen and it features lyrics by Johnny Burke. Frank Sinatra recorded it in 1959 and it hasn’t received much attention since then. While somber, Manilow’s delivery drives home the meaning of the song and forces the listener to appreciate its wonderful lyrics.
“Some Other Time”
- Night Songs comes to a close with a Leonard Bernstein song from the 1944 Broadway musical On the Town. As the song states: “Just when the fun is starting, comes the time for parting. But let’s just be glad for what we’ve had and what’s to come.” Let’s indeed. I couldn’t think of a better way to end a great album.