This album is the Grammy award-winning superstar’s 21st, and it’s one of her most infectious and intoxicating musical offerings to date. From the outset, I was blown away by the full, vibrant arrangements that permeate this record. The beautiful music is courtesy of the 40-piece Blue Note Orchestra, a collection of students, alumni and faculty from Citrus College, the suburban Los Angeles university where Manchester is an honorary artist in residence. Their presence on this album can’t be overstated – they’re fantastic!
Primarily a solo album, Manchester did recruit one very special fella to join her on The Fellas – my favorite fella: Barry Manilow. He duets with Manchester on a jubilant “For Me and My Gal,” a tribute to Gene Kelly and Judy Garland, who performed the 1942 movie’s title track.
The song that resonates most with Manchester is “Smile,” written by Charlie Chaplin. She unerringly pays homage to Nat “King” Cole’s heartbreaking interpretation. “The longevity of the song is undeniable, the poignancy of the message is so touching,” she said. “As a performer, a woman, a human being, you’re so frequently on the stage and people don’t know what’s going on in your life, yet you smile and keep going.”
While Melissa Manchester’s 1989 album honoring the great female singers was a tribute, The Fellas is a triumph. It lovingly celebrates classic songs by legendary artists, while also staying true to the artistry Melissa Manchester has blessed us with for more than 40 years. I highly recommend you pick it up on September 8, as it’s a stunning tapestry of beautiful music that would make the fellas proud.