The release of “Just You and I” coincided with Labor Day. This was done so as a tribute to the first responders who have sacrificed so much during these challenging times. “Right now,” Manchester explains, “as we celebrate Labor Day, it seemed so fitting to release ‘Just You And I’ in tribute to the first responders, the essential workers and the everyday heroes who labor, every day, to keep the world running and to keep everyone safe.”
Originally charting in February 1976, “Just You and I” arose from a conversation between its co-writers, Melissa Manchester and Carole Bayer Sager. “We wrote together as young women in New York City, every day, in my tiny little apartment or her tiny little apartment,” Manchester reminisces. “It’s what you did.”
For this latest reinvention of the Billboard Hot 100 and Adult Contemporary Top 5 (No. 3) charter, “I had the opportunity to invite a new generation of young artists — the instrumentalists and singers of Citrus Community College in Glendora, CA (where I’m proud to be the Artist In Residence) — to join me in revisiting and bringing new energy to the song,” Manchester exudes. “They’re singing on ‘Just You And I” — that’s the choir! I wrote the parts and, boy, they showed up!”
The rhythm section and choir vocals were recorded in the state-of-the-art Citrus College Studios in early 2020, before the campus was shut down due to the worldwide health crisis. When the global COVID-19 pandemic hit, Manchester admits, “I was feeling a lot of grief because I missed my life! Because being home always meant I was between gigs.”
However, upon reflection Manchester realized that she had most of the new RE:VIEW album “in the can” since it was recorded during the previous several months. So, she thought it might be possible to complete the collection remotely. Melissa enlisted the help of her longtime friend and eight-time Grammy Award-nominated jazz saxophonist Gerald Albright to bring a fresh twist to the album’s first single.
“Gerald and I both know that he played on one of my early songs — I love how he plays — but neither of us can remember what the song was!” Manchester laughs. “So, we just had to do it again!”
The idea for the new album project bubbled up in 2019. “The whole point of RE:VIEW,” explains Manchester, “is that, in these times, as with many of my colleagues, the original record company owns all of the masters, and the only way I can empower myself and own my masters is to re-record these old songs, with a little bit of a tweak, just to make it interesting.”
“You grow into the songs,” Manchester continues. “You start to, you know, mess with the harmonics a little bit. So that’s what we are doing.”
The full RE:VIEW album will feature eight more of Manchester’s charted hit songs from the 70s and 80s — songs like “Through The Eyes Of Love” and “Midnight Blue.” Manchester is also including a few surprises as she considers her 50 years in the music industry, including one of her compositions that was originally released by Diana Ross, but which Manchester, herself, never recorded. Other selections are never-released songs she’s penned which have finally met their moment.
The full RE:VIEW album will be revealed song by song, month by month — a bright spot to look forward to as we make our way out of a dark year.
No stranger to musical activism, Manchester released the poignant music video “A Better Rainbow,” in 2018 as a get-out-the-vote effort, featuring images contributed by fans from around the globe. More recently, she ventured into the world of contemporary choral writing and recording with the virtual choir anthem “Awake!,” based on a century-old poem by Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore.
In support of women’s empowerment, Manchester composed the score to the hit musical, Sweet Potato Queens, with book by Broadway veteran Rupert Holmes and lyrics by Nashville Songwriters Hall of Famer Sharon Vaughn, based upon the New York Times best-selling books of Jill Conner Browne.
In a year that hasn’t given us much to be happy about, I’m thrilled that one of my favorite female vocalists is back with new music. What makes this news even better is that there are eight more tracks to come! A new Melissa Manchester album is just what we need. In a world overcome with stress and unpredictability, it’s a relief and a joy to know that beautiful music is here and on the horizon.