When Barry Manilow's "The Greatest Love Songs of All Time" was released several months ago I was kind of intrigued. I had not purchased anything by Manilow since his "Ultimate Collection" compilation several years back and I was curious as to how he would might handle some of the most popular love songs ever written. Unlike many of my contemporaries I actually liked most of Barry Manilow's hits back in the day. I hemmed and hawed and finally purchased this album a couple of weeks ago. And frankly after listening to it about a half dozen times I am just not all that impressed.
I thought that many of the tracks on "Barry Manilow: The Greatest Love Songs of All Time" were quite pedestrian. I could find precious little passion on tunes like "I Only Have Eyes For You", "We've Only Just Begun" and "I Can't Give You Anything But Love". These songs will likely be heard for years to come as background "muzak" in offices, restaurants and waiting rooms all across America. There is nothing notable about them. Meanwhile, I was not at all enamored with the arrangement chosen for "Love Me Tender". Frankly, I did not care for that one at all. But having said all that there are some brighter moments on this disc. I thought Manilow did a more than credible job on numbers like "The Look of Love", "The Twelfth of Never" and "You Made Me Love You". On these tracks I could at least detect a pulse! My favorite tune on this disc would have to be "Nevertheless (I'm In Love With You)". Both the arrangement and Barry's take on this old Mill Brothers standard was right on. Finally, one of the reasons I relented and purchased this album was the inclusion of the venerable 1898 tune "When You Were Sweet Sixteen". I am a big fan of so-called "turn of the century" music and I have always loved that song. I am happy to report that this one turned out just fine.
But at the end of the day "Barry Manilow" The Greatest Love Songs of All Time" simply failed to impress. I very much wanted to like this disc but after 6 or 7 spins I am afraid that I remain largely underwhelmed. This is not a horrible record but about half the tracks failed to move me at all. With the likes of Clive Davis producing this album I expected much more. I will think twice before purchasing another disc of this type in the future. Disappointing.
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Ceasing his romantic decade -- overviews of the '80s -- because, really, what †90s love songs are there for him to croon outside of "†My Heart Will Go On†" -- Barry Manilow doubles back for 2010†s The Greatest Love Songs of All Time, picking great romantic tunes from the 20th century, ranging from "†The Twelfth of Never,†" "†You Made Me Love You,†" and "†How Deep Is the Ocean?†" to "†We†ve Only Just Begun,†" "†Love Me Tender,†" "†The Look of Love,†" and "†I Only Have Eyes for You.†" As the title suggests, this collection of 13 songs is very much cut from the same cloth as its four predecessors, favoring the familiar to the obscure, relying on the same clean, efficient production that lets the songs and his personality shine in equal measure. Although this is certainly a modern production -- albeit one with keyboard sounds straight out of 1987 -- this isn†t a record that feels contemporary, and Manilow doesn†t reinterpret the songs so much as sing them his way…which is all that he needs to do, of course, as that†s all that his fans want. In other words, The Greatest Love Songs of All Time doesn†t disappoint: it delivers what it promises, no more and no less. Stephen Thomas Erlewine, All Music Guide