Yesterday's focus was on Scott Walker. Today's focus is on Barry Manilow. Yes, the man behind such hits as "Mandy," "Can't Smile Without You" and a handful of other songs you couldn't escape in the Seventies. I grew up listening to his stuff and still like a lot of it. Yet I was appalled to see a display in a bookstore last night for his latest album, The Greatest Songs of the Sixties. Here's my reasoning:
A big chunk of Manilow's audience is older than me. So I've wondered why these people want to hear re-recorded versions of songs they've heard for most of their adult lives. Following up The Greatest Songs of the Fifties, Manilow goes through versions of "Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head," "And I Love Her" and "Strangers in the Night" on this collection. Manilow doesn't drastically change the songs' arrangements here; it sounds like he's phoning this stuff in. Sure, he's serving his audience what they apparently want, but isn't this just trying to tread water as the boat slowly sinks?
Similar to Kenny G covering songs that you've heard enough times in your life (especially "My Heart Will Go On"), what attracts people to these retreads? The same can be applied to the people that watch American Idol and buy the CDs filled with these cover songs. While I may have an interest in hearing Tom Waits' version of "Somewhere," I doubt it's going to surpass the original cast recording version in my mind. So what gives?
I understand there is a market for people who don't like hard-sounding rock or pop. They like music to be a soothing, unchallenging matter. This is a mindset I hope to never have as a music fan. Music is just so endless, so why would I want to have something so limited in my regular rotation?
I'm sure Manilow and his record company are eyeing another record: The Greatest Songs of the Seventies. Will Manilow reprise some of the hits from his heyday? I'm not sure, but I'm pretty sure he'll cover songs by artists like the Carpenters, Carole King and Neil Diamond. So I wonder, is there a stopping point for these kinds of albums for Manilow? I doubt there will be collections of Eighties and Nineties material because that's a little too "young" for the audience. Well, there could be additional editions of the Fifties and Sixties material until the cows come home. In my mind, the cows are home and they need a rest.