Childhood Classic : Barry Manilow 1989- Simple Title But Memorable Songs

Barry Manilow was released on May 2, 1989

Every once in a while, I will be reviewing a release from my childhood or musical past that made an influence on me. Some of these will be well known, and others may have been passed by under the radar. Most will not be in the hard rock/metal genre. You can see reviews in that genre written by me in the Retro Review section on the webpage Sleazeroxx.com, or on my online portfolio at llumleyportfolio.wordpress.com

 

My first exposure to Barry Manilow was during my sophomore year in high school. I took a theater arts class and one day we were listening to the song “Memory” from Cats. The title looked familiar to me, so I went home and dug around my parents 45s (remember them??), where they had two of Manilow’s records ; 1981’s “The Old Songs”/ “Don’t Fall In Love With Me” and “Heart of Steel”/Memory” from 1982. A few years later , I stumbled upon Manilow’s PBS special from England, which ended up being “The Greatest Hits And Then Some” release. I was mesmerized by the show, and had to listen to more of his music. I played those 45s over and over again to the point where I needed some newer material. I saw an ad on television in 1997 that Manilow was coming to Starlake Amphitheater in Burgettstown , P.A. I had to get tickets to see him. My mother took me to the local National Record Mart, so I could get tickets the day they came out. If it weren’t for her, I would not have been able to see him. She gave me her credit card to use, and when the guy printed out the tickets, he mentioned that it was cash only (although there was nothing stating that before the sale date or at the store itself in the ticket policies). Luckily, she had cash on her, and I was shocked at the price of the tickets; I saw my first concert in 1991 with lawn seats at the same amphitheater for 18 dollars. Each ticket was $40 for Manilow, plus service charge, which was a lot back then (but they ended up being like 10th row-and now some of his seats go for over $100) .

After the show, I had to get some more Manilow releases (I had the cassettes of the 1978 Greatest Hits and the 1989 Volume 1 which I got from the BMG music club.) . I went to Best Buy, and the only CDs they carried were the Greatest Hits from 1989 (Volumes I, II and III), along with his self titled 1989 album. I chose the self titled one as my first Manilow CD.

Some fans have dubbed Barry Manilow as the “purple album”, because he released several other albums with his name on it; his debut in 1973, Barry Manilow II (1974), 1980’s Barry, and 1985’s Manilow. Whatever fans want to call it, it was an unique album for many reasons besides the title; all but one song had outside writers on it (Manilow usually wrote or co-wrote most of his songs, and allowed few outside writers at this time), it had a polished production, and it was his last all original music until 2001, where besides some live releases, he released covers and themed albums from Broadway, the Big Band era, and the 1970s (The Summer of ’78 album is highly underrated) . It was also one of the longer run times from previous records , almost an hour long.

The opener “Please Don’t Be Scared,” is a wonderful ballad to start off the record. Manilow still sticks to the formula of loss, love, and hope in his songs. This first track , with the lyrics “Someday someone will make you glad you survived” brings the hope theme into play , while struggling to see the bigger picture in life.

“Keep Each Other Warm,” is a cover of the British group Bucks Fizz, and became a hit on the AC charts for Barry at #7. The soulful/ R&B song would have been placed perfectly along the radio songs by groups like Surface and Breathe. Unfortunately it was never played in my area stations in Youngstown, Ohio (where the local station was, although I live in Columbiana, Ohio, twenty minutes or so away). Manilow’s take on this song has more power to it instrumentally, where the original sounds like an ABBA cover band.

Songs like “Once and For All, ” and “The One That Got Away” continue the polished 1980s feel , where “The One That Got Away” has a simple chorus lyrically , which Manilow pulls off, even though it is some of the weaker songs on the release. Even though they are weaker than the others, a weak Manilow song can still be better than some artists’ best work.

“When the Good Times Come Again,” and “Some Good Things Never Last” are two great songs in a row. “…Good Times..” has the format, much like his hit “Somewhere Down The Road,” with the theme of hoping better things will come in the relationship after taking a break, where “Some Good Things Never Last” was featured on his follow up release, Live On Broadway. The opening line of “It’s 3 in the morning/You’re nowhere in sight” is a line that’s been thrown in my head numerous times for no reason whatsoever, especially being awake at 3 A.M. It’s a wonder to me, looking back now, why “Some Good Things Never Last” was not released as a single. It should have been on the pop or AC charts.

The last three songs are the songs I remember most about the release. “My Moonlight Memories Of You’ is a catchy song that displays Manilow’s love for Broadway songs. The song starts off one way , and then goes in another style, one that you could see Fred Astaire dancing and singing in an old time musical, or in a vaudeville show. The “I Can’t Smile Without You” feel of the song challenges the listener NOT to sing along, and with the end , where he is singing the melody while it fades out, one can picture the main star walking down the street while the camera pans overhead to the city while the credits roll.

“Anyone Can Do The Heartbreak” was a hit for Anne Murray in 1987. Both versions are just as good, and it’s hard to choose one over the other.

The final is a road song, “A Little Traveling Music, Please.” I first heard this song on the PBS special, or the VHS release of the show, I can’t remember exactly, but I thought it was a great , soft song about being on the road , and away from the special person. Many road songs in music, like “Faithfully “or “Turn The Page,” have power to it musically (hence the name power ballad), where this song is a refreshingly mellow and clam, with drummer Vinnie Colaiuta playing brushes on the track. This song is the perfect placement as the ender of the album. I played this song many times after playing in local bands as a drummer on the way home to calm my ears after playing rock and blues all night long. It takes a while for the song to get going, with an instrumental intro, but when the song gets going, its great.

Barry Manilow has wonderful memories for me. One, it was exposure to Manilow’s latest work, and not just the popular hits that I knew the time. It also had a long run time, so I got my money’s worth, along with some songs becoming my favorite rarer songs from his catalog (“Memories of You,” and “Traveling Music” are two of them).

The songs still hold up after 30 years, and doesn’t sound too dated, even though it is one of his more polished production wise albums (along with 1985’s Manilow) . Manilow fans all have their favorite albums (they are as passionate as Kiss, The Beatles, and The Oak Ridge Boys’ fans as which are their favorites), this is one of my favorites where I don’t have to skip songs ( I am not counting his cover albums). Even though some are a little weaker than others, it can play all the way through. This is a CD that gave me more of a love of Manilow’s music (especially when I was in college at the time, where his music was a friend to me). It is still a go-to CD to play when I want to hear some rarer Manilow songs.

You can read my other post on Barry’s rarer songs here in the archives, by typing in “Barry Manilow” in the search engine.

 

Track Listing: 1. Please Don’t Be Scared 2. Keep Each Other Warm 3.Once And For All 4. The One That Got Away 5.When The Good Times Come Again 6. Some Good Things Never Last 7. In Another World 8. You Begin Again 9.My Moonlight Memories Of You   10. Anyone Can Do The Heartbreak 11. A Little Traveling Music, Please

Advertisements

Childhood Classic: New Edition Turns 35 !!!

New Edition was released July 6, 1984 by MCA Records. It hit #6 on the U.S. Top Pop Albums and #1 on the Top R&B Albums charts.

Every once in a while, I will be reviewing a release from my childhood or musical past that made an influence on me. Some of these will be well known, and others may have been passed by under the radar. Most will not be in the hard rock/metal genre. You can see reviews in that genre written by me in the Retro Review section on the webpage Sleazeroxx.com

 

The first cassette I ever got was 1983’s An Innocent Man by Billy Joel. At the time, I was still listening to 45s and vinyl records. My brother had several of Joel’s singles from the album, and when it was time for me to save enough allowance money (or maybe it was birthday money, I don’t remember), and my parents took me to the local store to pick out a release, I chose Joel’s album (you can read my review of that album in the archives under “Childhood Classics: My First Cassette”).

I listened to many types of music, from country to the pop songs on the radio, but I was also listening to early rock and roll music, like The Beach Boys, Elvis, and other early pioneers of music, at age 11. Joel’s album was a tribute to the early acts of music, with its pop harmonies (at the time I did not know that, but loved the songs that was played on the local radio station). So when it came time for me to get another cassette, I picked a group that was starting to get big on radio in my area, which I also had a 45 single of, New Edition.

The 1984 self titled release was actually the group’ second album, but I was already jamming to the single “Cool It Now,” which was being played on a local television video show from Akron/Canton ‘s channel 23 (we didn’t have MTV at this time- it was a pay site, and we didn’t have cable) hosted by Billy Soule. When it came to the early days of buying music, I would usually get a 45 single, which was under $2 at the time, and listen to the B sides to see if I liked the other songs, wait until the group had two or three songs out before I could have enough money to get the whole album (which was a pricey $9 back then), or wait until the album went on sale for the $5.99-$7.99 sale price.

Being a fan of Michael Jackson at the time, especially The Jackson 5 era, the guys from New Edition really hit the spot with their strong harmony vocals, and pop feel to the songs. I was also a fan of the music videos, with the guys in the group hanging out together , playing basketball and chasing girls in the park, while breaking out into song with fancy dance moves and hand motions to the songs, which helped in my opinion of how cool these guys were at the time.

The second single, “Mr. Telephone Man,” (written and produced by Ray Parker Jr.) was one of my favorite songs at the time, where I would study the music video every time it was played on Soule’s video show, so I could mimic the hand gestures to the song. I remember impressing several of my classmates at the time , when they saw that I could do all the hand movements exactly like they did in the video. It was this song that convinced me that I had to have the whole cassette. The fact that both “Cool It Now” and “Mr. Telephone Man” were the first two songs on the cassette was like finding King Solomon’s gold when playing the cassette, because I did not have to fast forward to my two favorite songs (the cell phone era people may not understand why “Mr. Telephone Man was so relatable at the time)

The album released four singles; the two mentioned above, “Lost In Love” (not to be confused with the Air Supply song), and “My Secret (Didja Gettit Yet)?” The video for “My Secret” detailed the guys hanging out at a L.A. Lakers basketball game during the video. I don’t remember the video being played as often as the first two in my area, nor was the song on my local radio station in Youngstown , Ohio. Anyway, I remember it started the second side of the cassette.

There are three rare cuts on the release that I enjoyed now revisiting the music. “I’m Leaving You Again” and “Delicious” are two slow R&B songs that would’ve been played at school dances or roller skating rinks to slow things down. They also would have been a great fit on the soul and black radio stations at the time. “Maryann” is a song that has the 1970’s Spinners style to it. The saxophone solo gives the song an adult contemporary style added into the mix.

If there are any fillers on the release, it’ll be “Kinda Girls We Like” which is too much rap for me (even in the 1980s, I was not a fan of rap- a little bit was ok, like on “Cool It Now” but that was enough), “Baby Love,” and “Hide And Seek.” But having 7 out of 10 songs on an album being great- that’s a good mix, especially for a pop group.

Music groups who could sing and dance were not new in 1984; acts like The Osmonds, The Jacksons, The Temptations, The Four Tops, and The Spinners were doing it long before. However, New Edition brought the same concept to the 80s, with a mass appeal as well; they had both white and black audiences buying their records. They were one of the pioneers of the boy band craze that happened in the 1990s.

After a dispute over royalties during this album, the group sued manager Maurice Starr, who went on afterwards to form The New Kids on The Block , wanting them to be the white version of New Edition. Bobby Brown left New Edition years later to go solo (I was a huge fan of his 1988 Don’t Be Cruel album) along with the other members being a part of Bell Biv Devoe, and both Johnny Gill ( a replacement for Tresevant) and Ralph Tresvant had solo careers. The group went on to have a few other good singles, such as “Count Me Out” (from their next album),  a remake of the Penguin’s hit “Earth Angel” , and 1988’s “If If Isn’t Love.”

Is New Edition going to be listed as a classic album, where many others may proudly say it was their fist record? Probably not. However, it was filled with good pop vocals, and has several wonderful musicians that was a part of the songs- Teena Marie, Ray Parker Jr. , and Michael Sambello had songs or production on it. Not everyone had their first two or three records or cassettes (or later CDs) masterpieces. The album for me brings back memories of going to a record store trying to decide what to spend your money on, studying pop vocals and harmonies, and going back to a time when some music  and videos were just plan fun without all the political agendas like today.

 

Classic Book Review: On (And Off) The Bus With Country Legends

Front cover photo : Jarrett Gaza Photography. Cover by Left Coast Design, Portland, Oregon

I first read On the Road With The Oak Ridge Boys by Joseph S. Bonsall (2015, Harvest House Books) on my Kindle a few years ago. I received the physical copy this past Christmas, along with his other writing An American Journey (the review can be found here in the archives), so I could have a copy to add to my other books of the Oaks.

This book is a more in depth commentary than An American Journey for fans that want to know what all goes on in the touring aspect of the legendary Oak Ridge Boys. I do not want to use this review as a compare/contrast of the two books, but if anyone has read any of Bonsall’s writings, similar themes occur; a grateful man who give respect to his fellow members, his crew, and throws in many entertaining and humorous tales throughout the reading.

The writing is not a historical timeline, but filled with stories from the travels in the early days of the singing group in the gospel field to breaking into the country music genre, along with pop platform after the success of “Elvira.” Bonsall writes about how the band now views the business today, along with his take on new country acts , and how he feels about being considered the godfathers of country music (not in a godfather/mafia way).

Bonsall’s book tells about how he views his fellow singing partners Duane Allen, William Lee Golden, and Richard Sterban, along with the contributions each brings to the business side in running the band. The hands on approach that these four take in the group (from publicity to scheduling and beyond) makes the group even more impressive, as opposed to today’s acts who just show up , sing, and leave, while the managers handle everything else. The fact that The Oak Ridge Boys protect their product without compromising their American, wholesome, values is one reason why they are so endeared. I could possibly say the rock band KISS is the only other band that has such a direct path of how they want the band to be run, with Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley at the helm.

The reason for the way The Oak Ridge Boys’ musical direction is so defined is covered in one of the chapters , which Bonsall calls the “ORB Doctrine,” of treating others right, including the venue management, and working with them from the first booking of the show to when the busses pulls out at the end of the night. The thankfulness and professionalism of the road crew, musicians, and the singers is nice to read in the writing, where many acts ignore that there are many people behind the scenes that make a concert happen, and Bonsall lists these people by name throughout the text; the past and present members who have worked with the Oaks’ organization.

As mentioned, there are many uplifting road tales as well, such as the time the Oaks were on a tour bus listening to George Jones sing a song he just finished writing before recording (which became a huge hit-no spoilers here), how their Christmas tours started, to how they met Paul Simon and other acts that the band sang backup for live or on albums. Bonsall also takes the reader through some of his favorite albums and concerts he has seen in his lifetime, the several U.S. Presidents they have met throughout the years , how the group picks out great songs and who sings lead on them , which is in a section that is mentioned as finding “three minutes of magic.”

One part I really enjoyed was when Bonsall writes about their love for baseball and how certain ballparks have been torn down, which reminds him of several memories of places they performed that are no longer there, including Salem, Ohio’s Ponderosa Park, which was not far from where I live (it was an smaller outdoor venue that most people never heard of). Bonsall describes having water gun fights with the crowd there. It’s cool to see a small venue near my hometown mentioned in a nationally released book. I never got to see them, or any show at Ponderosa; I had tickets for an Oaks show there when owners tried to revive the venue only to close it down before they could start shows. However the venue has historical memories for those in my area who attended shows there.

My respect and admiration for the Oak Ridge Boys have been well documented here, with many books , CDs, and concert reviews. They were one of the first musical acts I followed as a child in the early 1980s, and have learned much from studying their music, and their live show. Being a fan of many types of music, along with books (I have a B.A. in English), I suggest musicians to seek out this book to read, even if you are not a fan of the group. There are many tips and information that a future artist (or anyone in business) can take away from this writing. On top of it, you may even have a new respect for the group after reading this. I have read this book twice in the past three years or so, and still find it entertaining. Bonsall’s writing is down to earth, with short chapters, along with quotes from the other members and those that work with the group. Bonsall is a wonderful writer who is a proud American, who brings an honest, gratified approach to not only the success from the past , but a content attitude to where he is in the group, along with his role in life as an entertainer, family man, and follower of God.

Bonsall states at the end of the collection that his goal, along with the other members of the Oak Ridge Boys, is to leave the audience with “something meaningful you can apply to your life.” Not only on stage, but he achieves in his words on the pages.

 

            On The Road With The Oak Ridge Boys by Joseph S. Bonsall (2015, Harvest House Books) ISBN: 978-0-7369-6419-7 (pub) 978-07369-6420-3 (eBook), can be found on amazon.com

For information on The Oak Ridge Boys, visit: http://www.oakridgeboys.com

 

Other books by Harvest House can be found at: http://www.harvesthousepublishers.com

 

The Overall:

Pages: 252

Language: None

Geared Towards: Any age

For Fans Of: Music, biographies, country music, The Oak Ridge Boys