Judge Brett Cullum writes the songs that makes the whole world sing, and he came and he gave without taking.
Well, you came and you gave without taking
He has sold over 75 million cassettes and CDs and has set records for having the most hit albums on the charts at once. Barry Manilow is an undeniable talent of epic proportions with a catalog of songs that are remarkable and instantly recognizable. He's still going after all these years, but truly the '70s was his decade. Is it any surprise Rhino's latest Manilow DVD release is called Barry Manilow: Songs from the Seventies? It follows an idea Manilow's producer Clive Davis came up with for the crooner to do CDS of hits from the '50s and '60s, but the '70s make sense since it was Barry's decade. During that time, he rose from accompanying Bette Midler on piano in a gay bathhouse to being the guy Frank Sinatra claimed was the next big thing. Most of Manilow's huge hits were during the '70s and very early '80s, before he became known as more of a cover artist and nostalgia act on his tours.
The DVD is a repackaging of a PBS special that captured a recent homecoming show for Manilow in Brooklyn. The program was shot over two nights, and the director has culled down the footage to a fast moving hour for the first disc.
On the second disc we get extra performances, including:
The only criticism I can find of the PBS special is Manilow doesn't perform all that many of the tracks found on his '70s tribute CD release, which has more covers than his own work. He concentrates on his own catalog of songs during this filmed concert and avoids doing songs he recorded such as "Bridge Over Troubled Water," "If," or "Sailing." It's not a gig where he performs the album he is supporting in its entirety. Barry Manilow knows people want to see him do his own stuff, and so he avoids making the whole thing too much a tribute to the rest of the decade. I'm not sure why the show is divided into two separate discs, because the three extra performances would have fit seamlessly with the rest of the show. It seems having two DVDs just gives the buyer a sense they are getting more, yet the entire running time is only 75 minutes.
The presentation of the special is well done, with a clear widescreen transfer. The picture is sharp, and colors look nicely saturated. This whole thing may be too precise, since we can see Barry's face, and it looks like he's had a ton of work done to fight the aging process. Frankly, he looks a little scary, but he sounds just fine. His voice is in great shape, and the surround sound does a nice job of delivering that and his impressive band, which includes strings and brass. The arrangements are complex when they need to be and simple and stark when they should be. Manilow knows how to keep a show moving, and everything is perfectly timed and wonderfully staged. You have a choice of either a Dolby five channel mix or a PCM two channel stereo from the main menu.
Ironically, Manilow is known as a singer-songwriter, but don't think he
writes all the songs that make the whole world sing. Hits for him that he did
not write include "Mandy," "Tryin' to Get the Feeling
Again," "Weekend in New England," "Looks Like We Made
It," "Can't Smile Without You," "Ready to Take a Chance
Again," and "I Write The Songs." But Manilow did practically own
the '70s, with his performances and recordings everywhere from commercials to
the top 40 charts, and Barry Manilow: Songs from the Seventies proves his
dominance of the decade. For fans of Barry, this one's a no brainer, and casual
viewers can watch it to get an idea of what Clay Aiken will be doing in two or
three decades. Well, actually Clay is doing this stuff now, because he's
co-opted Manilow's act lock, stock, and barrel. Problem is nobody does this
brand of music quite like Barry Manilow.
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Scales of Justice
• Outtakes and Extra Performances
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