No one can reinvent the great classics of the 1950's better than Barry Manilow. He breathes new life and vitality into these truly wonderful songs and they sound fresh and timeless. Highlights include a guest appearance from Phyllis McGuire of the McGuire Sisters on the medley of 1954 hits and veritable jukebox of favorites such as Bobby Darin's 'Beyond The Sea', Frankie Avalon's 'Venus' and Johnny Mathis' 'It's Not For Me To Say'. Arista. 2006.
Clive Davis's ear earns him more accolades than most of his talents' vocal chords. Now it's time to give it up for his enterprising instincts. The Greatest Songs of the Fifties
arrives on the heels of another of the famous producer's backward-looking projects, the ubiquitous, uber-successful Great American Songbook
series by Rod Stewart. The short story: same vibe, different era. With songs like "All I Have to Do Is Dream," "Venus," and "Unchained Melody" (first recorded in the '50s but best known for its '60s Righteous Brothers rendition), Manilow sidesteps the stuff that rocked the sock hops in favor of cheek-to-cheek selections--the better to remind longtime fans of his nostalgia-steeped '70s hits. Overall, the approach works, especially when the bona fide '50s legend Phyllis McGuire steps in to heat up the "Teach Me Tonight/Sincerely" medley, and Manilow swings across genres to lovingly tackle Dinah Washington's "What a Diff'rence a Day Made." Vocally, a warm haze covers these tracks; whether it's there to evoke fuzzier times or to mask a voice that's gone slightly south is unclear. What couldn't be more crystal, though, is Manilow and Davis's commitment to first-class, sophisticated record-making. --Tammy La Gorce