December 14, 1987 12:00 PM

Barry Manilow

Maybe Manilow was born 40 years or so too late. Like his 1985 album, 2:00 A.M.—Paradise Cafe, this is a pop-jazz production that could have come right out of the big band era, and it’s sheer pleasure from start to finish. Manilow and Eddie Arkin did most of the arrangements, which are masterful combinations of rhythmic drive, precision and brassy splash. They also enlisted a remarkable cast of supporting players. The underappreciated Phyllis Hyman adds a musky, thickly textured duet to Black and Blue. Diane Schuur shows up, complete with mentor Stan Getz on sax, for a real double surprise (because it is done in the first place and done so beautifully in the second) on Gershwin’s Summertime. Kid Creole and his Coconuts have some fun with Manilow on Hey Mambo. Gerry Mulligan’s baritone sax broods behind the melancholy One More Time, while Tom Scott drops in on both sax and flute. Ron Pedley lends a thoughtful piano backup to Manilow’s effectively simple rendering of Stardust. Manilow meanwhile sounds as if he’s having a wonderful time. There are a couple of moments when he seems to be pushing his voice past its limits, but it’s hard to fault a performer who shows as much enterprise, imagination and passion for music as he does on this record. Few singers have as devoted a following as Manilow, but even those who are usually less than thrilled with his pop albums should find plenty to admire in this one. (Arista).

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