CD Review: Barry Manilow – Live: Legacy Edition

Arista has beautifully restored Barry Manilow’s 1977 album Live from the original 1976 concert recordings. The concert was recorded at the Uris Theatre in New York City in December 1976. Released as a two-LP album in May of 1977, Live was Manilow’s first number one album (his second was 2006’s The Greatest Songs of the Fifties), sold over 3 million copies and managed to displace Fleetwood Mac’s classic Rumours – one of the biggest-selling albums of all time – from the top of the charts. Live was also Arista’s first platinum-selling double-LP. The album would eventually score platinum status four times over. Barry Manilow was one of the biggest stars in the music business that year.

For the first time ever, Live is available in the sequence as it was heard by the audience at the Uris Theatre in 1976. Live: Legacy Edition makes three significant changes to previous releases of the album. This edition has been expanded into a two-CD set, allowing for the restoration of all three-parts of “Beautiful Music” as the theme of Act II, which fills all of disc two by itself.
The new edition includes five previously unreleased songs, all in their original places in the concert: “Let Me Go,” “I Am Your Child,” “Tryin’ To Get The Feeling Again,” “Lady Flash Medley,” and “One Of These Days.” Resequencing the concert back to its original order of performance makes the concert flow more evenly. Having owned previous versions of the Live album, I’ve noticed that the restored version no longer has the brief, choppy pauses where material was moved or edited.
One of the highlights of Live: Legacy Edition is “A Very Strange Medley,” also known as “(V.S.M.).” It is in this medley that Manilow sings several of the commercial jingles he wrote while trying to get a break in the music business. Barry wrote some very well-known jingles for McDonald’s, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Band-Aids, and Dr. Pepper, among others. Manilow started playing the medley after he left his job as Bette Midler’s musical director and started playing clubs as a solo artist. “I didn’t have a hit single at the time, so I decided to include the only material I was associated with that the audience knew: my commercials.” Thirty years later, “The Very Strange Medley” is still a highlight of Manilow’s live shows.
By the time of the Uris theatre concert, Manilow had seven hit singles in a row, all of which are performed on Live: Legacy Edition. Listening to the album, it is clear that the live concert gives Manilow an opportunity to show his musicianship, showmanship, and singing ability. Barry is responding to the audience and they are responding in turn. Manilow shows vocal skills when singing a ballad like “Mandy,” a sense of humor when delivering the “Very Strange Medley,” and a fun interpretation of pop-infused music when singing the “Jump Shout Boogie Medley.” The Medley includes Manilow’s 1975 reworking of “Bandstand Boogie,” which was used as the theme song for the long-running television show American Bandstand.
Live: Legacy Edition has been restored to show Barry Manilow at the height of his success in the 1970’s. The double-CD includes a four-color booklet, Barry Manilow’s original liner notes, new liner notes from Rolling Stone’s David Wild and previously unreleased photography. Live: Legacy Edition is a must-have for any Barry Manilow fan or anyone who enjoys live concert music.

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