2 AM Manilow Cafe (Music Thoughts: Night Songs II, Barry Maniulow)

51rIS84u7XLLook, I am as big a Fanilow as you can get, so I was waiting with bated breath for ‘Night Songs II,’ Barry Manilow’s new album, which was released on Valentine’s Day this year. If for anything, he knows his audience, and he knows his fans would lap up a collection of love songs from him on the most romantic day of the year. This is a follow up to his Night Songs album from 2014, and the set up is just him and his piano. This is as intimate as you can get with Barry without marrying him and diehard fans of his will truly enjoy this. But if I have to be truly honest, his voice has sen better days. He was never the best vocalist, but the clarity is gone and you can hear him strain to reach some notes. Still, he sings the lyrics with a lot of heart. You can feel he knows and loves these songs inside and out, and the arrangements, which I will assume he is responsible for, captures that late-night contemplative quality that few people can interpret (In my opinion, Julie London was the master of this) And of course, the song selection is impeccable – from ‘Isn’t It A Pty,’ to ‘Everything Happens To Me, ‘ to ‘Moonlight in Vermont.’ He does a slow and melancholy arrangement of ‘I’m Old Fashioned’ that I was really taken by. Can you imagine if he produced these arrangements for someone else (Midler, maybe?) how they could bring new magic to the songs and the arrangements? I don’t know if I would ever specifically pull this album to listen to, but the songs are on my daily playlist, and I will happily stop and listen whenever one of these tracks come on.