CD Review: EnjoyThe Music.Com (Thank you Manilow Elf)

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A BaltoBoy Steve Scan

This recording was entirely the brainchild of Barry Manilow. He wanted to pay tribute to that outstanding pop vocalist of the nineteen fifties, Rosemary Clooney. In case you did not know, she was the well-known actor, George Clooney’s aunt. I had the privilege to have heard Rosemary live many years ago. I also was fortunate to have been watching and listening to the Today Show some months ago when this recording was being discussed. It was revealed that Barry Manilow had decided that was his first and only choice to help reinvent these marvelous songs. It was a project dream that took quite a bit of time to finalize and it was done properly. It was not meant to be an imitation of Rosemary Clooney.

Both Barry and Bette wanted to be respectful to these “Rosemary Clooney songs”. They were all recorded by her in the fifties, mostly between 1951 and 1954. While being respectful, both wanted to add a bit of something new and so most of these oldies do feature new arrangements. Barry Manilow had a hand in most of the arrangements. Ray Ellis had his hands into a bit of everything here, including arranging and conducting. There are literally too many well-known musicians to list all, but I will mention Robbie Buchanan, Jorge Calandrelli and Pat Williams.

This CD offers no more music than Rosemary’s old vinyl albums did fifty years ago and that is a shame as far as I am concerned. In addition to seven beautiful ballads and the well-known upbeat titles “This Ole House, Come On-A My House” and “Mambo Italiano”, there is a seemingly out of place “White Christmas”. Linda Ronstadt’s duet with Bette seems particularly appropriate and very well done. The same can be said of Barry Manilow’s duet with her and a bit of “tinkling the ivories” but the added dialogue, seemingly heartfelt, may be regarded by many as kind of corny.

The entire album is very well performed by top-notch musicians. Bette Midler shines here, perhaps particularly well on the upbeat titles. The recording or audio quality is definitely very good overall with no significant flaws. I cannot put my finger on the reason or reasons why but somehow I cannot quite put the audio quality into the “as good as it gets category”. That said, and nothing more implied, both Rosemary Clooney and Bette Midler fans should be happy and satisfied – very well done.

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