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Barry Mann: Barry Mann [Limited Edition]

Album Notes

Nine years after Barry Mann released the pedestrian Lay It All Out album, he and his wife, Cynthia Weil, along with their co-producer, Brooks Arthur, all combined to craft a smooth and very listenable album on Casablanca titled simply Barry Mann. Seven of the tunes are solely Mann/Weil compositions, while Tom Snow co-wrote with the duo on "If I Left It Up to You" and what would become a number two hit for Linda Ronstadt and Aaron Neville, "Don't Know Much," nine years after it was released here. "Don't Know Much" is a standout, the original version deserving to be a hit on its own. Though the album has some very excellent moments, it falls short when it has the chance to hit a home run. One example is the duet with Carole King that opens side two. "Mandy" co-writer Scott English contributed with Mann and Weil on the songwriting for "You're the Only One," but the song just doesn't have legs. It sounds like two friends having fun, but the result is not as exciting as what it looks like it could be on paper. King's familiar voice goes to waste when maybe they should have performed a duet on a Gerry Goffin/King classic like "Take Good Care of My Baby" or "It Might as Well Rain Until September" instead, or even the version of "Don't Know Much" that concludes this LP. Goffin co-wrote "Me Without You" with Mann, and its simplicity is more than compelling -- it is the sleeper track here, and would have also lent itself nicely to Goffin's ex-wife's participation. Where King and Mann do hit it off is on "Slow Motion," a beautiful bluesy pop number that is the best performance on the disc. King's other ex, Charles Larkey, provides bass to this tune that Mann co-wrote with Weil. It is eerie and moody and quite wonderful. Former producer Al Gorgoni, who kept the Lay It All Out album so restrained, is relegated to a lesser role here, arranging guitar and strings. "Brown-Eyed Woman" is like Van Morrison's "Brown Eyed Girl" all grown up. Venetta Field and the gals add great backing vocals to this paced number. If you compare the Barry Mann album to works by Peter Allen, Burt Bacharach, Carole Bayer Sager, David Pomeranz, Ellie Greenwich, Randy Edelman, and others, it doesn't quite stand up. There's some very good musicianship and vocal work throughout the grooves, but overall there's none of the passion that Goffin poured over his Adelphia double disc, and therein lies the problem. This is Barry Mann, and he has the talent to produce a grand slam. But he coasts instead, giving listeners good when the music could have been great -- great as a man of his skills is quite capable of producing. ~ Joe Viglione


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