CD Review-Barry Manilow

by Stan Gerbe

Cleveland's got the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame. Seattle's got the Experience Music Project. What's Spokane got? Zippo. Clearly, it's time for the city to get off its butt and realize a dream that, if not acted upon, could get snapped up by some other town -- say Dayton or Des Moines. That's right, what town wouldn't sell its soul for the next sure-fire tourist trap: The Hallowed Hall of Soft Hits (the HHSH -- or, as it will no doubt come to be known, "The Hush").

Take a little tour with me, if you will, into the England Dan and John Ford Coley Wing, where you can see the very guitar that was lightly strummed by the Starland Vocal Band on their memorable soft hit classic, "Afternoon Delight." Ooh, and isn't that the Members Only jacket worn by Terry Jacks on his "Seasons in the Sun" reunion tour back in '77? Aah, it's Karen Carpenter's favorite macrame shawl. Something like the Hallowed Hall of Soft Hits would be a miracle. It'd be a true-blue spectacle, a miracle come true.

This glorious idea came to me via an old friend from the 1970s -- those glory years of soft hits. You see, an unsolicited copy of Ultimate Manilow landed on my desk; I've been wrapped in his warm blanket of nostalgia ever since. I'm even hoping we can get Barry himself for the grand opening, since he really is the godfather of the soft hit. The song list is a how-to manual for all those kids out there looking for a career as a maker of soft hits. Here's a sample (you might want to sit down for this): "Mandy" ("Mandy!"), "I Write the Songs," "Looks Like We Made It," "Can't Smile Without You," "Could it Be Magic." And, as they say on the late-night TV soft-hit CD collection ads, there are many, many more.

What is it about this kid from Brooklyn? Even now (hey, that's another Manilow song title!), Barry can still pack 'em in, as he did recently with five sold-out shows at Carnegie Hall. And it's not just the soft hits -- oh, no. Barry can take it up a notch, too, with toe-tappin' numbers like "Copacabana."

It's hard to pull out of my reverie and get the petitions going on The Hush -- but I know this town needs a big dose of Barry. Soft hits could be the key to our economic salvation (emotional salvation is a given). So I'm playing this CD over and over, Trying to Get the Feeling Again. One thing I have learned is that, yes, I am Ready to Take a Chance Again. And when we finally cut the ribbon, and soft-hit lovers from around the world are gathered on the grounds, we'll all be thinking the same thing: This One's For You, Barry, This One's For You.