Utopian Turtletop. Monsieur Croche's Bête Noire. Contact: turtletop [at] hotmail [dot] com

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Barry Barry Barry!

Barry’s new album went to # 1 on the charts, and you might think that a member of the Barry Underground such as myself would be all triumphalist about it (as the grungers said when Nirvana went to # 1, “We won!” -- and yes, I was excited too), and yes, it’s true, I’m happy for Barry, and excited about his success, but unfortunately Jody is right to complain of the music’s lukewarm blandness. It’s an album of ‘50s standards; I haven’t heard it, but a few weeks ago my beloved spouse & I stayed up late to watch Barry on Jay Leno’s show. Speaking as Barry fans, we were disappointed: a dull work-out on the old song “Unchained Melody” (I think it was).

The problem is, these musicians -- Manilow and Rod Stewart and Queen Latifah -- are going the “standards” route without nuance or particularity. Which is a shame, in Manilow’s case, because he’s shown that he can -- his big band tribute album has some great stuff (I’ve written about his gorgeous version of Glenn Miller’s “Moonlight Serenade” more than once); it’s even more respectful of the oldies than his new takes on them are, but he sings them with nuance and beauty. Based on hearing the one song on TV, the new stuff looks to be Barry’s successful attempt to cash in on Rod-Stewart-mania (and Jody’s reporting confirms this). The drag of it is, Rod & Barry’s charts are stiffo: '70s rock fantasies of how Nelson Riddle would write for a cruise ship band on a TV drama. Thrice-removed ersatz-itude.

I agree with Jody: contemporary singers would serve the standards better by bringing their own game to the game. Joey Ramone’s “What a Wonderful World” melts me beyond any other version; hearing Joey sing “I see friends shaking hands saying how do you do / They’re really saying ‘I love you’ ” makes me misty, the tenderness has so much more toughness to get through in his case than in a more conventional settings. I heard a modern-dance “Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You” on our local dance music station a couple years ago that was just great.

While Barry at # 1 surprised me, I wasn’t quite as surprised as I might have been: His greatest hits a few years ago went to # 3. My wife and I caught the promotional tour and it was terrific -- not only is he a generous, warm, witty, enthusiastic, old-fashioned showman, but the buzz in the theater had an element of surprise -- look how many of us are here, and how terrific is that! We caught the show near the tours beginning, which Barry extended from a planned 6 weeks to 9 months -- evidently Barry was surprised too, and his joy was contagious.

My only wish for Barry is that he would find peace with himself and give up the plastic surgery. Michael Jackson’s freakish facial transformation is only freakily different in degree, not in kind, from a widespread willingness to put oneself under the knife in order to badly simulate prolonged youthfulness.

Barry, we’ll love you even more if you show your age.

Comments: Post a Comment

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?