Making an album of 14 covers of pop classics that have endured for 50 years and risking comparison with their beloved -- even sacred -- original versions takes plenty of guts.
And Manilow's renditions aren't bad.
The problem is that most of these songs will always belong to their original owners.
One original owner is present: Phyllis McGuire joins Manilow on a medley of two hits she had with the McGuire Sisters, "Sincerely" and "Teach Me Tonight," and still sounds pretty good, even after 50 years.
And Manilow's arrangement of "Beyond the Sea" as a ballad rather than as Bobby Darin's hip, upbeat, finger-snapper restores the poignancy and beauty of this song about a soldier yearning to be reunited with his beloved.
But let it be said that "It's Not for Me To Say" need not be sung by anyone but Johnny Mathis. The same is true for "Venus" and Frankie Avalon, "Are You Lonesome Tonight?" and Elvis, and so on.
And although Manilow hardly embarrasses himself on "Unchained Melody," this song simply doesn't sound right in the hands of anyone but the Righteous Brothers (whose definitive version, by the way, was released in 1965, 10 years after the song was introduced by Al Hibbler).
Manilow's voice still has the pleasant, friendly sound that helped him pump out all those hits in the 1970s and 80s. On this album, though, he sometimes seems to be too concerned with his enunciation.
This is a top-notch playlist, and these songs are always good to hear -- even if doing so makes us long for the real thing.