2:00 A.M., Paradise Cafe

Barry Manilow

Arista Records, 1984

REVIEW BY: Duke Egbert

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 06/05/2000

What the heck. I've stuck my neck out so many times defending "uncool" artists that I think I'm going after the biggest target yet. Yes, faithful "Daily Vault" readers, I'm going to review a Barry Manilow CD, and (WARNING: I'm about to give away the review ending) to make matters worse, I'm going to approve of it. (Insert horrified gasp here.)

OK, enough drama. Open your mind for a moment and listen to me. Yes, I know Manilow was responsible for some of the worst schlock of the 1970s. ("Copacabana" comes to mind, and makes me immediately desirous of a way… my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 any way… to get it out again.) He'll do time in purgatory for "You Deserve A Break Today", as well. But interspersed with these bacchanalia of banality, there were some pretty good songs. "Weekend In New England", "Even Now", "Song For Linda"… these weren't too damn bad, folks.

So what about 2 A.M., Paradise Cafe? Well, by 1984 Manilow had, by his own admission, lost track of why he got into music in the first place. In an attempt to get back to his roots, he settled in over a period of two months to write a series of jazz and blues songs, the kind of music he'd grown up listening to -- and when it came time to record it, he was joined by his hand-picked all-star band of jazz sidemen and the late, great Mel Torme and Sarah Vaughan. Even more incredible, when Manilow was asked how he wanted to record the album, he shrugged and said, "Start the tape. Let's see how far we can get". And 2 A.M., Paradise Cafe was recorded in one, single, unbroken, flawless take.

Flawless is the appropriate word, indeed. 2 A.M., Paradise Cafe is a magnificent piece of modern jazz, torchy, rich, and sweet. There isn't a bad song on the CD, and there are some that are little short of magnificent. "Big City Blues", the duet with Torme, is funny and sad, with clever turns of phrase. "Where Have You Gone", "What Am I Doin' Here", and "I've Never Been So Low On Love" are all sweet, well-crafted love songs.

The true highlights, though, are the matched "When October Goes" and "Night Song". Both are ambitious works -- "Night Song" is reminiscent of Gershwin, with a complex melody and arrangement, and "When October Goes" is, as they say, "hooky", the melody you'll be humming long after the CD is off your stereo.

Overall, 2 A.M., Paradise Cafe is an excellent album for fans of jazz, blues, or torch songs. Manilow credits it with revitalizing his creative process, and even if you think that's a bad thing (that's a joke, people), it's a joy to listen to.

Rating: A

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