Barry Manilow spent the last five years recording a series of albums celebrating the “greatest songs” of the ‘50s, ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s. (He has apparently stopped there, so no ‘90s tribute featuring a Manilow version of “MMMBop” and “Gangsta’s Paradise”.) The real buzz, though, is that the legendary balladeer is set to release a new collection of original material in June, which has Fanilows everywhere wearing out their Dr. Scholl’s in impatience. He writes the songs! To tide them over, Manilow has released Duets, a collection of decades-old songs pairing him with red-hot singers like Barbara Cook and Phyllis McGuire. If that doesn’t get you excited, he does sing “Islands in the Stream” with Reba McIntire, one of the most pointless remakes of all time. His old bath-house partner Bette Midler is here, too, hamming it up to “On a Small Boat to China”, a momentary sign of life, and Barbra Streisand makes an appearance on “I Won’t Be the One to Let Go”, which provides an always-worthwhile chance to hear her soar. The rest is intolerable schmaltz for only the most ardent of completists.
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