Add to the challenge that Manilow decided to include unplugged renditions of some of his own best-loved hits from the decade.
Barry Manilow is trying to get the feeling again. Following the runaway success of January 2006's "The Greatest Songs of the Fifties," which debuted at No. 1 on The Billboard 200, and subsequent "The Greatest Songs of the Sixties," a No. 2 album in October 2006, he has wrapped the organic follow-up, "The Greatest Songs of the Seventies," due this week via Arista.
Combined, the two prior efforts have shifted nearly 1.7 million copies in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan. However, given that this is the decade that catapulted Manilow to fame, arranging and covering songs from his own heyday has left the artist a bit confounded. "This has been a real big mountain," he says. "These songs are so well-known. Every time I sat down at the piano and tried to put my stamp onto them, whenever I touched a chord, I would stop because I felt I was hurting them."
Add to the challenge that Manilow decided to include unplugged renditions of some of his own best-loved hits from the decade: "It seemed like such an easy idea, but then, oh, my God, how do you redo 'Mandy' and 'I Write the Songs'? I'm telling you, I stared at the piano for a good two weeks before I started." Even so, Manilow says, "I think we did it. These covers retain the integrity and emotion of the originals."
Manilow says the experience of reinventing hits like Barbra Streisand's "The Way We Were," Simon & Garfunkel's "Bridge Over Troubled Water" and the Bee Gees' "How Can You Mend a Broken Heart" offered a newfound regard for their melodic mastery. "When they were out, frankly, they were competition for me-I was going up the charts, they were going up the charts -- so I guess I didn't respect them as great songs," he says. "Recording them, I realized how beautifully written and well-crafted they are."