After 25 years with Arista Records, Barry Manilow has signeda new recording contract with Concord Records. The move signifies not only a major shift for the singer, but also a new direction for the record company, which is known primarily as a jazz label. “It’s a natural evolution for the label to want to expand beyond and build upon our jazz roots,” says Concord president Glen Barros. “Signing Barry is a huge deal for us. This is the direction we want to go in.”
Although Barros says the deal wasn’t finalized until May, Manilow says he began considering Concord more than a year ago as Arista was in transition; founder Clive Davis was being ousted from his post, and Antonio “L.A.” Reid was being brought in. “The whole thing with my dear friend Clive happened overnight seemingly,” Manilow recalls. “I think all of us at Arista found ourselves in limbo for a couple of months.”
During this upheaval, Manilow’s friend Monica Mancini was recording an album for Concord of Johnny Mercer tunes, for which Manilow had written melodies. “Usually the record people I’ve encountered are talking about current singles, who’s hot, who’s bombing, [and] who’s selling,” says Manilow, who has recorded a number of jazz-oriented albums. “I was talking to [Concord executives] about our favorite jazz tunes and musicians and arrangements. [At that point] I didn’t know where Clive was going or where Antonio was taking the label — I just knew I wanted more of this.”
After having dinner with the top Concord executives, Manilow conferred with manager Garry Kief, and agreed to sign with the label. His debut for Concord, “Here at the Mayflower,” is due Nov. 13 in North America and will comprise his first set of original material in more than 10 years. The pop-oriented concept album’s songs illustrate the lives of people who live in an imaginary apartment building.
“The idea allowed me and my collaborators to write songs a bit deeper than a 32-bar love song,” Manilow says. “It’s about characters.” Two separate tracks will be worked to U.S. adult contemporary and jazz radio stations, according to the label.
Arista declined to comment officially, but a source says that the parting with Manilow was amicable and that under the termination agreement, Arista has the right to request two greatest-hits packages from the artist.
Concord’s other artists include Rosemary Clooney, Diane Schuur, and Susannah McCorkle. It has joint ventures with Peak Records and Stretch Records.