Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter and actress, Melissa Manchester released her 21st studio album, The Fellas, on Friday (Sept. 8) via Long Run Entertainment. Manchester sounds vibrant and in top form as she sings her way through the set that pays homage to male singers influential to her.
The album is Manchester’s “tribute to several of the great men singers who rocked my world and informed my soul,” the artist tells Billboard, noting that she has wanted to record such a set since she released her female companion album Tribute back in 1989.
Manchester, always very passionate about giving back and cultivating the musicians of tomorrow, has also long been very involved with teaching and mentoring the students at Citrus College, in Glendora, California, and enlisted current students, alums and a few faculty members to bring this album to fruition.
“I was invited to be an honorary artist in residence by Ben Bollinger, the former head of the visual and performing arts division of Citrus College,” Manchester says. “I’d enlisted the help of the Citrus Singers to back me at a concert I gave there several years ago. In 2013, I recorded my 20th album, You Gotta Love the Life, at their state-of-the-art studio, which also doubles as a teaching studio for their audio engineering students. The professor, Tim Jaquette, was my engineer. Among the luminaries who performed on that album with me were Dave Koz, Al Jarreau, Joe Sample, Dionne Warwick and Stevie Wonder. I was asked if I could think of a project that would incorporate the Citrus Blue Note Orchestra, made up of students, alumni and faculty. That is how The Fellas came to be.”
One of the songs on the album, “For Me and My Gal,” finds Manchester singing with Barry Manilow. She says she “asked [her] dear friend if he would consider singing a duet on The Fellas. He came up with the scrumptious idea of paying tribute to Gene Kelly in a duet of ‘For Me and My Gal.’ We both loved the original version, sung by Kelly and Judy Garland, from the film of the same name. Peter Hume did a wonderful orchestration.
“Singing with Barry is always a treat as he is a consummate musician,” Manchester continues. “We’ve known each other for so long. We were there at the beginning of each other’s long, enduring careers and we are still devoted friends.”
Manilow originally introduced Manchester to Bette Midler, which led to her becoming one of the founding members of Midler’s backing singer/dancer group, the Harlettes, helping set the groundwork for her international stardom.
Says Manilow to Billboard, “I jump at any chance to sing (or just be) with my dear friend Melissa. She has one of the greatest voices and singing styles in music today. And she’s a wonderful songwriter. I loved being a part of creating and singing ‘For Me and My Gal’ with her.”
Billboard is proud to present the exclusive debut of the video for this special collaboration of “For Me and My Gal” by these two icons.