On September 8th, Grammy Winning Artist, Melissa Manchester will release her 21st album, The Fellas. Here, Melissa Manchester is paying tribute to some of her favorite male fellas such as Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Mel Torme’ and Tony Bennett and the iconic songs these men made famous.Melissa Manchester told me in our interview:
“The Fellas is my 21st album and it is a completion of an idea. In 1989 I recorded an album called Tribute. I called it Tribute because it was to honor the women singers that meant so much to me. I always wanted to do a follow-up on that idea with The Fellas and pay tribute to several of the great men that had meant so much to me.”
The first song on The Fellas is “Ain’t That A Kick In The Head.” The Blue Note Citrus College’s Orchestra detonates the airwaves with an exuberant and ample blowing of horns that grabs hold of the listening ear to announce that something magical is about to take place. On the YouTube music video, shot in black and white for that old- fashioned feel, Melissa makes a grand entrance into the studio dressed in her father’s classic jacket (“that he wore playing the bassoon in the orchestra of the 1984 LA Summer Olympics.”). Her shoulders bop up and down to the swinging beat, instantly setting the playful tone of the iconic song Dean Martin made popular in the movie, Ocean’s 11. She looks completely at ease and radiates pure love for the art form of singing swing. Manchester’s voice shimmers with deep tones and masterful phrasing. The song concludes with the rush of the horns vamping a climactic close as she belts out, “Ain’t that a kick in the head.”
“To sing these songs are so easy. Everyone knows the songs. When I recorded them I didn’t do more than 3 takes. I felt very cozy and peaceful to get inside the songs,” Melissa Manchester revealed.
Melissa told me that she wanted to honor the jazz vocalist Johnny Hartman who recorded the song “They Tell Me It’s Wonderful” with John Coltrane. This is track three on The Fellas and she does exactly that with her rendition. Even though the presence of the orchestra looms in the background, Manchester focuses on the piano, sax, and soft styling of the drums to deliver her version. At first, she sings in a higher register to introduce the gorgeous melody then lays back into just the right melancholy inflection. The sax solo ripples with a singular fluidity that accentuates the quietude. However, Melissa hums her way back into the song and there is a brilliant climatic uplift of feeling with the strings as she improvises going up the scale with a bluesy finish.
Melissa told me why she wanted to preserve these type of songs.
“This group of songs is from the Golden Age of the American Song Book. Here you will find the construction of melody when songs were melody driven, which enables lyrics to have long developed ideas and allowed singers to sing long expressive thoughts. I think this created a platinum standard to express oneself in a 3 ½ minute world.”
There is a special treat for everyone on track four, “For Me and My Gal” where her buddy for over 40 years, Barry Manilow, joins Melissa in a duet. In the intro, bells ring out grandly, then Melissa’s lovely voice follows singing, “Ding, Dong, Ding, Dong…” and the tune opens up widely to an adorable version of Manilow and Manchester sharing the innocence of love. Barry Manilow delivers the perfect romantic foil here with his simple output of vocals enriched by his genius of delivering a song. The dynamic duet sings harmonies in the middle of the tune which adds a delicious layering of golden tones. Between the orchestra’s lush, brilliant backup instrumentation and the duet’s effusive crooning, “For Me and My Gal” is sure to be a huge hit again in the present day music world.
(Melissa Manchester revealed that she will be releasing the exclusive music video featuring Barry Manilow with Billboard on September 12th in NYC!!! Not to be missed.)
On the song “Love Is Just Around the Corner” Manchester shows off her scatting abilities. On the standards “Smile” and “Night and Day” she presents them like a small jazz combo (piano, drums, sax, and vocals) while still using the background arrangements of the orchestra. It’s with these songs that this artist displays her musical wisdom meaning less is better. There are no fancy frills when singing the tunes, she tells the story with clear and powerful vocals.
Melissa Manchester ends The Fellas with one of my favorite love songs, “How Do You Keep the Music Playing” written by the legendary team of Alan and Marilyn Bergman and was sung by the fabulous Johnny Mathis. Again, we hear Melissa Manchester use her rich coated vocals with supreme confidence and simplicity. When she finally wallops us with the strapping ending… “The Music never… never… ends…” none of the fans will want this sterling album to end as well.
P.S. When you purchase The Fellas be on the lookout for a little secretive treasure photo as you take the CD out of the pocket.
P.P.S There is one fella who is still alive and Melissa Manchester would love to sing with… Tony Bennett. So Mr. Bennett, how about a duet with the lovely Melissa Manchester?
For more information about Melissa Manchester’s newest album and upcoming tour dates, please go tohttp://melissamanchester.com/