Released: May 1977
Chart Peak: #1
Weeks Charted: 67
Certified 3x Platinum: 9/2/87
In January 1975, Barry Manilow became a star when "Mandy" topped the Billboard Hot 100. A year later, Manilow scored his second Number One single with "I Write the Songs." While the Brooklyn-born singer scored three top 10 albums with 1974's Barry Manilow II, 1975's Tryin' to Get the Feeling, and 1976's This One's For You, he didn't reach the peak of the Top LPs & Tapes chart until Arista released an album of some of this best-known songs recorded live.
Recorded primarily at New York's Uris Theatre in December 1976, Live captured Manilow in the middle of a 98-city tour at the height of his newfound fame. Yet despite his enormous popularity, Manilow was having trouble dealing with the success. "I remember it being the worst time of my life, and the best of times," he says. "It was the first peak of this pop career of mine and it was a very confusing and unnatural thing to go through at the time."
Live features in-concert versions of the big hits, "Looks Like We Made It," "This One's for You," "Could It Be Magic," "Mandy," and "I Write the Songs." Yet Manilow also turned to some other familiar material. "A Very Strange Melody (V.S.M.)" featured commercial jingles form Kentucky Fried Chicken, State Farm Insurance, Stridex facial pads, Band-Aids, Dr. Pepper, Pepsi, Bowlene toilet cleaner, and McDonald's. Manilow had written some of the jingles, but compiled his own creations and others into "V.S.M." for its campy appeal.
Says Manilow, "Before 'Mandy,' I didn't feel that I could keep the audience's attention with a whole hour of original material, also in desperation I put that together and the crowd went nuts. It was still in the stage show when we recorded Live."
The combination of hits, jingles, and TV themes, all recorded live, proved to be potent. Live entered the chart at number 10 on May 28, 1977. It wasn't the only Manilow title on the list that week, as all four of the singer-songwriter's previous albums were still on the album chart.
Eight weeks after its impressive debut, Live hit the top, becoming Manilow's first and only chart-topping LP and the second live album of 1977 to hit Number One, with Wings' Wings Over America topping the list in January.
- Craig Rosen, The Billboard Book of Number One Albums, 1996.
The state of the art of live concert recording comes together with an acoustically excellent Broadway theatre and a high-voltage audience response to carry off one of the strongest of the current two-disk live sets capturing some of the most exciting tours of 1976. Manilow's first live album presents some of the singer/pianist/writer's uniquely individualistic between-songs patter as well as his concert trademark of a medley of the commercial jingles he worked on during his studio musician days. Interestingly, some of these live versions of Manilow hits are done with more restrained, quieter treatments than on the studio records, while other live arrangements bring high levels of performing energy to what were tender ballads in the studio. Though not all of these varied treatments work equally well, at least the live set presents considerably more than mere carbon copies of songs already cut in the studio. Manilow has deservedly become one of the nation's biggest pop-rock attractions and this LP clearly demonstrates why. He has a rare audience rapport and musical creativity that blazes forth in a stage presentation, boosted by his cooking band.
- Billboard, 1977
So rock and rollers can't stand him and what else is new? Well, two aperçus. One, he is beyond the pale of New York chauvinism. And two, all the best commercials in his notorious "Very Strange Melody" were written by other composers, just like his hits. C-
- Robert Christgau, Christgau's Record Guide, 1981.
Live was Manilow's only number one album. The performances are so seamless that it's practically a faithfully performed greatest-hits album. It includes the hit "Daybreak." * * * *
- Rick Clark, The All-Music Guide to Rock, 1995.
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