Monday, 9 February 2009

Melissa Manchester - Don't Cry Out Loud - Arista - 1978

Leon Ware is my personal all-time favourite artist and I connect at a deep level with everything he does. Like most writers, arrangers and producers they often shine a little brighter on other artists. An artist of Melissa Manchester's caliber was a sure thing for Leon Ware. Her breakthrough was in 1975 with her hit single, "Midnight Blue", lifted from her "Melissa" album. This 1978 album has to rate as the Lady's best work ever. The album spawned a top 10 and Adult Contemporary hit stateside with the Peter Allen and Carole Bayer-Sager-penned track "Don't Cry Out Loud" and although that is a worthy cut, it is the Leon Ware cuts that I wish to focus my attention on. Starting as it means to go on, the album starts with the KILLER track "Shine Like You Should". A celebration of all that is good and great about Leon Ware, his writing, production and arranging, and of Melissa's strong, forthright performance.

"Almost Everything" could easily be lifted from a Minnie Riperton album from that period, and everything about the song is simply right and correct. The strings really do add the icing to the top of this cake, and the interjecting horn riffs add more punch than Mohammad Ali. The vocal arrangement of "Knowin' My Love's Alive", along with the interesting opening backing is almost avant-garde, yet the groove soon falls into sweet soulful territory, complete with Leon and Melissa herself on backing vocals, David T. Walker on guitar, Lee Ritenour on guitar and Greg Phillenganes on electric piano. This really is stuff for the connoisseur. I love these tracks, and I was even more happy when BMG reissued this on CD and included the brilliant cut "We Had This Time" which was the B-Side of the "Don't Cry Out Loud" single. This song, produced by Leon Ware is simply brilliant and the strings and vibes straight out of the Philly stable. This may have been an artist you may have overlooked, but please do not let this gem pass by.

Barry Towler
The Vibe Scribe

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