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Barry Mann - "Lay It All Out" (:P)

Barry Mann - "Lay It All Out" (:P)

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Genre: pop
Rating: 3 stars ***
Title:  Lay It Out
Company: New Design
Catalog: Z 30876
Year: 1971
Country/State: US
Grade (cover/record): VG / VG+
Comments: gatefold sleeve; 2" split along top edge
Available: 1
Catalog ID: 6230
Price: $15.00

By the time I started seriously collecting music singer/songwriter Barry Mann was well past his Brill Building successes as a songwriter (along with long time wife and songwriting partner Cynthia Weil). That said, Mann's one of those known names in the industry and there's no denying that his catalog includes some rock classics, so when I stumbled across this 1971 solo album, I was curious. 

Produced by Al Gorgoni, I have to admit 1971's "Lay It Out" was quite a surprise to my ears. To be honest, judging by the track listing, I was expecting to hear a self-pitying collection of Mann's greatest hits, slathered in sub par arrangements that only served to underscore how much better the hit covers were. While there was a certain amount of that present, there were plenty of really good performances. Mann's covers of his own work might not have made you forget the hit versions, but virtually every one of these was worth hearing. An even bigger surprise was Mann's voice. I'll readily admit the only thing I'd ever heard him sing prior to this set was the goody top-10 hit 'Who Put the Bomp (In the Bomp, Bomp, Bomp)'. Based on that performance I wasn't expecting much. Bad assumption on my part since Mann actually had a very nice voice - gruff, but quite attractive and commercial.

- With a nice James Taylor-styled singer/songwriter vibe, 'Too Many Mondays' was one of the album highlights. Great melody, nice Kirk Hamilton bass line, and one of Mann's best vocals. Piece of needless trivia, the song was recorded by the pre-Kiss band Wicked Lester. Nee Design tapped the song as a single. rating: **** stars
- As much as I liked Mann's version of 'When You Get Right Down To It', I grew up with The Delfonics' cover ' so that's the classic version to my ears (though the Phyllis Hyman cover is also pretty impressive). rating: *** stars
- The stark keyboard-propelled ballad 'Lay It All Out' sound like an early Elton John number. The Western-themed lyric underscored the comparison. An okay effort, if not one of my favorite performances. rating: *** stars
- Funny, but the version of 'I Heard You Singing Your Song' I clearly recall was done by The Partridge Family. Nothing wrong with Mann's version (and Carole King's harmony vocals were glorious), but The Partridge Family gave the song a much more commercial sheen. rating: *** stars
- I have to plead ignorance with respect to 'Holy Rolling'. Anyone know of this was another hit for someone? Regardless, I have to admit this was one of my favorite performances with Mann turning in a nice Gospel/blue-eyed soul vocal that served to underscore the song's instantly catchy hook. rating: **** stars
- Talk about a strange position to be in - here are one of the co-writers of an all-time rock classic and yet you're going out on a limb to introduce your version of the song ... Definitely took some guts to be willing to record and release 'You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin''. To his credit Mann was smart enough to not try to take the hit version on. Instead his cover of the track slowed the song down, plugged in an extended instrumental lead-in, stripping away some of Phil Spector's cluttered production. Yeah, Mann's version still has a big arrangement, but it sounds far more intimate and while you won't forget the Righteous Brothers version (or some of the other covers), his version wasn't half bad. Kudos ... rating: **** stars
- Mann took a similar detour with his version of the classic 'On Broadway'. While remaining true to the basic melody, rather than mimicking the hit version, his version gave the song an interesting spare, beatnick-esque feel. Vinnie Bell added a wonderfully understated guitar solo to the proceedings. Very nice and another major surprise.  rating: **** stars
- The first real disappointment, 'Something Better' was a pretentious and plodding ballad that never managed to generate much energy. rating: ** stars
- 'Sweet Olphelia' should serve to set anyone straight if they doubted Mann's ability to handle a true rock song. Complete with tasty lead guitars, this was easily one of the album highlights. And guess what - it was also covered by a pre-Kiss Wicked Lester. rating: **** stars 
- A breezy, mid-tempo singer/songwriter number 'Don't Give Up On Me' was tuneful and very commercial. Okay, the flute solo didn't do much for me, but the remainder of the performance was quite good. rating: *** stars 
- For some reason the big "life is tough as a musician" ballad 'Ain't No Way To Go Home' has always reminded me of a Lobo song. That wasn't meant as a good thing ... rating: ** stars
- One of four Mann-solo compositions, 'Wild Eyed Indian' closed the album with another slice of singer/songwriter pretentiousness. Simply too touchy-feely for its own good.   rating: ** stars

A pair of instantly obscure singles were pulled from the LP:
- 1971's 'When You Get Right Down To It b/w 'Don't Give Up On Me' (New Design catalog number ZS7-1005)
- 1971's 'Too Many Mondays' b/w 'Lay It All Out' (New Design catalog number ZS7-1006)

Certainly not the perfect album, but definitely a surprise and quite enjoyable. Shame it didn't attract more attention when released.

"Barry Mann" track listing:
(side 1)
1.) Too Many Mondays (Barry Mann - Cynthia Weil) - 3:55
2.) When You Get Right Down To It (Barry Mann) - 3:15
3.) Lay It All Out (Barry Mann) - 3:14
4.) I Heard You Singing Your Song (Barry Mann) - 2:37
5.) Holy Rolling (Barry Mann - Cynthia Weil) - 2:29
6.) You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin' (Barry Mann - Cynthia Weil - Phil Spector) - 4:52

(side 2)
1.) On Broadway (Barry Mann - Cynthia Weil - Jerry Leiber - Mike Stoller)) - 3:19
2.) Something Better (Barry Mann - Gerry Goffin) - 3:50
4.) Sweet Olphelia (Barry Mann - Gerry Goffin) - 3:28
5.) Don't Give Up On Me (Barry Mann - Cynthia Weil) - 2:45
6.) Ain't No Way To Go Home (Barry Mann - Cynthia Weil) - 3:03
7.) Wild Eyed Indian (Barry Mann) - 3;10

For anyone interested, Mann has an entertaining website at: 
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