There's no question what state of mind Barry Manilow is in on his next album,This Is My Town: Songs of New York.
The set, due out April 21 on Decca, features 10 Big Apple-centric songs, mixing Manilow originals and covers as well as mash-ups such as the "NYC Medley" and "New York City Rhythm/On Broadway," which is premiering below. "I come from New York," Manilow, a Brooklyn native, tells Billboard. "When you come from New York you are always a New Yorker. Even though I've lived on the West Coast for more years than I did in New York. I still feel like a New Yorker. I still talk fast. I still have my Brooklyn accent if I don't watch out.
"I still feel like a New York guy, so this (album) made sense."
Manilow considered "a lot of different angles" for the musical love letter to his home town -- some narrative, some thematic like previous releases such as 2:00 AM Paradise Cafe, Swing Street and Here at The Mayflower. He ultimately decided on a more general direction. "This is just great songs about New York," he explains. "It started off being a jazz album, but then I did a little pop and then a little blues along with the jazz and a little Broadway and I said, 'Y'know, that's what New York is. It's a melting pot of different styles.'"
The "New York City Rhythm"/"On Broadway," combo, knitting Manilow's 1975 original with the Drifters classic, came together by happenstance, as Manilow was putting together demos and experimenting with ideas for This Is My Town. "'New York City Rhythm' was done as an uptempo thing," he says, "but I decided to slow it down and use it as an intro into 'On Broadway,' and then in 'On Broadway' I kept quoting the strong lines of 'New York City Rhythm.' So only fans or people who actually know my music will understand that I used a lot of the string line from 'New York City Rhythm' in 'On Broadway.' That was just an arranger's trick, but I think it worked fine."
That experimentation extended to the eight-song "NYC Medley," which includes the theme from New York, New York, Billy Joel's "New York State Of Mind" and Jay Z and Alicia Keys' "Empire State Of Mind." "If you took a look at my computer and saw all the ideas I had for this album, they go on and on and on," says Manilow, who also does a virtual, posthumous duet with Mel Torme on "Brooklyn Bridge." I thought I'd sound like a real idiot with ('Empire State Of Mind') in the middle of that medley; I did, but not as much as I thought I would. I think I pulled it off." That plethora of ideas doesn't mean he'll do a sequel, however.
"No. One album and that's it," Manilow says. "The only album I wanted to do a volume two of was Paradise Cafe. It's the only one I would've considered, but every time I tried...Y'know, sometimes you've just got to leave it alone, so I left that one along. But no second New York album. This is it."
Metropolitan New York will be one of three places Manilow plays this year -- along with Los Angeles and Chicago. He ended his touring career, he swears, last June in England after spending more than a year "saying goodbye to every city possible." But starting in May he'll be playing a series of bi-monthly shows, kicking off May 14 at The Forum Inglewood, Calif., then playing May 17 at the Allstate Arena in Rosemont, Ill., and the Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, N.Y.
"It's going to be a residency type of thing, every other month for as long as people will come," Manilow says. As he did during his residency at Paris in Las Vegas, Manilow plans to mix the setlists up and dig deep into his catalog to keep his fans coming. "We loved it in Vegas 'cause I was able to change the show around every six weeks or so, and it was totally different than the last time," he says. "That's what I could do with this thing I'm going to be doing. We'll see if I can pull it off. It should be exciting."