Let’s hear it for the boys! More than 25 years after Melissa Manchester released Tribute, her 1989 album that honored the great female singers who influenced her, she turns the tables with The Fellas, a radiant encomium to the men, including Frank Sinatra, Mel Tormé, Tony Bennett and Dean Martin, and the iconic songs they made famous.
Singing with a verve and emotional vulnerability that immediately captivates, the Grammy winner inventively reimagines these be-loved standards. She turns “Chances Are” into a sly bossa nova and scats with seemingly impossible ease on “Love Is Just Around The Corner,” while bringing an understated urgency to “Night and Day.”
Many of these tunes embedded themselves into Manchester’s musical DNA while she was growing up on New York City’s Up-per West Side. “These were the artists and songs that were on the radio as my family ate dinner,” she says. “I am deeply famil-iar with this world.” Indeed, Manchester brings a nuanced un-derstanding to the songs’ delicate phrasing and lyrical construc-tion that would baffle lesser singers.
Manchester’s 21st album opens with a rambunctious, horn-filled version of “Ain’t That A Kick In the Head” that swings exuberant-ly from the rafters. “I wanted to invite the audience in, right away, to what the album and song was going to feel like. When the whole band yells out ‘Beautiful!,’ it’s so indicative of a bygone era when you’d hear a band chime in.”