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Manchester's ready again to 'look down that road'

A 1970s pop diva returns to her roots after nearly two decades off to raise a family.

By LOGAN NEILL
Published February 23, 2007


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Fans of Melissa Manchester may note that they haven't seen or heard much from her in a while. There's a good reason for that.

In fact, there are several reasons.

The singer, who performs at the Pasco-Hernando Community College Performing Arts Center on Saturday, was one of the 1970s' biggest pop divas. Although her career was defined by hits such as Don't Cry Out Loud, Midnight Blue and You Should Hear How She Talks About You, it became increasingly apparent by the close of the 1980s that her star was no longer on the rise.

A string of disappointing albums convinced Manchester that her career - and life - needed a course correction.

She took what essentially amounted to an 18-year break from recording, choosing instead to concentrate on other creative outlets such as acting and songwriting. Most important however, the respite allowed her more quality time with her husband and children.

"I left the business because I could no longer make records that sounded less and less like me," Manchester said in a recent press interview. "I tried to please people instead of believing in my own strength. The only thing I could do was walk away."

These days find the 55-year-old singer happily focused on presenting her music her way. Her latest album, When I Look Down That Road, marks a return to Manchester's roots as a singer-songwriter. For the 12-track effort she teamed up with notable Nashville tunesmiths such as Paul Williams, Beth Nielsen-Chapman, Rupert Holmes and Stephony Smith to create an album she says is deeply personal.

"The songs have a resonance and honesty to them that I'm proud of," said Manchester. "I wouldn't have dreamed of making a record like this 20 years ago for fear of it being immediately rejected. I don't have those fears anymore."

Manchester, who once studied songwriting with Paul Simon at New York University, earned her singing stripes as a backup vocalist for Bette Midler on the Manhattan club circuit. Signed to Arista Records in 1973, it took the better part of two years to produce her first top-10 hit, Midnight Blue.

From there, Manchester went on to earn countless accolades as a pop singer, landing a Grammy nomination for Female Vocalist of the Year for the 1979 hit Don't Cry Out Loud. Two years later she won a Grammy for her performance of You Should Hear How She Talks About You.

As her pop appeal began to wane, Manchester began to cast her voice as well as her composing skills toward theater and film projects including Disney's The Great Mouse Detective and Lady and the Tramp II.

With her children grown, Manchester is happy to once again be touring. With most of her concerts before small, intimate audiences, she likens it to coming full circle with her career.

"I love it. It's very low-key and I have a lot of fun with the audience," said Manchester. "It reminds me a lot of the old days."

Logan Neill can be reached at 848-1435 or lneill@sptimes.com.

If you go

Melissa Manchester

Melissa Manchester will perform at 8 p.m. Saturday at Pasco-Hernando Community College Performing Arts Center, 10230 Ridge Road, New Port Richey. Tickets are $22 to $32 and available online at www.phcc.edu/tix or by phone at (727) 816-3707 (limited hours) or at the box office one hour before the show.

[Last modified February 22, 2007, 22:33:19]


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