I was going to provide a link for a wonderful documentary that a YT friend had posted. It was the making of Barry Manilow’s exquisite 2:00 AM Paradise Café. I had saved the video on my favorites list, but the documentary doesn’t appear to be available any longer. I’ll simply sum up my impression of Barry Manilow describing his experience in the production of 2:00 AM Paradise Café as nothing short of magical; a once in a lifetime experience.
I recall Barry Manilow’s interviews portraying an intimate setting with stellar musicians. When the amazing cast began their session, no one would have predicted that they would record the entire production in one continuous “magical” take. That’s exactly what they did. I also recall, from that documentary, that during their recording session, Barry Manilow was leading the direction of the music and motioned for the musicians to seamlessly move from one song to the next. A fantastic motion of music was captured. And, when I placed the needle of my phonograph on that 33 RPM LP vinyl for the first time, time stopped for me. I was instantly mesmerized by the power of the stillness between the notes. The music itself is incomparable, but the stillness of the production is what held me firmly in one place. I could barely breathe just in case I missed something important. I didn’t want to waste a moment of that first time experience.
Barry Manilow played piano and keyboards and his vocals were joined by legends, Mel Tormé and Sarah Vaughn. Barry recruited veteran jazz musicians Bill Mays, Gerry Mulligan, Mundell Lowe, George Duvivier, and Shelly Manne for the instrumentation. Together, they recorded an eleven track studio album, from start to finish, without interruption. I do understand that the musicians practiced for three days before recording, but no amount of practice guarantees magical performances. Magic comes from emotions. Perfect moments of harmony are unmistakable and just as unpredictable. For every endeavor when the feeling is right, no one and nothing can compare. People define those moments with phrases such as being “in the zone” or “the stars being aligned”. However those moments are described they are certainly priceless, unique, and unrepeatable … “once in a lifetime”.
Then again, isn’t that how every moment should be? Living each moment for the unique possibilities that each moment offers? I may have romanticized my experience and that memory might have flourished into a greater fantasy over time, but that is how I perceive the love I have for 2:00 AM Paradise Café which ties for the top spot of my all-time favorite album list with Dan Fogelberg’s The Innocent Age.
The music created for 2:00 AM Paradise Café means so much more for me than the sum of the harmonizing notes. It’s exactly the same feeling I have for The Innocent Age. These two albums represent an accumulation of emotions and memories that ignite an indescribable fondness that no words can encapsulate. I play music from both albums and my heart instantly begins to race. I can’t help but melt and feel happy, regardless of the content of the music itself. It’s a similar feeling that I have for my wife, my children, my family, my friends, my life … I surrender to the possibilities of each moment and make every effort to make each moment priceless, unique, and unrepeatable … “once in a lifetime”.
In doing so, I have no regrets in living life to the fullest, regardless of the endless mistakes I make. Oh my, I guess this was never really just about music. It really comes down to my way of life and how eagerly I want to share what I’ve learned with anyone willing to also surrender to the possibilities. And, it has nothing to do with giving up. It’s the opposite. Remember, it’s making every effort … in surrendering. More about that later …
2:00 AM Paradise Cafe is the fourteenth album by singer-songwriter Barry Manilow. The album was a radical departure from Manilow's previous work of highly polished pop. Manilow wrote in the liner notes that the record's concept came to him in a dream. Johnny Mercer's widow, Ginger, entrusted Manilow with a cache of Mercer's lyrics that had never been set to music. Although Manilow used only Mercer's "When October Goes" for the project, he created an album of all original songs with a torchy, smokey jazz style. He recruited veteran jazz musicians Bill Mays, Gerry Mulligan, Shelly Manne, Mundell Lowe, and George Duvivier. Also enlisted for vocal duets were Mel Tormé and Sarah Vaughan. The entire album was rehearsed for three days, then recorded entirely live (in one take) without overdubs at Westlake Studio 'C' in Los Angeles, California and released in 1984. The album went platinum for Manilow, and peaked at #28 on the Billboard 200.