Sunday, August 13, 2017

Jose Mari Chan and that Manhattan Connection Take 2

Jose Mari Chan and that Manhattan Connection Take 2
by rick olivares

The ageless Jose Mari Chan will commemorate his 50th year in the music business this 2017 with his 15th album that should be out soon. Interestingly, rather than an album featuring new compositions, it’s a sequel to 2011’s “The Manhattan Connection” titled…. “The Manhattan Connection 2”.

“The Manhattan Connection” and its sequel are a series of albums produced by Janis Siegel and Yaron Gershovsky featuring some of Chan’s lesser known songs. In short, they are re-makes not of his hits but album tracks. But more about that later. If Siegel’s name sounds familiar that is because she is a member of the famed jazz-vocal group, The Manhattan Transfer of which Gershovsky is its musical director.

The two aren’t the only Manhattan Transfer connections to the album. Singing on seven of the first volume’s tracks was Laurel Masse who is one of the original members of the Manhattan Transfer. Masse appeared on the first four albums by the famed group. However, after a car accident in 1978 that left her incapacitated, Masse left for a time of introspection and reflection. She returned in 1984, fully recovered but as a solo act. She released a few albums.

Also taking part in the album are Grammy Award-winning singer Lisa Fischer (1992 Awardee for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance for the song “How Can I Ease the Pain”) who since 1989 has been a back-up vocalist for the Rolling Stones when they are on tour, Sting, Luther Vandross, and Tina Turner.

The albums also feature many top American musicians.

As a youngster, Jose Mari Chan listened to the radio and sang along to the songs of Neil Sedaka, Paul Anka, and the Cascades among many others. As a solo recording artist, he is a multiple Diamond Record awardee (meaning his records sold over 400,000 copies).

Over the course of his career, Chan ticked off his musical bucket list of recording a Christmas album (“Christmas in Our Hearts), a collection of re-makes of his favorite pop songs (“Souvenirs”), and even an album of all his commercial jingles (“Strictly Commercial”). He got something more than he bargained for when Manhattan Transfer vocalist Janis Siegel and company released an album of his non-hit songs.

After befriending Siegel, Chan gave her a couple of his CDs with a simple request, “if possible, if the Manhattan Transfer could perform one of his songs.” Siegel didn’t promise anything but she went one better.

She came back… not with her renowned outfit but some of the best session players she has worked with, recording an entire album of Chan’s lesser known songs.

His hits like ‘Beautiful Girl”, “Can We Just Stop and Talk Awhile”, “Afterglow” to name a very few of his classics did not appear on the first volume. Instead, non-hits such as “Like Night and Day”, “Easier Said Than Done”, “Walking in the Moonlight”, and “Love Lost” were re-arranged… ala Manhattan Transfer.

“It is an honor for me that they did this,” glowed Chan of the album. “The way they interpreted the songs is incredible. They breathed a different life to them. It’s great!”

“The Manhattan Connection” was shopped around for release in the United States but record companies declined. According to Chan, “it was because outside the Philippines and the Filipino community overseas, I was not known.” So Chan’s old local record company, Universal, released the album locally.

As for recording new songs, Chan isn’t sure. “I am not sure I can change my style into the popular styles today. We’ll see though,” he said. ““Hopefully, now because of the internet, ‘The Manhattan Connection’ albums will receive transcend borders.”

“The Manhattan Connection” is available in local record stories while Volume 2 will be out soon.

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