ABC/Lou RoccoThere are plenty of veteran artists releasing duets albums this year, from Barbra Streisand to Tony Bennett to Dionne Warwick. So when Barry Manilow decided to do the same, he knew he had to do something unique. He also knew that the idea he came up — singing with artists who’ve passed away — was a big risk. But as he says, “I like taking chances.”

Speaking with ABC News Radio about his new album My Dream Duets, Manilow says, “I never really thought about making a duets album. My record company thought it would be a good idea, but everybody’s doing duets albums, everybody and their mother is doing duets albums. So I thought, ‘Well, OK, how would I make a duets album that would be any different than everybody else’s?'”

Barry continues, “You know, I could’ve called Elton [John] and Rod [Stewart] and people that, you know, might want to sing together with me. But I made a list of who I’ve always wanted to sing with and certainly, the list turned out to be all these people who aren’t with us any more.”

To be specific, Manilow came up with a list of about 35 late greats, and then narrowed it down. The final cut includes everyone from Judy Garland and Whitney Houston to John Denver, Sammy Davis Jr., Mama Cass and Dusty Springfield. So how did he pull it off, technically? He says it was easier than he thought.

“There was this company that actually was able to take the orchestras off of these old records and just leave me with the voices by themselves,” he explains. “And I’m pretty good at musical computer work, and I plugged in the vocals, I just re-did the whole record. And I made duets out of what I had, which was the vocals.”

That’s where his skills as an arranger and producer came in — and that’s the part, he says, he really enjoyed. “When I began to think about how I would do duets, I went further than just doing a duet,” Barry tells ABC News Radio. “I changed things around on every song. I made intros that, you know, were never there, I put endings. It became a very creative album for me.”

Manilow realizes that he’s opening himself up to criticism by creating an album like My Dream Duets, but he says risks don’t bother him. “I like taking chances. This is taking chances,” he maintains. “I don’t know how people are going to respond to it. Everybody’s that’s heard it seems to be flipping out over it and I’m really happy and relieved about it. For a while there, it was, ‘Barry singing with dead people? Oh really?'”

He laughs, “I am! But, you know, I’m trying to respect them and honor them at the same time.”

There’s one late, great performer who isn’t on My Dream Duets: Michael Jackson. Manilow says he wanted to include Michael, but it turns out he didn’t pinpoint the one song that he thinks actually could have worked: the late King of Pop’s first-ever solo #1 hit.

“I tried singing with Michael,” he reveals. “Somebody yesterday said, ‘Well why don’t you do “Ben” with Michael?’ And I could have done that. I never thought about that! I only listened to all of Michael’s great Thriller, Off the Wall stuff. I sounded terrible with Michael! Really, I was embarrassing!”

Now that My Dream Duets is out, the question is, will Barry launch a tour in support of it? And if so, how would he pull that off? Once again, through the magic of technology.

“We would need to put together videos,” he says. “We did four videos and so far I can do four live, and they’re good. And we’ll see, you know, if this album works. Yeah, I could do that.” Stay tuned.

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