The Best of Chuck Mangione collects various tracks from the smooth jazz pioneer's '80s Columbia recordings. While not as influential as Mangione's '70s output, his '80s albums retain much of what made him so popular an artist – catchy hooks, lush production and his clear, crisp trumpet sound. Included are such standout tracks as "Journey to a Rainbow," "Love Bug Boogie" and "Memories of Scirocco." Oddly, a live version of "Land of Make Believe" and the single version of "Feels So Good" make it on to this collection. These '70s hits don't really belong here, but should satisfy casual fans looking for his most popular recordings alongside his mid-career stuff.
Throughout the 1970s, Chuck Mangione was a celebrity. His purposely lightweight music was melodic pop that was upbeat, optimistic, and sometimes uplifting. Mangione's records were big sellers yet few of his fans from the era knew that his original goal was to be a bebopper. His father had often taken Chuck and his older brother Gap (a keyboardist) out to see jazz concerts, and Dizzy Gillespie was a family friend.
Armed with just his "Feels So Good" quintet and occasionally a couple of brass players, Mangione's more grandiose ambitions are pretty much behind him on his final A&M release. The emphasis is almost entirely on spinning pretty tunes for his new mass audience without alienating or challenging it much. Not that this collection is completely soporific or lacking the jazz touch; "Pina Colada" revives things with some uptempo flights for Mangione's flugelhorn and Chris Vadala's tenor, and the title cut is an amiably jumping, if repetitive funk workout for the quintet. The major push, however, went to "Give It All You Got" – another upbeat, optimistic, good-times motivating tool, heard extensively at the 1980 Winter Olympics – and Chuck gives it to us again at a listless tempo with the title, "Give It All You Got, But Slowly." As things transpired, this would be his last halfway decent studio album for at least the next decade.
This import version of Chuck Mangione's A&M hits collection contains three more tracks than its domestic counterpart, as well as his volume in the Universal 20th Century Masters collection. The bottom line when it comes to Mangione's music: his biggest period was in the '70s for A&M, when he had his monster hit "Feels So Good." That one has to be here, but so are other noteworthy (and very successful) singles such as "Land of Make Believe," "Chase the Clouds Away," and the overture for "Children of Sanchez."
Though much less expansive than Mangione's other Mercury concerts (only 37 minutes on a single CD or LP), Land of Make Believe is the most successful of the lot, a winning combination of attractive tunes, big-thinking orchestrations, just enough jazz content, and a genuinely felt sense of idealism. Here there is no dead weight; all of the material is very engaging and the combined forces of Mangione's quartet and the Hamilton (Ontario) Philharmonic are on fire.