Even the "Jukebox Musical" tracks play better than the pop covers on the last two albums and the arrangements are nice and big and West End/Broadway, rather than leaning toward the rock/pop side of the spectrum. No psuedo country, no Billy Joel.
There's one Manilow song (Copacabana) as well as The Kid Inside from "Is There Life After High School" which I (and apparently John) first heard on Barry's "Showstoppers" album, plus Memory, which everybody and their mother-in-law (including Barry Manilow) has recorded.
The opening track, When I Get My Name In Lights, is absolutely perfect for John's persona and makes a great statement of purpose. I expected Don't Cry Out Loud to be the cringe moment, but it didn't happen at all, maybe because it's such an over-the-top song, but not inherently tied to one performer like some of the stuff I really hated on Music, Music, Music was.
One Night Only from Dreamgirls-absolutely amazing...longing, poignant, hot and sexy.
The duet with Jody Prenger, So Close, is a great track. She has a power-house voice and you can feel how happy John is to work with her.
Pretty much every song carried a lot of emotion and worked to John's ability to act a lyric rather than his attempts to be a "mere" pop singer, which I feel are generally unworthy of his talent, even if I did like some of the cheesey stuff like All Out of Love.
Once you hear him do The Kid Inside, I Won't Send Roses, or (OMG!) Unusual Way, it's pretty hard to settle for him covering second-raters like Tim McGraw and Bryan Adams.
(I will admit that when Music Music Music came out, it was during the build-up to TW Children of Earth and my anger at what I thought was coming and John's apparent happiness with it, affected my feelings about him and the music, but honestly, aside from about four tracks....it was shit.)
Final verdict: This is a wonderful album. If you love John doing what he does best, you will love it. Having it on my Ipod was pretty much the only thing that got me through an afternoon at the DMV.