New label revitalizes Manhattan Transfer

It may seem impossible that a group that has existed for nearly 20 years can be reborn, but that's how one member of the Manhattan Transfer describes the group's current situation.

The four members -- Tim Hauser, Alan Paul, Janis Siegel and Cheryl Bentyne -- are the same, but much has changed since their last album and tour three years ago.


"We took some time off and re-evaluated our situation and decided to change record companies along with the way we do some business kinds of things," said Bentyne, who will perform with Paul, Siegel and Hauser at the Pier Six Concert Pavilion Sunday night.

Despite winning nine Grammy Awards during the past 11 years with Atlantic Records, Manhattan Transfer has just two gold albums and one Top 10 hit, 1981's "Boy From New York City."


According to Bentyne, it became apparent that a change of scenery was necessary.

"We just felt like it was time to move on," she said. "We didn't feel as though we were getting the attention we needed and Atlantic has changed a lot over the past 15 years. It's a lot of pop and hard rock and heavy metal now, and we were not a priority."

So after the litigation to get released from Atlantic and after being courted by several large record companies, Manhattan Transfer signed a deal with CBS Records.

Its latest release, "The Offbeat of Avenues," not only marks a new beginning with a new label, it is also the first time the quartet has written its own lyrics for an album.

"It became really, really hard to find existing words for the kind of music we do," said Bentyne, referring to the group's extensive use of four-part harmonies they call "vocalese."

"We worked really hard at being good songwriters and everyone contributed, but at times, I must admit, we felt a little out of our element," Bentyne said. "It sure made us appreciate great songwriters and the great songwriters we've worked with in the past."

With a little encouragement from CBS -- and help from veterans Donald Fagen, Don Freeman and Brock Walsh -- the group managed to produce what it feels is its best effort in years.

"It's all very exciting again and I think you can see it in the live shows," Bentyne said.



The concert calendar:

Also scheduled to appear at Pier Six are Robert Palmer (tonight), Freddie Jackson (Saturday), Little Feat (Sept. 22) and Kathy Mattea (Sept. 27). Linda Ronstadt's show originally scheduled for tomorrow night has been canceled.

Merriweather Post Pavilion hosts Rod Stewart (Sunday), Sting (Sept. 18), the Hard Travelers show featuring the Starland Vocal Band and Barbara Mandrell (Sept. 20) and Tommy James and the Shondells, Johnny Rivers, The Buckinghams and Sam Moore (Sept. 21).

The Baltimore Arena welcomes ZZ Top and Extreme (Sept. 14).

The Capital Centre has Luther Vandross, Lisa Fisher, Sinbad and Sounds of Blackness (Sept. 17 and 18) and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers (Sept. 22).


Hammerjacks welcomes Cinderella and Armored Saint (Sept. 5), Kix (Sept. 6), Front 242 (Sept. 8), Tuff (Sept. 12), The Bullet Boys, Scream and Blackeyed-Susan (Sept. 13), Cheap Trick (Sept. 19), The Connells and King Missile (Sept. 20), Big Audio Dynamite (Sept. 22), House of Freaks with School of Fish (Sept. 28).

Steeltown has Urban Blight (Sept. 5), the Blues Traveler (Sept. 8), Rodney Crowell (Sept. 22), The Mighty Lemon Drops (Oct. 8).