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Tony Bennett's new album is available at Sessions 27

Review of Tony Bennett's Duets II by Ross Mikesell — Sessions 27

September 28, 2011

Tony Bennett has been singing popular music and standards for over sixty years and has made roughly the same number of albums in that time, so basically, the man knows what he’s doing. This album follows up five years after he released the first Duets and follows the same template of gathering a cross section of musical celebrities to share a microphone on songs from the Great American Songbook. It’s a tried and true method for producing a widely commercial album. Perhaps the best example in recent years is Frank Sinatra’s Duets from 93, which was certainly financially successful, but less so artistically.

In contrast, on his Duets II, Tony Bennett seems very present and has a talent for elevating his collaborators. There are a few artists for whom this is old hat (Michael Bublé, Norah Jones etc.) but he also brings along a few country artists (Carrie Underwood, Faith Hill) that do an impressive job fitting comfortably into Bennett’s world. “On the Sunny Side of the Street” which features Willie Nelson, no stranger to a standard, is a meeting of two musical veterans just enjoying themselves. One song, “Body and Soul” is a strong rendition of the ballad, sadly notable as being the last recording of the late Amy Winehouse, who sounds at times eerily like late-career Billie Holiday. Maybe the most surprising song on the album is his duet with Lady Gaga on “The Lady is a Tramp”, which has the bounciest arrangement in the lineup and it just feels like they had a ball together. If that song is any indication then Lady Gaga could certainly have a solid career fronting a big band if she chose to.
Overall what makes the album special is the interplay between Bennett and each of his guests. It genuinely sounds like everyone was having a good time recording it and that feeling comes through on each of the songs, which is what makes Duets II a cut above the others in its genre.
Of course, you can pick up this album and thousands of others at Sessions 27 record store on 505 State St.