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Duets: An American Classic

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Audio CD, September 26, 2006
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Duets: An American Classic + Tony Bennett: Duets II + Cheek to Cheek (Deluxe)
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Product Description

In celebration of his 80th birthday, Tony Bennett performs 18 of his hits and favorite numbers with famous duet partners including Sting, Bono, Barbra Streisand, Paul McCartney, and Tim McGraw -- all live in the studio with the master.

About the Artist

At this point, who else but Tony Bennett would have the clout to round up stars on the scale of Elton John, Paul McCartney, Bono, Celine Dion and Barbra Streisand for some duets? (Note also that unlike some similar projects, all the parties involved on this CD were alive when it was recorded!) The material consists of relatively obvious classics in standard big-band arrangements, and Bennett himself is in top form at age 80, so much so that he doesn't need anybody else to handle "I Left My Heart in San Francisco." But the fun comes from checking out how his collaborators fare. The Dixie Chicks provide wonderful Andrews Sisters–type harmonies on the percolating version of "Lullaby of Broadway" that opens the festivities. The best songs tend to be the ones where Bennett's slightly craggy voice is juxtaposed to smooth female ones, like Diana Krall on "The Best Is Yet to Come," familiar accomplice k.d. lang on the sultry "Because of You" and Streisand—-perhaps Bennett's only equal in stature at this point—on "Smile." Among the less expected guests, soulman John Legend is a revelation on the hard-swinging "Sing, You Sinners," while George Michael confirms he’s quite the crooner on "How Do You Keep the Music Playing?" Elvis Costello, Celine Dion or Juanes don't sound as comfortable, and sometimes it feels as if they overdo it to compensate, but overall this collection is among the best of its kind, with most guests rising to the occasion. --Elisabeth Vincentelli

1. LULLABY OF BROADWAY – duet with Dixie Chicks
2. SMILE – duet with Barbra Streisand
3. PUT ON A HAPPY FACE – duet with James Taylor
4. THE GOOD LIFE – duet with Billy Joel
5. THE SHADOW OF YOUR SMILE – duet with Juanes
6. RAGS TO RICHES – duet with Elton John
7. THE VERY THOUGHT OF YOU – duet with Paul McCartney
8. COLD, COLD HEART – duet with Tim McGraw
9. IF I RULED THE WORLD –duet with Celine Dion
10. THE BEST IS YET TO COME – duet with Diana Krall
11. FOR ONCE IN MY LIFE – duet with Stevie Wonder
12. ARE YOU HAVIN’ ANY FUN? – duet with Elvis Costello
13. BECAUSE OF YOU – duet with k.d. lang
14. JUST IN TIME – duet with Michael Bublé
16. I WANNA BE AROUND - duet with Bono
17. SING, YOU SINNERS – duet with John Legend
19. HOW DO YOU KEEP THE MUSIC PLAYING? – duet with George Michael

Product Details

  • Audio CD (September 26, 2006)
  • Original Release Date: 2006
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Sony
  • ASIN: B000H0MKGU
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (465 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #849 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD
There are several top-selling singers who mine the Great American Songbook without having an innate understanding of its musical context. The results can consequently amount to contrived posturing as much as singing. Tony Bennett is not one of them as he so completely understands what music works with his sturdy, mellifluous voice that he makes almost everyone else featured on this disc sound vocally compatible even if several are out of their comfort zones. What makes this a better listen than Frank Sinatra's similar efforts in the early nineties is that Bennett recorded all the duets in person with his partners and has figured out how to retro-fit their musical sensibilities with his own. Intriguingly, industry veteran Phil Ramone produced both the Sinatra and Bennett projects.

Things start energetically with a big-band arrangement of "Lullaby of Broadway". The Dixie Chicks' Natalie Maines sings with surprising aplomb but only on the first verse, and as a group, they spend the rest of the track mimicking the Andrews Sisters with their WWII-era girl-group background vocals. The cheery "Put on a Happy Face" from "Bye, Bye Birdie" has the normally taciturn James Taylor sounding very Gene Kelly-like and bantering quite easily with Bennett. A melancholy tone seeps into "Because of You", Bennett's first major hit in 1951, with Chris Botti's sad-eyed trumpet and a sonorous K.D. Lang sounding most assured given her previous experience as his partner.

A surprisingly confident Bono extracts the usual gruffness from his arena-rock voice and dexterously matches with Bennett on a sauntering version of "I Wanna Be Around".
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27 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Paul Lace on September 26, 2006
Format: Audio CD
Back when Sinatra did a similar thing (the two "Duets" discs), the results ranged from non-convincing to outright appalling, despite the quality of most singing partners. Yes, it might have been because of the separate recording sessions, or maybe because of a hasty song selection, but the chemistry was just not there. Though I was looking forward to this CD (I'm a long-time Tony Bennett fan), I approched it with a lot of skepticism. Boy I was in for a very pleasant surprise!!

"Duets - An American Classic" is classy, fun, sophisticated, romantic, moody and it never gets boring.

The disc starts with a very original rendition of "The Lullaby of Broadway

" with the Dixie Chicks. I know these pretty smart girls are much better musicians than they're typically given credit for, but I didn't expect them to swing that well. Definitely not your run-of-the-mill country singers. Yes, it's true, they do sound like the Andrew Sisters! (What's wrong with that?)

Charlie Chaplin's unforgettable "Smile" is beautifully sung by Tony and the evergreen Barbra Streisand. She really is one of the best, her unmistakable voice is just as great as ever. The arrangement is a bit corny for my tastes though, but classical violin virtuoso Pinchas Zukerman's performance is, as usual, moving.

James Taylor's vocal style isn't too well-suited for this kind of music, but he still manages to do an appreciable job in "Put on a happy face."

Paul McCartney, on the other hand, was the second pleasant surprise (after the Dixie Chicks.) For someone supposedly unfamiliar with this repertoire, he does a surprisingly good job, sounding very much like an experienced crooner.

I admit not knowing who Juanes was, I read that he's a South American rock singer.
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28 of 34 people found the following review helpful By bals gal on October 24, 2006
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Let me preface this rating by saying that I have been a Tony Bennett fan for over 50 years. His songs are magnificent. However, this cd did not impress me at all. The artists added nothing to the music which was extremely draggy, slow, and rather boring. It just didn't have the "umph" Sinatra's "Duets" had.
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42 of 53 people found the following review helpful By Rich Given on October 2, 2006
Format: Audio CD
Tony Bennett's 80th birthday deserves commemoration by something better than this collection of his signature tunes recorded with duet partners obviously chosen more for their value as marketing hooks than than their interpretive skills with the great american songbook.

The pairing of Bennett with Barbra Streiand on Charlie Chaplin's "Smile" yields a surprisingly uninspired collaboration. James Taylor, Paul McCartney, Billy Joel and The Dixie Chicks are so far out of their depths with this material and in Bennett's company that the results are borderline painful.

You have to get half way through the collection before one of these recordings truly hits the bullseye, with Diana Krall joining Bennett brilliantly on Cy Coleman's classic "The Best is Yet to Come." Along the way, Tim McGraw is a worthy complement to Hank William's "Cold, Cold Heart" and k.d. Lang and Michael Buble provide competent support on "Because of You" and "Just in Time" respectively.

But the majority of this album's 19 tracks constitute little more than a poorly executed marketing gimmick with artists who do not belong on the same record as Mr. Bennett, or for that matter anywhere in the vicinity of these great songs.
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Where can I get "Steppin' Out With My Baby"
I'm pretty sure there's not a recorded version available of this song with C.A., but Target has (at least had) a special edition version of Duets with four extra tracks including "Stepping Out..." with Michael Bublé, which I liked even more than the version with Christina. Hope this helps!
Mar 29, 2007 by WTA75 |  See all 2 posts
Paul should stick to My Love, Hello Goodbye or Hey Jude
Tony's great, and this is a great gathering showing respect for him. Anytime I can hear him sing, one voice or with friends, it speaks of his love for fellow singers and their love of him.

David Keeley
Sep 21, 2006 by David L. Keeley |  See all 7 posts
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