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Duets: An American Classic

4.4 out of 5 stars 504 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

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
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (September 26, 2006)
  • Original Release Date: September 26, 2006
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Sony Legacy
  • Run Time: 65 minutes
  • ASIN: B000H0MKGU
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (504 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,443 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Ed Uyeshima HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on September 26, 2006
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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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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Format: Audio CD
Just a couple of observations about this CD - first of all, Tony Bennett is in remarkably good voice for 80. Just my opinion, but I think he's taken much better care of his voice as he's aged than Sinatra did. All of the arrangements are terrific (especially the swing numbers), and while I really like all of the guest vocalists, of course some of the duet partners stand up better than others. The Dixie Chicks add a fun "girl group" sound to "Lullaby of Broadway" (reminded me of their work on The Runaway Bride soundtrack) and "Rags to Riches" is the absolute perfect song for Tony to sing with Elton John (there's a nice swagger to their vocals that nicely complements the lyric). The best jazz tracks are Tony's duets with Diana Krall ("The Best Is Yet to Come"), Barbra Streisand ("Smile"), Michael Bublé ("Just In Time"), and k.d. lang ("Because of You" - which also features a trumpet solo by the one and only CHRIS BOTTI!! Loverly...). Surprisingly enough, one of the best tracks on the album is "Cold, Cold Heart" where Tony sings with Tim McGraw. I was amazed at how well they sounded together (and of course a Hank Williams song is an ideal vehicle for McGraw's voice). Celine Dion is in good voice but way overdoes the ending on "If I Ruled the World," completely drowning Tony out (and reminding me of some of Barbra's vocal blasts on her own duets album, i.e., the end of "All I Know of Love" with Josh Groban). A little more subtlety would have been nice (like Celine's reading of "Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered" on the Mona Lisa Smile soundtrack). I you get the CD from Target, they are selling a version with four bonus tracks - including a second duet with Michael Bublé (!!!) - "Stepping Out With My Baby," which has been one of my favorite songs since the first time I saw Easter Parade as a kid. Very fun listening. This CD serves a great testament to Tony Bennett's talent, legacy, staying power, and versatility -- good listening.
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