Tony Bennett Sings the Rodgers & Hart Songbook
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Usually this much class doesn't come cheap! This low-priced CD combines two albums and six unissued alternate takes to bring you 26 exquisite Bennett renditions of Rodgers & Hart masterpieces: Blue Moon; I Could Write a Book; The Lady Is a Tramp; Have You Met Miss Jones?; Isn't It Romantic?; Thou Swell; The Most Beautiful Girl in the World; My Romance , and more.
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“Tony Bennett Sings Rodgers & Hart Songbook”, released by Concord Music from US in 2015, is a single CD, actually a twofer with 2 complete albums on Tony’s own label Improv, originally released in 1973 and 1977, now finally on CD in 2015 with bonus tracks. I have compiled a song listing (including album and single label & number, release date):
LP “TONY BENNETT SINGS 10 RODGERS & HART SONGS” (Improv 7113)(1973):
01 This Can’t Be Love
02 Blue Moon
03 The Lady is a Tramp
06 Spring Is Here
07 Have You Met Miss Jones?
08 Isn’t It Romantic?
09 Wait Till You See Her
10 I Could Write A Book
LP “TONY BENNETT SINGS...MORE RODGERS & HART” (Improv 7120)(1977):
11 Thou Swell
12 The Most Beautiful Girl in the World
13 There’s A Small Hotel
14 I’ve Got Five Dollars
15 You Took Advantage of Me
16 I Wish I Were in Love Again (Improv TB 713)(b-side, 1975)
17 This Funny World
18 My Heart Stood Still
19 My Romance
20 Mountain Greenery
21 This Can’t Be Love (alt. take 1)
22 I Could Write A Book (alt. take 2)
23 Thou Swell (alt. take 1)
24 The Most Beautiful Girl in the World (alt. take 4)
25 I Wish I Were in Love Again (alt. take 1)
26 This Funny World (alt. take 3)
1 Finally, the two Rodgers & Hart albums by Tony Bennett from the 1970s on Improv label are released on CD in one single set. There is a rare b-side too. To be exactly correct, this current set, together with the bonus tracks, appeared as disc 2 on the very expensive 4-CD “The Complete Improv Recordings” box set released in 2004. The two albums are not available on single CDs separately.
2 After the struggling years at Columbia in the late 1960s and at MGM from 1972-1973 where he was forced to record “contemporary” rock songs without success, he formed his own record label Improv. In this set, he was joined by Ruby Braff/George Barnes Quartet. He took full artistic control, as demonstrated by the choice of songs, also fully displaying his complete vocal artistry throughout. Great performance at a difficult time of his life.
3 Original analog master tapes were used.
4 There is a 10-page foldout booklet with an informative essay by Will Friedwald.
1 Besides critical listening, I also ripped the songs onto wave files in my computer. Being a remasterer, I can tell if remastering work has been done. Sadly in this case, the producer simply lay the tracks down WITHOUT any remastering at all. Therefore, one has to turn the volume dial up a lot to hear things properly. Fortunately, the original tracks were still nice and clean. With availability of Original Analog Master Tapes, I feel that this was a real wasted opportunity. Since this set was exactly the same as disc 2 of “Complete Improv Recordings” box set, I now also wonder if the remastering in that expensive set was similarly bad too. This is a real shame.
2 There is no original album front and back covers in the booklet.
Personally, I am in the process of getting every Tony Bennett album on CD. Out of 73 domestic albums released so far, I am still missing “The Good Things in Life” and “Listen Easy” (both Verve/MGM). In retrospect, I did save some money not buying the ultra-expensive “Complete Collection”, although I still longed for the 3 CDs of non-album singles in that set. The same applies to the expensive “Complete Improv Recordings” box set containing rare non-album singles to complete my Complete Singles Collection on Tony Bennett.
I have mixed feelings about this set. Improv, Tony’s own label, lacked a distribution arrangement with a major label and by 1977, it was out of business, and the above two albums were deleted. I personally feel that these are two rare and important releases during the struggling years of Tony Bennett, nevertheless, with good qualities. But when these two albums were finally released on CD in 2005, they really deserved a better respect as to the treatment of the sound at High Definition Digital (G Studio Digital). This is a real shame on Concord Music’s part in remastering that can be easily done. However, this set is still recommended because of the great choice of songs and Tony’s performance.
I agree with what Jack O'Brian has written on the brief Liner Notes on this double delight twofer, "Tony Bennett Sings The Rodgers and Hart Songbook," a combination of two LP records compiled and remastered in one CD, which presents the very best of Richard Rodgers' charming and timeless music, and Lorenz Hart's meaningful lyrics. The first ten tracks were taken from the album "Tony Bennett Sings 10 Rodgers and Hart Songs," and the rest of the tracks were taken from "Tony Bennett Sings More Great Rodgers and Hart."
I simply love the sound of a cornet that's why I'm drawn to this CD. Ruby Braff is a fine cornet player. I share Mr. O'Brian's sentiment about his playing--flawless--that is! I began to appreciate the beautiful sound of a cornet when I first heard Michael Feinstein's astounding version of "Darn That Dream" featuring a solo cornet by Warren Vaché on a stunning two-CD-set, Romance on Film/Romance on Broadway. The bass and guitar works can't simply be ignored and I applaud the fine musicians who made it spectacular - George Barnes and Wayne Wright on guitars and John Giufrida on bass.
Even with sparse instrumentations and without an orchestral setting, the Emmy and Grammy winning crooner still shines in all his renditions and I believe that it's a clear testament that he can deliver outstanding interpretations in any setting, be it with a trio, a quartet, or an orchestra. He is a consummate artist -- a great singer with a unique voice, and not to mention that he is also a creative and remarkable painter. It is a known-fact that Mr. Bennett loves to sing and to paint and this is especially true with the recent released of his book, Tony Bennett in the Studio: A Life of Art & Music.
My personal favorites include "My Romance," "I Could Write A Book," which includes a seldom-recorded intro verse, "Isn't It Romantic," the opener "This Can't Be Love," which sets the tone of this lovely CD, and of course "Manhattan."
"I'd like to take a sail on Jamaica Bay with you
The fair Canarsie's Lake we'll view
The city's bustle cannot destroy
The dreams of a boy and girl
We'll turn Manhattan into an isle of joy"
When you think of some of the enduring songs by Rodgers and Hart, consider this CD and I can assure you that it will be a wonderful listening experience. This is Tony Bennett at his prime and at some of his very best renderings! It is also a good introduction to the timeless music of this great songwriting pair.
With my heartfelt recommendation for a lovely listen.
Most recent customer reviews
So Smooth and very relaxing, we love It. 4 Stars.
Eve and John