Two Tony Bennetts are better than one. That is the easiest way to describe the 85-year-old’s newest CD, “Duets II.”
After grueling months of hard work with 17 different artists, Bennett released his masterpiece exactly five years after his title CD with the same name (Duets) in 2006. Bennett stays true to his genre by singing classic songs that have proven to be timeless decade after decade. Other singers have tried to sing the classics of yesteryear (most notably Rod Stewart in his CD collection “The Great American Songbook”), but none have proven to be as everlasting as Bennett.
The CD starts out with a duet by an artist that could not be further from comparison to Bennett; none other than Lady Gaga. As much as a peculiar duo that this is, Gaga steps up to the plate to give a marvelous arrangement of “The Lady is a Tramp” by stretching her voice to hit the highest notes and still making the song fun.
Aretha Franklin also hit it big with her rendition of “How Do You Keep the Music Playing.” Bennett and Franklin swept listeners away with this emotional number. One cannot help but stop and think of her recent battle with pancreatic cancer when listening to this song because it showcases her true spirit in its highest form. The power in Franklin’s voice, along with the lyrics of this beautiful song, are a perfect combination.
In “This is All I Ask,” Bennett paired with the talent of Josh Groban. Groban has a distinct voice that compliments Bennett’s in a natural way. Most of the song is sung completely together with both stars’ voices singing simultaneously. On one hand, there is a man who has been singing for 60 years, and on the other, there is a young powerhouse who has an almost opera-like sound to his voice.
There can be no criticism of Bennett’s duet with Andrea Bocelli in “Stranger in Paradise” either. Bocelli delivers with exquisite magnitude by letting the listener close his or her eyes to imagine themselves in a true wonderland. Neither legends disappoint on even one note in this powerful song.
With that being said, there were a few disappointments on the CD. Michael Buble teamed up with Bennett to sing “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore,” while Willie Nelson helped Bennett sing “On the Sunny Side of the Street.” Both arrangements lacked in clarity and jumped all over the place.
Nelson was not at his best in his song (but when is he anyway?), and Buble delivers a strong performance, but the song did not do their voices justice. The only reason it makes sense that these songs did not work is that the arrangements were not well put together on these two pieces, and the songs were not as recognizable as others.
Another deeply disappointing arrangement was Mariah Carey’s rendition with Bennett on “When Do the Bells Ring for Me.” Carey goes overboard on this piece of music (just like most of her other performances) where she strains too much to try to ‘yell’ every note instead of merely singing them.
Other performances were sung by John Mayer, Queen Latifah, Carrie Underwood, Alejandro Sanz, Norah Jones, Sheryl Crow, and Natalie Cole; all sang well together with Bennett.
Three performances stood out above all the rest, though. Faith Hill melodically sings her way through the famous “The Way You Look Tonight” with Bennett. Both singers collaborated to make a unique version of this beautiful song. It is obvious that they both enjoyed crooning together; it is evident in the way that they sing.
“Body and Soul” was sung by Bennett with the late Amy Winehouse. Winehouse ‘clears her name’ in this number, so to speak. Many people had set opinions on Winehouse’s drug addiction and suspect behavior, but the way she sings in this song proves that she had an immense love for music. Her voice has a familiar rough tone to it, easily comparable to the late Billie Holiday. Winehouse has a clear determination in this piece to hit every note, and she does so with grace.
The best five star performance on this CD would go to Bennett’s rendition of “Blue Velvet” with k.d. lang. Lang is known for her soothing voice of old time classic masterpieces, and she outshines herself again in this one. This is a song that is listened to best when relaxing in front of a fireplace with a glass of wine because it truly puts the mind at ease. Bennett and Lang have a friendship that goes back many years, and their inseparable duet on this song is reason enough to buy this CD.
The artwork is fabulously done as well, just as Bennett’s last “Duets” CD. The front cover is a collage of headshots of Bennett with tiny pictures of his life making up the space of his face. Instead of the usual pictures on CD front covers of the artist sitting in a robotic pose, this picture points out the span of Bennett’s life and his devotion to music because of the hundreds of pictures that make up the cover.
Overall, this CD is a marvelous work of art. I would give it 4.5 out of 5 stars for many reasons. The only reason I would not give it a 5 is because of the few songs on the CD that do not do Bennett justice, but there are far greater reasons the CD is worth buying.
First of all, Bennett’s 60-year singing career is amazing enough because his voice does not show too many signs of fading like most other artists portray as they get older. He still can hit the notes with extreme emotion and poise.
Bennett also picks a wide variety of musical superstars to pair up with on this collection which makes it all the more enjoyable.
Lastly, this CD not only is as good as his last “Duets” album; it surpasses it…by a mile. Bennett chooses songs that listeners can relate to and appreciate more. With the variety of singers, the magnitude of the song choices, and Bennett’s lifelong passion for singing, I can sincerely recommend this CD to anyone who is a music lover.
Adam Anders is a fourth-year student majoring in political science with a minor in journalism. He can be reached at AA653656@wcupa.edu.