18 Songs, 52 Minutes

EDITORS’ NOTES

As a singer, one might cynically argue, Fred Astaire was a terrific dancer. Yet, like fellow hoofer Gene Kelly, Astaire had a way of personalizing his vocal performances in ways that often soared above his thin vocal gifts. Combine that innate gift with pipes as strong, burnished and studiously exercised as Tony Bennett's on a slate of songs that span the dancer's halcyon days at RKO and MGM, and musical alchemy of the highest order results. Given the stellar songwriters involved (Porter, Berlin, Kern, the Gershwins), the collection also serves double-duty as Bennett's de facto American songbook album, a decade before such conceits became but cynical marketing shtick. Indeed, Bennett's rich career was already undergoing a significant resurgence (thanks largely to the diligent guidance of son/manager Danny) when this 1993 album was released on the heels of the singer's equally accomplished Sinatra tribute, Perfectly Frank. It would go on to become a significant commercial success as well, netting Bennett another deserved Grammy for Best Traditional Pop Vocal.

EDITORS’ NOTES

As a singer, one might cynically argue, Fred Astaire was a terrific dancer. Yet, like fellow hoofer Gene Kelly, Astaire had a way of personalizing his vocal performances in ways that often soared above his thin vocal gifts. Combine that innate gift with pipes as strong, burnished and studiously exercised as Tony Bennett's on a slate of songs that span the dancer's halcyon days at RKO and MGM, and musical alchemy of the highest order results. Given the stellar songwriters involved (Porter, Berlin, Kern, the Gershwins), the collection also serves double-duty as Bennett's de facto American songbook album, a decade before such conceits became but cynical marketing shtick. Indeed, Bennett's rich career was already undergoing a significant resurgence (thanks largely to the diligent guidance of son/manager Danny) when this 1993 album was released on the heels of the singer's equally accomplished Sinatra tribute, Perfectly Frank. It would go on to become a significant commercial success as well, netting Bennett another deserved Grammy for Best Traditional Pop Vocal.

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About Tony Bennett

Tony Bennett cut his teeth singing in front of the toughest of audiences as a teenage army-band performer entertaining hardened troops stationed in Europe during World War II. Ever since, he’s carried the determination and gusto he learned back then through an epic career as America’s consummate crooner. During his initial star-making streak in the ’50s and ’60s, the New York City–born Bennett displayed both a pop singer’s flair for spotlight-seizing spectacle (listen to that soaring, curtain-closing vocal flourish on “(I Left My Heart) In San Francisco”) and a muso’s ear for jazzy improvisation (which blossomed on his supremely swinging albums with Count Basie). Bennett is always in crowd-pleasing mode—you can practically see his smile as he sashays through the big-band orchestration of “The Best Is Yet to Come.” But the natural grit in his voice can also imbue a ballad like Hank Williams’ “Cold, Cold Heart” with palpable melancholy and regret (the singer’s more artistic impulses have been channeled into a parallel career as a painter of impressionistic portraits and landscapes). Always faithful to the standards, Bennett’s staunch refusal to conform to trends has made him an unlikely hero to alternative rockers and modern pop firebrands alike, with latter-day duet partners like Elvis Costello and Lady Gaga lining up to bask in the eternal charisma that Bennett has always exuded so effortlessly.

HOMETOWN
New York, NY
GENRE
Jazz
BORN
August 3, 1926

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