While not being up on any amount of vocal jazz music from the 40s or 50s other than being familiar with some of the most popular standards, Duets II by Tony Bennett is an event in the making so if there’s any time to start, do it with this one. It contains a wide array of popular mainstream artists doing the jazz thing with Tony covering the classics that originally made him a big name. The chemistry between Tony and some of the guest vocalists on here oozes through the speakers, which may be astounding considering that he’s 85.
What is almost most astonishing about the record when listening to the whole thing is how fitting most of the guests are with the genre. Lady GaGa sounds right at home next to Tony on the opening track The Lady Is A Tramp. John Mayer is a comfortable singing partner. Aretha Franklin gives it her all and doesn’t disappoint. Queen Latifah sounds just right. Faith Hill is perhaps the most surprising of all on The Way You Look Tonight. Her normally recognizable albeit uninteresting vocals are completely out of her usual fare but very fitting and impressive and even fellow country/pop superstar Carrie Underwood offers a pleasant surprise. Her normally piercing (re: whiney) vocals are gentle and delicate on It Had To Be You, letting both her and Tony share the stage equally.
However, some sound slightly out of place. Sheryl Crow‘s appearance sounds like that obligatory jazzy Christmas recording that is a must for any holiday record, no matter how fitting. She has a certain fresh, almost sexy quality but doesn’t quite suit next to the album’s other guests. Likewise, Willie Nelson just sounds uncomfortable on the track On The Sunny Side Of The Street. But with the recent drastic change in his sound, the continued effort is well appreciated.
Duets II also contains the final recorded performance of the legend-in-the-making Amy Winehouse. The potential of what could have been is made apparent on the song Body And Soul. Amy shows personality but also has class as she sings with one of music’s finest vocalists. Perhaps that alone is reason enough for the impending success of this record. Perhaps it’s the 17 pairings that make up some of the finest duets in recent years or perhaps it’s the return to mainstream a music form that has been distant for decades. Either way, Duets II is one of the requirements from 2011 to have in any CD collection.
1. The Lady Is A Tramp [with Lady Gaga]
2. One for My Baby [with John Mayer]
3. Body And Soul [with Amy Winehouse]
4. Don’t Get Around Much Anymore [with Michael Bublé]
5. Blue Velvet [with k.d. lang]
6. How Do You Keep The Music Playing [with Aretha Franklin]
7. The Girl I Love [with Sheryl Crow]
8. On The Sunny Side Of The Street [with Willie Nelson]
9. Who Can I Turn To [with Queen Latifah]
10. Speak Low [with Norah Jones]
11. This Is All I Ask [with Josh Groban]
12. Watch What Happens [with Natalie Cole]
13. Stranger In Paradise [with Andrea Bocelli]
14. The Way You Look Tonight [with Faith Hill]
15. Yesterday I Heard The Rain [with Alejandro Sanz]
16. It Had To Be You [with Carrie Underwood]
17. When Do The Bells Ring For Me [with Mariah Carey]