Sings The Ultimate American Songbook Vol. 1

Tony Bennett

Sony, 2007

REVIEW BY: Elizabeth Crowder


Being a man whose voice is as classic as Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett is one of few who can truly impress when performing live a style of 20's and 30's jazz standards. Classic songs by Cole Porter, or that were covered by Frank Sinatra, and featured in musicals -- these are the songs of America's heart.

Tony Bennett Sings The Ultimate American Songbook Vol. 1 is a compilation of live takes on those classic songs which bring memories of old movies and candlelit dinners. Songs like "The Way You Look Tonight," recorded originally for the soundtrack to My Best Friends Wedding, has that glimmer of hope amid a world ruled by pessimism. "Every Time We Say Goodbye" also has that old movie feel, a Cole Porter standard from the Broadway musical my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Seven Lively Arts.

Instrumentally this album is foolproof, including past recordings like "The Very Thought Of You," which includes Bobby Hackett on cornet, enhancing the classy vibe of the entire album. Bennett also includes The Ralph Sharon Trio, musicians known for their work on old Cole Porter hits, as well as k. d. lang, who he states is a voice comparable to Edith Piaf and Billie Holiday. "She's Funny That Way" showcases how clear and entrancing Bennett's voice is, and the a cappella start of "You Go To My Head" proves again the talent this singer has.

Something I appreciate more than the voice Bennett has is how this album brings so many songs I had forgotten about back into my mind. "You'll Never Get Away From Me" from the musical Gypsy and "The Very Thought Of You" seem to get lost behind whatever current musical trend I am following (currently acoustic guitar guys like Jason Ayres and the group Stephen Speaks). Gershwin songs like "They Can't Take That Away From Me" give that clear focus that sometimes all you can do is hold on to what you have. Bennett gets that life was simpler back then, and shows this in how soulful and heart warming he performs these tracks.

Listening to The American Songbook is a little like coming home. You get that warm feeling that no matter how tough life is, simplicity can be reached again. I love that about this album and others which revitalize old standards, and the thought of putting together live tracks instead of standard studio hits for a compilation is intriguing. Perhaps the principle of Occam's Razor should be used more in regards to music, to gain some semblance of simplicity yet again.

Rating: A

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© 2007 Elizabeth Crowder and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Sony, and is used for informational purposes only.