Written by Fumo Verde
I grew up listening to Tony Bennett only because my parents had control over the car radio. It was much later when I truly began to appreciate the silky smooth sound of the man Frank Sinatra once called, “the best singer in the business.” Bennett is an American legend who has been singing for over half a century and has collected over a dozen Grammy Awards. He has been recording since the fifties and is still going strong. On this disk you get to hear some of his best work.
The Ultimate American Songbook Vol. 1 is an incredible collection from master songwriters such as Cole Porter and the Gershwin brothers, George and Ira, so who better to sing these poetic lyrics but the man who made his career singing them since they were new and fresh. After returning from WWII, he made his way as Joe Bari through the nightclubs of the late forties, performing hits like “It Had To Be You” and “Ain’t Misbehavin’.” He opened for Pearl Bailey in Greenwich Village, and then Bob Hope, who suggested he use an Americanization of his real name, Anthony Benedetto. Tony Bennett would see glory in the late fifties and early sixties. He faded away from the spotlight during the seventies when rock and disco ruled the radios. He reappeared in the late eighties and by 1994 the man was back on top of his game stronger than ever.
Bennett’s music ranges from upbeat rhythms and tempos like “Anything Goes” and “That Old Black Magic,” both have that big band energy to them, the kind of energy that even gets your momma up and dancing, to soft sweet soulful crooning in songs such as “The Very Thought of You,” a gem that was recorded in 1966 with Bill Hackett on cornet and an orchestra led by Cyril Ornadel. The sound of the brass mixed with the string section of the band fantastically accompanies Bennett’s vocal range.
Yet this CD isn’t just a collection of songs from Bennett’s past. In 1994 he did an MTV Unplugged show which he did a duet with k. d. lang. “Moonglow” was a hit with the audience and has made it on to this CD, and wow, what combo. Other songs come from Broadway shows like “Taking A Chance On Love” from Cabin in the Sky, which is the track that finishes the disk. In authentic Bennett style, it’s upbeat and snappy, which is what got him to where he is now.
The Ultimate American Songbook Vol. 1 has some great songs with beautiful and thoughtful lyrics sung with heart and soul. Bennett will go down in music history as a humble entertainer with a golden voice whose distinct sound transcends generations. He may have been forgotten for a time, but a person with such pure talent can’t be kept down for long.
With a younger generation of listeners discovering the sounds of Tony Bennett, I’m sure we will soon see a Volume 2.