Tony Bennett’s newest is actually his oldest.
His new CD, Cloud 7, is actually a remastered re-issue of his first LP for Columbia, released in 1955. After recording a string of hit singles, usually with lush orchestration, this was his first album on the comparatively new LP technology. The songs were different from his singles, mostly Broadway or movie tunes, recorded with a small jazz ensemble over three sessions from August to December in 1954.
These wouldn’t be the songs heard on 50′s pop radio. They are the songs you would hear Bennett sing in some small club in New York City, some upbeat and some slow, but sung in the unmistakable Tony Bennett style. The selections come mostly from movies (“I Fall in Love Too Easily”, “My Heart Tells Me”, “Love Letters”, “Give Me the Simple Life”) or Broadway musicals (“My Baby Just Cares For Me”, “Old Devil Moon”, “I Can’t Believe You’re In Love With Me”, “Darn That Dream”). That leaves “My Reverie” and “While the Music Plays On” to fill out the album-turned-to-CD.
Two members of the ensemble, guitarist Chuck Wayne (who gets a “Featuring” credit on the original album cover) and trumpet Charles Panely, did most of the arranging. Ed Shaughnessy, drummer for the Tonight Show Orchestra during the Johnny Carson/Doc Severinson years, was on two of the sessions. The original producer for Columbia was Mitch Miller. The biggest clue that this is an album made almost fifty years ago doesn’t come from the sound; there’s no mistaking the singer. It comes from the original album photo, and the 28 year old Bennett looks more like he’s 18. Don’t worry — he doesn’t sound 18.
If you’ve only got the money for one representative Tony Bennett album, this probably isn’t it. You should go for one of his anthology albums with his greatest hits. However, if you are a Tony Bennett fan, this is an album to consider. The original went out-of-print years ago, and the song selection isn’t duplicated on the later compilations he’s put together. This may be the closest you get to a “pure” Tony Bennett experience. Listen to it, and you’ll walk with a swing to your step for the next day or two.