The results of all the years Paul Anka has put in working in Vegas showrooms and their like are on display on Duets, the one-time teen idol’s latest album from Legacy Recordings. Big glitzy production, lush arrangements, repackaged pop classics, It is an album filled with the kind of music that will pack in the high rollers and their ladies. And if Anka himself is not enough, he is joined on 13 of the disc’s 14 tracks by a roster of headlining all-stars, almost any one of whom with more than enough wallop to have filled a showroom in their own right. We’re talking about the likes of Michael Jackson and Frank Sinatra.
Duets features three brand new recordings, seven selections with either new vocals or new musical arrangements and four songs that appeared previously on Anka’s 1998 album A Body of Work.
The first of the new tracks is “Find My Way Back to Your Heart,” the latest Anka composition. Although it features a background vocal by Tita Hutchinson, it is ostensibly the only solo performance on the album. He joins with the distinctive-voiced Leon Russell on “I Really Miss You” and Michael Bublé in a swinging version of the old standard “Pennies from Heaven.”
A trio version of “Walk a Fine Line” with George Benson and Michael McDonald opens the album. There are new arrangements of “Do I Love You (Yes, In Every Way)” with Dolly Parton, “This is It” with Michael Jackson, and “Think I’m in Love Again” with Gloria Estefan. There is a new version of “Les Filles de Paris” where the singer is accented with the sweet tones of jazz trumpet virtuoso Chris Botti. It is an elegant arrangement of the ballad. Then there is a somewhat subdued but nonetheless effective take on Willie Nelson’s “Crazy.” Nelson and Anka work together surprisingly well. The album ends with Sinatra and “My Way.”
Of the previously recorded material, the highlight, indeed perhaps the highlight of the album, is the duet with the fabulous Patti LaBelle on a Latin American arrangement of the Anka pop hit, “You Are My Destiny.” It is far and away the most exciting piece on the disc. He also combines with Celine Dion on “It’s Hard to Say Goodbye,” Tom Jones on his hit, “She’s a Lady,” and Peter Cetera on “Hold Me ‘Til the Morning Comes.”
As Anka concludes after thanking all his collaborators in the liner notes, “This endeavor, these songs, will be easy on your ears; they are the stuff that love and life is all about.” “Easy on the ears” is an understatement. There are some absolutely gorgeous arrangements of the singer’s work, sung with spirit and passion. Great artists bring out the best in each other, and these were and are great artists. Although any listener will have favorites among the bunch, there really isn’t a dud on the album. Paul Anka fans will have trouble choosing only one or two. Come to think of it, so will most any music lover.