Essential for the Aspiring Tony Bennett Fan
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Less than two months ago, I had the great privilege of watching Tony Bennett perform in concert for the first time, right here in my home town. It was an amazing performance by the ageless singer, but, I can't review the concert here! I mention it only because I'm sure there were many people at the concert and, indeed, many people at the dozens of concerts that Tony gives every year who do not know much about his music but who were blown away by his great performance and wish to explore his massive recorded legacy, but are uncertain of where to start. Well, this album, along with a couple of his more recent albums like "MTV Unplugged" and "The Playground", is the perfect place to start. This album in Columbia/Legacy's fine "Essence Of" series is an excellent introduction because, unlike a greatest hits package, it combines some well known numbers with lesser known, but equally worthwhile, recordings. This album thus contains well known Bennett standards like "Because Of You", "San Francisco" and "When Joanna Loved Me", alongside such hidden treasures as "Lazy Afternoon" (from the percussion-dominated "Beat Of My Heart" sessions), "Something In Your Smile" (a remarkably beautiful ballad) and "All My Tomorrows". Of all Tony's recordings, this performance of "All My Tomorrows" should be right near the top of the list. It certainly stands comparison with Sinatra's famous version with Don Costa. Whereas Sinatra's is almost an anthem, with its lush, sweeping Costa arrangement, Bennett's is much more low-key, with just the Ralph Sharon Trio accompanying him. It sounds as if he was singing in a small, thinly populated club. He sings it perfectly from the technical point of view, but also with great feeling. He plumbs the depths of the song in a way that not even Sinatra manages and, in so doing, gives one of his best recorded performances. So, while this is an album which makes a great introduction to Tony Bennett, it's also an album you'll keep going back to because it contains great recordings which are difficult or impossible to find anywhere else."