Tony Bennett's commercial renaissance of the 1980s and '90s was aided by a string of albums that communicated his essential values while providing conceptual rings (Sinatra, Astaire, women singers) for record buyers to grasp. Playin' with My Friends links duets with an assortment of marquee artists to a set of blues and blues-influenced standards. While Bennett is no Joe Turner or Bobby Bland, his upbeat style melds well with that of most of his guests. He achieves the proper level of brio on "Let the Good Times Roll" with B.B. King and sits in spiritedly with Stevie Wonder ("Everyday [I Have the Blues]") and Ray Charles (a moaning "Evenin'" that's the standout cut). In fact, it's the visitors, not the host, who occasionally misfire: Sheryl Crow sounds unsure of her putative pain on "Good Morning, Heartache," while Natalie Cole is simply too glib to make for a convincing "Stormy Weather." Still, Bennett, his small band, and the best of these cameos make Playin' more than just another series of superstar walk-ons. --Rickey Wright
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Tony and his friends--stars that twinkle and shine !!!
Matthew G. Sherwin | last seen screaming at Amazon customer service | 05/31/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Playin' with My Friends: Bennett Sings the Blues is a great CD. This album has wonderful duets between Tony Bennett and many of his best contemporaries. This is a fine album for Tony Bennett fans; and the quality of the sound couldn't be better. The artwork is very nicely done and the duets feature a broad diversity of artists with whom Tony performs.
"Alright, Okay, You Win" has Tony Bennett singing with the great Diana Krall; together they make this number shine more brightly than ever before! Diana is in excellent form and her vocals complement Tony's performance very well; and the jazzy arrangement works wonders for this classic tune. Great! "Everyday (I Have The Blues)" features Tony Bennett singing with Stevie Wonder; they both sound great and together they make some mighty fine music for us to enjoy! This tune also gets an excellent jazzy musical arrangement that is also very pretty and I really like "Everyday (I Have The Blues)." Listen also for "Good Morning, Heartache" with Sheryl Crow. Sheryl's vocals are excellent although I must admit I still think this number belongs to the immortal Billie Holiday. Nevertheless, Tony and Sheryl do a superlative job as they perform "Good Morning, Heartache" with lots of feeling, heart and soul.
"Evenin'" has the great Ray Charles performing with Tony Bennett; they massage the lyrics to this classic ballad and this bluesy number never sounded better! Tony and Ray Charles do this to perfection--and beyond! I particularly like the piano arrangement--it's not too overbearing and it's elegant as well. "Keep The Faith, Baby" has Tony performing with k.d. lang; together they easily ace this tune and the percussion enhances the natural beauty of this ballad. I can certainly understand why Tony Bennett said that k.d. lang is the best female singer we've seen since Judy Garland--her voice is beautiful to hear.
"Blue And Sentimental" has Kay Starr recording this with Tony; and together they make this special. Kay's voice may sound a little rough around the edges; she has aged but still you can hear the natural talent in her voice. She could still sing way better than I ever could!
Billy Joel collaborates with Tony Bennett on Billy's big hit entitled "New York State Of Mind;" "New York State Of Mind" always moves me when I hear it and that's wonderful. The piano bolsters their performance, too. Tony Bennett also sings "Stormy Weather" with Natalie Cole; and when they work together their rendition of "Stormy Weather" would make Lena Horne very proud! The album ends with Tony and his peers performing a lovely tune called "Playin' With My Friends." What a strong ending for this CD!
Tony Bennett fans will love this; and people who like classic pop vocals will love this one as well. You simply can't get better than Tony Bennett and his peers; and I know you'll like this album if you appreciate this genre of music.
I don't play it
Philip T. Beyer | 02/12/2009
(2 out of 5 stars)
"I saw a PBS special with Tony Bennett and friends--short exerpts recording songs with well known artists. It was great, so I bought this SACD. I was disappointed. The production is lousy. Many of the songs have a low-level hum in the background. I double-checked that it wasn't my system by switching tracks and by playing Ray Charles SACD "Genius Loves Company". No problems there; the recordings are flawed. There are four songs I like, two buzz, two don't."