Albums

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Crooners - Released November 8, 1988 | Columbia

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Along with his producer, Ernest Altschuler, and his arranger/pianist, Ralph Sharon, Tony Bennett had been searching for a repertoire and a musical approach beyond his long-gone pop work with Mitch Miller of the early '50s and his artistically pleasing but commercially dicey jazz work of the mid- to late '50s. It seemed to be a combination of Broadway songs and other contemporary material, carefully selected and arranged to show off Bennett's now-burnished vocals, which, as he approached the end of his thirties, were starting to be located in a more comfortable range closer to a baritone than a tenor. With this album, they found the key, not only by happening across a signature song in the title track, but also in the approach to songs like "Once Upon a Time," a gem from the flop musical All American, and Cy Coleman and Carolyn Leigh's "The Best Is Yet to Come," which Bennett helped make a standard. (Frank Sinatra didn't do it until two years later.) From here on until the world changed again toward the late '60s, Bennett would not have to feel that he had to compromise his art for popularity, making up-tempo singles in an attempt to meet the marketplace while longing to do ballads and swing material instead. I Left My Heart In San Francisco, a gold-selling Top Ten hit that stayed in the charts almost three years, demonstrated that he could have it all. (Tony Bennett won two 1962 Grammy Awards for the title song: Record of the Year and Best Solo Vocal Performance, Male.) ~ William Ruhlmann
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Crooners - Released April 1, 1955 | CAPITOL CATALOG MKT (C92)

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Crooners - Released January 1, 2014 | SPECIAL MARKETS (SPM)

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Crooners - Released October 1, 2013 | Legacy Recordings

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Crooners - Released April 15, 2013 | Reprise

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Crooners - Released September 16, 2011 | RPM Records - Columbia

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Tony Bennett’s first album of celebrity duets (2006's Duets: An American Classic) featured an impressive cast of superstars answering the call from the dean of pop vocalists, but the arrangements were overly safe -- virtually all of them ballads with soft strings or brassy finger-snappers. Duets II follows the first by five years and features, surprisingly, a cast just as star-laden, but also arrangements that are much more dynamic, and suitable for each song and its participants. (Marion Evans, a veteran whose career goes back nearly as far as Bennett's, handles the charts for a few of the best here.) Bennett, as ever in splendid voice and impeccable groove, laughs and trades lines with stars half his age (like John Mayer), or in the case of Lady Gaga, six decades younger, and clearly makes them so comfortable in this setting that it would be easy to believe that jazz vocals were their home. Standard fare yields standard results for the likes of Michael Bublé and Josh Groban, but all of these songs have something to contribute. Bennett is especially tender and expressive with k.d. lang on "Blue Velvet" (the two had already collaborated on a full album), and he clearly enjoys his pairing with Willie Nelson for "On the Sunny Side of the Street." (Nelson takes a guitar solo, and shows some of the vocal shadings that during the '60s made him as expressive a vocalist as Bennett.) The album wisely covers all bases, including stars of country music (Carrie Underwood, Faith Hill), R&B (Mariah Carey, Aretha Franklin, Amy Winehouse), and one-shots for rock & roll (Sheryl Crow), Latin music (Alejandro Sanz), and classical (Andrea Bocelli). Celebrity musical pairings rarely lead to innovation or excitement, but Duets II is an enjoyable celebration of what Tony Bennett has meant to pop music, and what he can bring out in any star vocalist he steps up to the microphone with. ~ John Bush
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Crooners - Released February 4, 2014 | Legacy Recordings

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A profile of a rugged Dean Martin by the fireplace with a cigarette adorns the jacket of this very interesting concept album. As Stan Cornyn's liner notes explain, "his longtime accompanist" on piano, Ken Lane, with "three of Hollywood's most thoughtful rhythm men" -- those being drummer Irv Cottler, bassist Red Mitchell, and guitarist Barney Kessel -- do create a mood, Dean Martin performing as if he were a lounge singer at 1:15 a.m. as the Saturday night crowd is dwindling. His signature tune, "Everybody Loves Somebody," is here in a laid-back style, produced by Jimmy Bowen, who would go on to produce Reba McEntire, Kenny Rogers & the First Edition, and so many others, also the same man who was behind the 1964 number one smash. This album with the original Martin recording was released after the hit single version and on the same day as the Everybody Loves Somebody LP, but how many times does the audience get a different studio reading of a seminal hit record? Not only that, but the version that preceded the hit. The backing is so sparse it is almost a cappella, with Kessel's guitar noodlings and Ken Lane's piano. The bass is mostly invisible, coming in only when needed. It's a slow and sultry version that caps off side one. There is a rendition of Rodgers & Hart's "Blue Moon" that strips away the doo wop of the Marcels' number one 1961 remake, and a run-through of the Bloom/Mercer hit for Glen Miller, "Fools Rush In," which Rick Nelson had launched into the Top 15 in 1963. Martin is just crooning away, and if the album has one drawback, it is that the 12 songs are incessant in their providing the same atmosphere. The backing quartet does not deviate from their job, nor does producer Jimmy Bowen add any technique, other than putting Martin's voice way out in the mix. But Dream With Dean was no doubt excellent research and development as Bowen landed 11 Top 40 hits with the singer from 1964's "Everybody Loves Somebody," which evolved out of this original idea to 1967's "Little Old Wine Drinker, Me." It sounds as if they tracked the album in one afternoon, and it is not only a very pleasant listening experience, it shows what a tremendous vocalist Dean Martin truly was. ~ Joe Viglione
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Crooners - Released October 14, 1997 | Columbia - Legacy

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Recorded on June 9, 1962, one week before the release of the I Left My Heart in San Francisco album that would catapult Tony Bennett's career into the stratosphere, this concert album effectively sums up his accomplishments so far. Some of the hits -- "Stranger in Paradise," "Rags to Riches," "Because of You" -- are still on the set list (although drastically rearranged), but clearly he has found his true repertoire in reinventions of older material like "All the Things You Are" (the version here is exquisite) and good choices of new songs -- he champions the team of Cy Coleman and Carolyn Leigh, and introduces "San Francisco," which some in the audience already know. (Released as a single in advance of the San Francisco album, it was in the charts already.) And on the album's original four LP sides, Bennett managed to find time for such experiments as an up-tempo "Ol' Man River" featuring percussionist Candido, a throwback to his innovative Beat of My Heart album. More than his greatest-hits collections of the '50s and early '60s, it gives a broad sense of Bennett's work, and it does so in the format with which he's most comfortable -- live in concert. ~ William Ruhlmann
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International Pop - Released January 1, 2013 | Verve

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Crooners - Released February 4, 2014 | Legacy Recordings

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Since Dean Martin had been cold on the singles charts for some time -- he hadn't scored a Top 40 hit in six years -- the success of "Everybody Loves Somebody," which took off for number one upon its release in May 1964, caught Reprise Records by surprise. The label already had a Martin album on its schedule, Dream With Dean, and that LP even contained "Everybody Loves Somebody." But that was an earlier recording, not the one racing up the singles charts. So, in order to take advantage of the success of the 45, Reprise slapped together this album from stray recordings dating back to Martin's first recording session for the label more than two years before and issued it with the subtitle "The Hit Version" emblazoned on the album cover on the same day that Dream With Dean was shipped. In addition to "Everybody Loves Somebody," there were also two other tracks recorded at the same April 16, 1964, session and previously unreleased ("Your Other Love," "Siesta Fiesta"), the B-side of the single ("A Little Voice"), two tracks previously released on singles in 1962 ("Baby-O," "Just Close Your Eyes"), four tracks from the 1963 album Country Style ("Shutters and Boards," "Things," "My Heart Cries for You," "Face in a Crowd"), and two songs from the 1963 album Dean "Tex" Martin Rides Again ("From Lover to Loser," "Corrine Corrina"). Of course, the shopworn nature of the collection didn't matter; Everybody Loves Somebody topped the LP charts and went gold on the strength of its title song. But it isn't one of Martin's more memorable records. ~ William Ruhlmann
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International Pop - Released October 19, 1993 | Columbia

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Of course, the first thing that strikes you listening to the first Barbra Streisand album, recorded and released before the singer's 21st birthday, is that great voice. And it isn't just the sheer quality of the voice, its purity and its strength throughout its register, it's also the mastery of vocal effects that produce dramatic readings of the lyrics -- each song is like a one-act musical. Streisand opens with Julie London's signature torch song, "Cry Me a River," and she doesn't only surpass London, she sets off a thermonuclear explosion. From there, versatility and novelty are emphasized -- a breakneck version of "Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?," a slow, emotion-drenched performance of "Happy Days Are Here Again." But Streisand's debut, inventively arranged and conducted by Peter Matz, is notable as much for the surprising omissions as the surprising selections. Arriving in 1963, ten years into the revival of sophisticated interwar theater songs led by Frank Sinatra and followed by all other adult pop singers, Streisand virtually ignores the modern masters like Gershwin and Berlin. When she does do Rodgers & Hart or Cole Porter, she picks obscure songs; her idea of a good 1930s number is Fats Waller and Andy Razaf's "Keepin' Out of Mischief Now." She is much more comfortable with recent theater material, choosing two songs from The Fantasticks (1960) and the title song from the stage play A Taste of Honey (1962). The Barbra Streisand Album is an essential recording in the field of pop vocals because it redefines that genre in contemporary terms. (The Barbra Streisand Album won Grammy Awards for Album of the Year, Best Female Vocal Performance, and Best Album Cover.) ~ William Ruhlmann
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International Pop - Released February 20, 2004 | Columbia - Legacy

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Crooners - Released February 4, 2014 | Legacy Recordings

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Crooners - Released February 4, 2014 | Legacy Recordings

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Crooners - Released February 4, 2014 | Legacy Recordings

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On Dean Martin's previous album, (Remember Me) I'm the One Who Loves You, he had turned in an excellent version of Roger Miller's "King of the Road," and Lee Hazlewood wrote him a similar easygoing country-pop ballad about a drifter in "Houston," which he took into the Top 40 in the summer of 1965. The song therefore lent its name to his next album, handled, as usual, by producer Jimmy Bowen, although arranger/conductor Ernie Freeman was replaced by Bill Justis. Freeman had done the chart for "Everybody Loves Somebody," the record that launched Martin's 1960s comeback, but Justis proved he could write in a similar style, notably on "The First Thing Ev'ry Morning (And the Last Thing Ev'ry Night)," which shared its 1950s-style rock & roll arrangement with many of the hits Martin had scored over the last year. And Justis was not afraid to take Martin even further into pop/rock with Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart's "Little Lovely One." He also had a good sense of middle-of-the-road pop, best shown on "I Will," which was on its way to the Top Ten when the album was released. All of this demonstrated that Bowen was shrewdly expanding Martin's contemporary base beyond the formula records he had made in the wake of "Everybody Loves Somebody," and doing it successfully. Houston actually charted higher than Martin's last two albums (it didn't hurt that he now had a television series on which to promote his records), indicating that his comeback was being sustained, not diminishing. ~ William Ruhlmann
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International Pop - Released August 23, 1988 | Columbia

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Released in 1982, MOMENTS is an outstanding example of Julio Iglesias's considerable charm. With their sweeping, synth-laden arrangements, these songs, particularly "Nathalie" and "Esa Mujer," provide the perfect format for Iglesias's expressive croon, which effortlessly conjures up romantic scenarios. Paired with 1100 BEL AIR PLACE, this album reveals the Spanish performer at the peak of both his vocal abilities and his popularity.
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Crooners - Released February 28, 2014 | Legacy Recordings

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In 1962, Capitol Records, Dean Martin's former record label, and Reprise Records, his new one, were engaged in battle as the former issued his final recordings for it and the latter put out just-recorded material. (The skirmish was a sideshow to the larger war between the two companies over Frank Sinatra, who had founded Reprise even before completing his Capitol contract.) In the LP racks, Capitol struck first with Dino! Italian Love Songs in February, and the album became the singer's first to figure in the best-seller charts. Reprise followed with French Style in April. Cha-Cha De Amor, the last album Martin recorded for Capitol, appeared in early November, and three weeks later Reprise responded with Dino Latino. The two labels seemed intent on emphasizing Martin's international appeal with these releases, and having gone to Italy and France, musically speaking, already, Martin had little trouble extending his tour to the Spanish-speaking countries here. Arranger/conductor Don Costa came up with five string arrangements and five brass ones, varying the album's tones from the playful "In a Little Spanish Town," with its lively Don Fagerquist trumpet solo, to the lush charms of "What a Diff'rence a Day Made." Martin sang convincingly in Spanish here and there, never seeming to work hard for his effects. The glut of releases from the two labels doesn't seem to have hurt his sales as it did Sinatra's; Dino Latino became his first Reprise album to reach the charts. ~ William Ruhlmann
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Crooners - Released February 4, 2014 | Legacy Recordings

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Crooners - Released February 4, 2014 | Legacy Recordings

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Crooners - Released November 3, 1988 | Columbia

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