Tony Bennett: Duets II
Has Tony Bennett discovered the secrets of time travel? In his 85 years of accrued experience and wisdom, has this lovable man uncovered the intimate secrets of the space-time continuum? I only ask because on Duets II, Bennett’s newest album, the man sounds like he’s 30 years younger.
Duets II is Bennett’s long overdue sequel to his 2006 Duets: An American Classic album, which featured performances with Bono, Paul McCartney, Barbra Streisand, and many other notable performers. Part two showcases Bennett singing with a more youthful crowd (John Mayer, Norah Jones, and Josh Groban), which may explain Bennett’s sudden youthful resurgence that came with the new album.
Duets II also features performances with a few more seasoned artists, including a fun, guitar-centric rendition of “On the Sunny Side of the Street” with Willie Nelson, and a sweet, soulful version of “How Do You Keep the Music Playing?” with the Queen of Soul herself, Aretha Franklin.
One of the more glorified aspects of the album is that it features Bennett singing the beautiful jazz standard “Body and Soul” with the late Amy Winehouse—possibly the last performance of her career. When Bennett paid tribute to Amy at this year’s MTV Video Music Awards, he called her a “true jazz singer,” and he’s right, as the recording proves. Together, their voices mesh so well (though that could be said of any of the album’s performances; Bennett’s voice is as versatile as they come). Each harmony is spot-on, their tones are warm and inviting—it’s a harsh reminder of the talent we lost when Winehouse passed.
I begrudgingly have to admit that Duets II’s best performance is “The Lady is a Tramp,” featuring Lady Gaga. While I would not typically describe myself as Gaga fan, she and Bennett’s performance on this album is absolutely sensational. It’s exciting and original. Well done, Tony. You’ve made me do something I never thought I’d do—appreciate Gaga.
I recently acquired an original 1965 vinyl recording of Tony’s Greatest Hits Volume III and listened to it on my record player in the way that it was intended to be heard. A few days later, I put on Duets II for the first time. These two albums are over 40 years apart from each other, yet the difference in Bennett’s voice is marginal. I’m telling you, the man has discovered the secret to time travel. It’s the only logical explanation.