Living with…Tony Bennett…for a week

We suddenly all remembered Tony Bennett again this week when the last recorded Amy Winehouse number was released – a duet of Body and Soul from his latest Duets collection.  As you’d expect it’s a wonderfully smooth experience of his caramel voice and Amy’s bluesy soul.

So why not spend a week with Tony Bennett? At the age of 85 he’s one of music’s great statesman his longevity the last link back to a former great era of swinging crooners.

Anthony Dominick Benedetto began his singing career in 1949 adopting the name Tony Bennett at the advice of Bob Hope and worked steadily through the next two decades producing such classics as I Left My Heart in San Francisco and Stranger in Paradise.  Despite all this his most commercially successful albums have been in recent years with an MTV Unplugged and particularly 2006’s Duets: An American Classic – so that’s where I’m going this week.

Sometimes Two is a Crowd

I so so wanted to love this album.  I have no problems with this style of music – we have several Sinatra and Dean Martin compilations that get regular airings but for some reason this album grated and annoyed me, and maybe that says as much about me as the music…

Firstly, I’m constantly being told by Tony and his cronies to be happy despite all.  Smile..you’ll get by.  Full of fun seems to be the idea.  The Good Life. The Best is yet to come.  Are you having any fun?  It seems to be constantly cajoling me to be happy, happy, happy and something stubborn and British in me says that I will but only if I want to!

Secondly I could be spared the smug conversations that seem to regularly play over the top of some classic numbers.  I love Chaplin’s Smile – it’s a haunting and moving melody but the love-in between Tony and Barbara Streisand has me skipping to the next track.  Then a little bit of patter with Elton John, the odd smug chuckle and a ruined version of For Once in My Life with Stevie Wonder…it was going well until the self congratulation at the end.

But I think it boils down to the fact that I just struggle with these type of celebrity Duets albums.  Even the least cynical part of me is screaming it’s all for the money – put McCartney, Wonder, Elton and Barbara on an album and you’re guaranteeing to shift the stock.  It’s almost as cynical as deciding to write a blog on an artist that is in the news just because you want to increase the hits on your site.  Heaven forbid.

Put two great artists together and you very rarely get double the quality.  Put Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder together and you get Ebony and Ivory.  Point proven.  Put Neil Diamond and Barbara Streisand together and you don’t get brought any flowers – which is a shame as you’d need them for the death of the song.  I doubt that Madonna will look back on her collaboration with Justin Timberlake as the highlight of her career – we’re certainly grateful it lasted no longer than 4 minutes.  I’m sure they all seemed like great ideas to someone at the time.

So I don’t want to be cruel to Tony – I adore his solo renditions of classics such as San Francisco and the take on Lullaby on Broadway with the Dixie Chicks is brilliant – but this album unleashed one of my pet hates. Duets purely for the sake of combining the two artists’ revenue streams.

If you love this sort of thing, you’ll love it.  If you don’t, you won’t.

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A little more PJ then…

With Duets coming off the player by Tuesday evening that left space to return back to PJ Harvey.  I spent time with her 2011 Mercury prize winner (Let England Shake) last week and really wanted to discover the 2001 winner Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea.

And NOT a disappointment. We’re moving on from the land of Tony’s enforced happiness

“I wanna’ pistol
I wanna’ gun”

she screams to start with.  This is still an album of love – for others and for a city –  early 21st century New York – but laced with a realism and at times harshness.

If anything I enjoyed it more than Let England Shake – it’s more conventional maybe with a heavier, rockier and grungier feel that I would thoroughly recommend.  There isn’t a weak track  – you even get a decent duet between Radiohead’s Thom Yorke and PJ halfway through just to prove that Two doesn’t have to be a Crowd.  And it all ends on PJ does Massive Attack track We float which is undeniably the highlight – sadly the video link here is dull dull dull, so ignore the rather static picture and enjoy the song and lyrics…

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And next week won’t be REM

Just to proof that I won’t be cashing in on big names and their demise I will NOT be dueting next week with REM…

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Glee is back…

And so therefore will be no81bob’s Glee watch.  Sadly, or in fact rather predictably, I fell asleep halfway through the first episode of Series 3.  This sounds ominous and I will return to kick if off next week…

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Twotes of the week

@jacques_aih: “Pancake in the streets of London, pancake in the streets of Birmingham” That’s the song “Pancake” by The Smiths

@Its_Death: Q. How many Lib Dems does it take to change a lightbulb? A. What? Nick Clegg told us he’d already fixed it. Oh.

@prodnose: From Monday postmen will no longer leave cards saying they tried to deliver parcels. Instead they will sing “You’re supposed to be at home.”

@GlennyRodge: I have trouble spelling certain words correctly so I avoid them like the plaque.

@manthamac: just wants to note that people who say anything is possible, CLEARLY haven’t tried slamming a revolving door

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