Picks and Pans Review: The Art of Excellence

updated 06/30/1986 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 06/30/1986 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Tony Bennett

Bennett is 59, so the youthful bombast that sometimes lent a histrionic touch to his early hits is dissipated. On this, his first LP in 10 years, Bennett sings with a knowing, easy confidence, in a voice that has lost none of its texture and is at least as musical as it was when he was young. He and co-producers Ettore Stratta and Danny Bennett (Tony's 32-year-old son) have also come up with an extraordinarily involving set of songs. Fred Astaire's City of the Angels, a tribute to Los Angeles, seems a trifle glib (would anyone really call Los Angeles "pretty"?), but I Got Lost in Her Arms, from the show Annie Get Your Gun, is a lovely and surprisingly obscure Irving Berlin tune. Ettore Stratta and Ronny Whyte's Forget the Woman lets Bennett showcase his saloon-singing talents, and Why Do People Fall in Love?, by Dennis Lambert and Brian Potter, demonstrates a shrewd, wry touch as it explores the question in its title: "Can't we find better things to do/ Something safe and new That I haven't tried?" There's even a loose, good-time duet with Ray Charles on the James Taylor tune Everybody Has the Blues. That track and a number of others have to overcome intrusions by the U.K. Orchestra string section, which seems as out of place as someone who wanders into a corner bar in a tuxedo. Bennett's longtime pianist, Ralph Sharon, and his trio provide a perfect accompaniment; if they were going to be supported, one saxophone would have been far better than a dozen violins. This album, however, is still a rare pleasure. It's the ideal thing for a rainy night and a bruised romantic ego, or for anyone who loves intelligent pop music. (Columbia)

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