Picks and Pans Review: Mtv Unplugged

updated 06/27/1994 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 06/27/1994 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Tony Bennett

There's no disputing Generation X's current infatuation with Bennett, given the pools of ink recently devoted to the 67-year-old crooner. But why is this standards singer, who hit his stride before most slackers were even born, so appealing? Is Bennett so anti-hip that—in the inexplicable, inverse logic of cool—he's hot? Or could it be that young people can see clearly enough through their haze of angst to know real talent when they hear it?

I vote for the latter. As this splendid CD shows, Bennett is a multigenerational crowd pleaser who knows he's not the Chairman of the Board but who can still wrap those husky pipes around a tune with style and panache. Accompanied by his longtime band, he treats the MTV set to a sweet, flowing version of Irving Berlin's "I Love a Piano," a snappy "Old Devil Moon" and the bittersweet "When Joanna Loved Me," a song about lost love as relevant to twenty- as to sixtysome-things. Guest appearances include duets with k.d. lang and Elvis Costello. Hearing the prototypical angry rocker and the aging, happy-go-lucky balladeer sounding like old pals makes you realize how this disc could narrow the generation gap. For once, parents will be yelling, "Turn that music up, will ya?" (Columbia)

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