Picks and Pans Review: Astoria: Portrait of the Artist

updated 04/09/1990 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 04/09/1990 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Tony Bennett

Bennett is 63 and his voice quavers a trifle now and then, but nobody is going to object as long as he sings songs this good and sings them so thoughtfully, so affectionately and so well.

Produced by Bennett's son Danny, the album includes a satisfying combination of old and new material. There's a heart-breakingly romantic version of "The Girl I Love," George Gershwin's "The Man I Love" with the lyrics slightly rewritten by Ira Gershwin to suit male singers. (Not that "The Man I Love" has ever had a bad moment in any form, at least since it was cut from the final production of Gershwin's 1924 musical Lady Be Good)

Bennett also recalls "It's Like Reaching for the Moon," an Al Sherman-Al Lewis-Gerald Marqusee collaboration memorably recorded by Billie Holiday in 1936. Tony brings back the touching "I Was Lost, I Was Drifting" by Bronislaw Kaper and Kim Gannon. And he reprises the song that was his first record for Columbia in 1950, "The Boulevard of Broken Dreams," the Harry Warren-Al Dubin down-and-outer.

Three of the new songs are by Charles DeForest, whose "Where Do You Go from Love" is a particularly poignant meditation on dealing with success, in matters of the heart and otherwise.

The gushy string section of the U.K. Orchestra Limited intrudes from time to time. But mostly it's just Bennett, backed by his admirable pianist Ralph Sharon, bassist Paul Langosch and drummer Joe LaBarbera, pondering these wonderful songs, filtering them through their own lives and turning them into a memorable album. (Columbia)

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