Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Tony Bennett

Growing up, I never heard Tony Bennett on the radio, which, given his stature, seems odd. But I didn’t get on board until 1965, and his biggest hits were behind him. I’ve seen him on TV and stuff though.

I got a tape, I don’t think it was called anything more than just Tony Bennett, but the series was Timeless Treasures, and it was on Everest Europa. I salvaged one track from there; the rest are from the box set called Fifty Years: The Artistry Of Tony Bennett.

Tony Bennett:

The Boulevard Of Broken Dreams – I wonder if that’s where Heartbreak Hotel is, in Lonesome Town. All pervasive heartbreak and self-pity. Always walking up and down, sings Tony. From 1950
Because Of You – How one person can change the world of another. Also done by Les Baxter and Sammy Davis Jr. Number 1 in 1951. A melody he could really wrap his voice around
Cold Cold Heart – Another number 1 hit, also from 1951. This is by Hank Williams. It’s amazing how Williams’ style of country, which was such pure honky tonk, translated so nicely into an MOR medium.
Blue Velvet – She wore blue velvet. Do I remember what she wore? Did an article of clothing ever leave its mark like that in my life? The Clovers did this best, but Bennett handles it well, doesn’t oversing it, and the arrangement is gorgeous. From 1951. Bobby Vinton put back in the charts in 1963, but his version doesn't amount to much.
Rags To Riches – Love solves everything. Number 1 in 1953. One of his signature songs. Elvis covered this.
Stranger In Paradise – I get that, this isn’t really me, it’s not in my comfort zone. From 1953.
Can You Find It In Your Heart – From the summer of 1956. A forgiveness song. I wonder what he did…
In The Middle Of An Island – Ah, what a paradise. The honeymoon syndrome. From the autumn of 1957.
From The Candy Store To The Chapel On The Hill – From the autumn of 1956. The candy store is a done deal, the chapel is a dream. Candy stores are a thing in pop music. Think Johnny Cash doing Ballad Of A Teenage Queen, The Shangri Las doing Leader Of The Pack.
Just In Time – From the fall of 1956, the B side of The Autumn Waltz. Love as salvation.
Ça, C’est L’Amour – To paraphrase Bobby Darin, his French never sounded better. An offhand song about love, like Love Makes The World Go Round. From the fall of 1957.
Firefly – No it’s not a song about a car. I don’t know that describing one true love as an insect is all that much better. From the fall of 1958.
Till – A hit for Percy Faith, and a standard in elevators everywhere. It is, in spite of all, a great ballad. Bennett has the chops to pull it off.
The Autumn Waltz – So many songs about spring time and summer time, and Christmas / winter. Here’s one about autumn, it was even a hit in the autumn and that was in 1956.
There’ll Be No Teardrops Tonight – Another Hank Williams song. This one is poppier. Doesn’t work as well.
I Won’t Cry Anymore – A song about a broken heart. Dinah Washington did a beautiful recording of this.
Close Your Eyes – Not The Harptones / Peaches And Herb song. Not the Edward Bear song. Jazz.
Dancing In The Dark – Not the Bruce Springsteen song. Also kind of jazzy, complete with vibraphone solo.
I Left My Heart In San Francisco – “The city by the bay…” he sings. From the fall of ’62, this kind of put Tony Bennett back on the musical map, although it only reached number 19 on Billboard. The song evokes a pre-hippy, pre-Haight-Ashbury version of the city, with cablecars, fisherman’s wharf, twin peaks. The girl seems to be almost beside the point.
I Wanna Be Around – A song of romantic revenge. Man, get over it. From the winter of 1963. Bobby Darin covered this.
Spring In Manhattan – Most people probably would write about spring somewhere else – April In Paris for example. But he is convicing enough; personally I’ve never been to Manhattan in spring, nor at all. From the summer of 1963.
This Is All I Ask – Gordon Jenkins wrote this. Harry Nilsson recorded it on A Little Touch Of Schmilsson In The Night, and he did it better.
A Taste Of Honey – This was a show tune, and The Beatles had done it quite famously on their first album. Bennett’s version was on the top 100 in the summer of ’64. Herb Alpert And The Tijuana Brass sped it up to about twice its normal tempo, and put it into the top 10 in the fall of 1965.
When Joanna Loved Me – No Joanna ever loved me. The only Joanna I ever knew was a therapist I worked with for a while. From the spring of 1964.
Who Can I Turn To – So many versions of this: Shirley Bassey, Sammy Davis Jr. The support group song. TB sings it ok, but there are better versions. From the fall of 1964.
If I Ruled The World – This is from a musical, Carousel, I think. A dumb song – if I were God, really – from the winter of 1965. Stevie Wonder covered this, and his version wasn’t any better.
Fly Me To The Moon – Could do without the intro. Otherwise it’s a beautifully rendered performance. The song was a hit for Joe Harnell in 1963 (Fly Me To The Moon – Bossa Nova). TB’s version was from the summer of ’65.
Smile – I’m a curmudgeon; this song never quite rings true for me. From the autumn of 1959.
For Once In My Life – Stevie Wonder didn’t write this, but he’s the one who put it on the charts in 1968, and his was a soul – infested upbeat version, but every other recording of it takes it as a slow ballad. This is no exception. I’ll take Stevie. From the fall of 1967. This was the last time that Tony Bennett was in the top 100.
Something – By George Harrison. A hit for The Beatles in 1969. Sinatra also did this, and so did Joe Cocker, and Booker T & The MGs
That Old Devil Moon – A song about infatuation. I’m not sure what the moon has to do with it. Live
Antonia – Seems to be a song about a daughter, but it’s a bit weird for that…

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