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Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Audio Beaverhausen: Tony Bennett Gets Cheeky with Lady Gaga

The highly anticipated Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga duets album, Cheek to Cheek, was released today on both standard and deluxe (bonus tracks) cds. The Target stores' exclusive edition includes yet other bonus tracks. And, of course, the tracks are available for download. For my taste, the 15-track standard issue suffices but, ultimately, I might want to hear more. Cd version offers liner notes and photos that made that format the most attractive to me.

A royal pop-music marriage with an Electra complex, Cheek to Cheek brings together one of pop/electro's edgier superstars (making a mainstream move) revitalizing her career after her ArtPop commercial disappointment by upping her credibility as a pop vocalist, while Grandpa Tony, 88 (he is 60 years his singing partner's age), brings his still-suave vocal stylings to the table and will look pretty hep to younger generations of music fans, or at least that's the gamble here.

Of course, Lady Gaga is very accomplished when it comes to classic pop/jazz music and can fall back on her classical training. She appeared with Mr Bennett on his Duets II album to sing "The Lady Is a Tramp" with him and, apparently, the venerable crooner saw the potential -- artistically and commercially, no doubt  -- of doing a whole album together. It would be unlikely he'd consider a duets album with, say, Nicki Minaj or Katy Perry to name but two of Gaga's contemporaries.

Tony Bennett is no longer the poor man's Frank Sinatra -- at least not since Sinatra kicked the bucket. And he's hardly shabby at his age, either, showing little sign of diminished talent since he left his heart in San Francisco. Frankly (no pun intended), he covers the popular pop/jazz numbers on his latest album with the solid control of an artist still at the top of his game.

For her part, Gaga, with both the most to gain or to lose through this effort, can sound a tad overly eager and strained on a few tracks (notably the two openers, "Anything Goes" and "Cheek to Cheek," where I felt certain lines sounded almost shouted out). However, she is absolutely entrancing on "Nature Boy" and her solo spot, the go-on-feel-sorry-for-yourself beautiful masochism of "Lush Life."

Bennett and Gaga are a splendid duo, however, on a majority of tracks and you can feel the rapport and chemistry in their harmonies on tracks like "Firefly," "Let's Face the Music and Dance" and "It Don't Mean a Thing (If It Ain't Got that Swing)."

Cheek to Cheek will appeal largely to Bennett's older crowd and to cabaret and jazz aficionados. No telling what the Little Monsters will make of this effort.

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