13 FEB 13 ANNE FARNSWORTH
Tony Bennett is the most romantic of the great male saloon singers. He sings the standards with his heart on his sleeve, softly crooning one moment, unleashing the full power of his voice's at another. Concord Records released As Time Goes By: Great American Songbook Classics, a compilation culled from his storied Improv Records catalog -- remastered, with new liner notes and perfect for Valentine's Day.
Bennett himself founded the Improv label in the '70s to be able to control what material he recorded. His previous labels were pushing him to cover pop hits but his passion has always been classic love songs and the 12 tracks on this collection are no exception.
The set opens with Rodgers and Hart's "Blue Moon", sung with the opening verse. I love hearing the verses to standards; they're underused and add an extra layer to the story. At this stage in his life, Bennett's voice is mature but his tone and intonation are still rock solid and his low-volume approach gives the song a bittersweet edge.
"This Can't Be Love" swings hard with the Ruby Braff-George Barnes Quartet backing him up. "The Days Of Wine And Roses," "Some Other Time" and "Maybe September" are from the two wonderful duet albums he made with pianist Bill Evans. Those releases were exceptional, the two men's musical simpatico oozing from every track.
A medley of eight Cole Porter classics is included as well, but unlike the other 11 tracks, only available on the album. The CD closes with a live version of "I Left My Heart In San Francisco," Bennett's signature (and San Francisco's adopted) song. He first recorded it in 1962, going on to win 2 Grammys with it for Record Of The Year and Best Male Vocal. This version pulses with the audience's energy -- they love him, and we do too.