Gaga and Bennett join forces again for another sparkling album of Cole Porter songs. It's a bittersweet joy
Reuniting for a second album following the huge success of their first set of duets on 2014's Cheek to Cheek, 95-year-old jazz crooner Tony Bennett and 35-year-old pop diva Lady Gaga have clearly developed a real simpatico since they first recorded together in 2011.
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The two Italian American New Yorkers may hail from very different genres, but they effortlessly bridge musical differences and their 60-year age gap on this beautifully crafted selection from the Cole Porter songbook, including Night and Day, I Get a Kick Out of You and I’ve Got You Under My Skin.
It comes laced with poignancy - this is the final studio album of Bennett’s 72-year recording career following news of his Alzheimer’s diagnosis earlier this year. At 95, he’s the last man standing from the golden age of the Great American Songbook. For Gaga, Bennett’s benediction certainly validates the oft overlooked fact that she is a very fine singer, who trained at Julliard as a jazz vocalist before she willed herself into being as a planet-eating pop icon.
This album will sweep you back to an era of opulent musical arrangements, wise-cracking molls and lovestruck Joes and you can really hear the chemistry between Bennett and Gaga emanating from the vocal booth in Electric Lady Studios in New York. The lush orchestral arrangements come from Bennett’s long-time collaborator, Jorge Calandrelli, and the duo play it straight on these hugely affectionate and respectful readings.
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The whole thing froths over with old time pizzazz and you can tell they were having great fun. Bennett, a model of old-school elegance, is still in fine voice and Gaga captures some of the vintage charm of the singers who made these songs famous in the thirties and forties. Her singing on Do I Love You is particularly sublime, and she knows when to hold back and exercise restraint.
Night and Day, sang by everyone from Fred Astaire to U2, perhaps loses some of its haunting melancholia but Love For Sale is big and brassy, Gaga is at her most feline and coquettish on that drowsy reading of Do I Love You, Bennett swings on I Concentrate On You, while on Let's Do It, a solo Gaga vamps it up goodo, accompanied by splashy drums, a terrific organ trilling away in the background and a trumpet solo that achieves lift off.
It’s a bittersweet joy. You’ll already know these songs as well as nursery rhymes but it’s great to hear them again with a fresh patina of class and zing from a pair of showbiz pros.
Alan Corr @CorrAlan