Tony Bennett: The Very Best Of

Much of the music on this 1951-1962 collection was pop-orientated, but Bennett delivered all in high quality and a good deal as jazz

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This LP, on high-quality vinyl, is billed on the cover as “His 20 Greatest Hits” and “The Very Best Of” but the superlatives are hardly necessary. Anything sung by Bennett over the years has been top quality and I’m not aware of him ever making a sub-standard disc.

This compilation takes in his early years, from 1951 to 1962. He was a young, not particularly well-known vocalist, but the quality of his voice and delivery were already apparent. The first half-dozen tracks are popular songs and more suited perhaps to the pop market than jazz, but an exception is The Best Is Yet To Come, where Bennett swings it smoothly backed up by the Cy Coleman Orchestra.

His versions of Stranger In Paradise and Alone Together represent examples of superior crooning. The Beat Of My Heart is sung in jazz mode with a sturdy but sympathetic backing by the Ralph Sharon Quartet. The full Sharon orchestra are there with him, swinging purposefully on I Get A Kick Out Of You and one other selection.

The stand-out track though – sadly only one minute and 40 seconds in length – is Firefly, with the Count Basie Orchestra. Still, its long enough for a tasty vocal from Tony and a fine flute segment, most likely by Frank Wess. On two tunes, Bennett is backed by the Ray Ellis Orchestra and gives a strong reading of Dancing In The Dark.

It is not surprising that this collection includes the singer’s major hits, such as I Wanna Be Around, and I Left My Heart In San Francisco but there are plenty of jazz-flavoured selections along with the pop material. In any case Bennett’s voice and delivery, like Sinatra’s, defies category.

Discography
The Way You Look Tonight; Rags To Riches; Stranger In Paradise; Because Of You; The Best Is Yet To Come; Alone Together; The Beat Of My Heart; Firefly, Dancing In The Dark; Ca C’ Est L’amour; Close Your Eyes; The Good Life; Blue Velvet; I Get A Kick Out Of You; Put On A Happy Face; Smile; In The Middle Of An Island; Begin The Beguine; I Wanna Be Around; I Left My Heart In San Francisco (51.46)
Bennett (v) with various orchestras & combos, 1951-1962. Hollywood and NYC.
New Continent 101035