I know it’s not really politically correct to start out with the negatives, but I have absolutely no understanding for the fact that the vinyl version of “Love For Sale”, presumably Tony Bennett‘s last album of his unusally long career, only has 10 songs instead of the 12 tracks which ended up on the official recording. The 12 tracks clock in at just 44 minutes, so it would have been easy to include “Just One Of Those Things” and “You’re The Top” to the mix. Seems like an obvious and cheap marketing trick. The other thing is that Cole Porter has been recorded so many times that there is really nothing really exciting here on offer. It is a hard-to-accept fact that Tony now has Alzheimer’s and recently ended his career with a few concerts at Radio City Music Hall with Lady Gaga. So it is understandable that Tony uses a well-known repertoire here instead of stretching out on something new. The question remains if he should have stopped earlier. But you don’t argue with a 95-year old.
I am impressed with Lady Gaga’s performance. And then I’m not really impressed. She sounds like a veritable 50s torch singer on the album opener “It’s De-Lovely” (her phrasing of the word “curse” is something), but then very disparate on “Love For Sale”. Tony still has this elegant vibrato, and the grasp is still there, but he clearly isn’t as strong as back then. But what can you expect? I think it is amazing that he still sounds this good. “So In Love” is one of his best performances here, augmented by a great string arrangement. And it is refreshing that he is not duetting with Lady Gaga on this particular piece, as he isn’t on a couple of more tracks.
Tony sounds great on the light bossa touch that comprises “I Concentrate On You”, but it seems like Lady Gaga is a foreign body here. She sounds uneven and not really determined on “I Get A Kick Out Of You”, but then again wonderful and late 50s-like on “Do I Love You”, reminding me of the often overlooked Teal Joy (not the vibrato or the color, but more the phrasing) or even Monica Lewis. “Dream Dancing” for me is forever associated with Ella Fitzgerald, so what does she have to offer? Nothing much. We get a sophisticated and sympathetic arrangement on “Night And Day”, and the swing on “Just One Of Those Things” is almost nostalgic. Tony sounds supreme and totally assured on this one. And the Las Vegas style of “You’re The Top” doesn’t really gel. The sax solo does though. Let’s keep all those precious Tony Bennett memories. And let’s give Lady Gaga a chance to shine on things to come.