Tony Sings the Great Hits of Today!

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Tony Sings the Great Hits of Today!
Studio album by Tony Bennett
Released January 7, 1970
Recorded 1969
Genre Pop
Label Columbia
Producer Ernest Altschuler
Tony Bennett chronology
Love Story: 20 All-Time Great Recordings
(1969)
Tony Sings the Great Hits of Today!
(1970)
Tony Bennett's Something
(1970)
Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 1/5 stars[1]

Tony Sings the Great Hits of Today! is a 1970 album by American classic pop and jazz singer Tony Bennett. Done under pressure from his record company for more marketable material, it featured misguided attempts at Beatles and other current songs and a psychedelic art cover. Both critics and Bennett himself has viewed the album as a career-low.

History[edit]

Clive Davis, head of Columbia Records, saw Bennett's album sales steadily decreasing, and decided the cure was for the singer to record more contemporary material. Davis later wrote, "Musically, Tony was looking over his shoulder. His repertory was dated, and the public wasn't buying it."[2] Similar pressure had been applied on singers such as Lena Horne, Barbra Streisand, and Mel Tormé to record contemporary rock songs.[3][4] Some artists of the time such as Horne and Peggy Lee welcomed the chance to try their hand at rock music, but Bennett did not.[2]

Bennett later said that, "I started planning the record by listening to as many current hits as I could stand. I mean some of the songs made me physically nauseous."[5] Clive Davis reported that Bennett literally vomited before the first recording session for the album.[5] While many of the songwriters used on the album, such as Lennon and McCartney and Burt Bacharach and Hal David, are highly regarded in their own right, Bennett had no genuine feeling for their style.[4]

Allmusic states that of all the songs Bennett attempted on Tony Sings the Great Hits of Today!, "Is That All There Is?" is the only one he seemed to show any enthusiasm for.[6] Bennett's partly spoken take on The Beatles' "Eleanor Rigby" has garnered the most commentary, with music writer Will Friedwald saying it was recited as if it were Thomas Gray's Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard[7] and Time magazine describing it as "Shatneresque",[8] making reference to Star Trek actor William Shatner's famously bad 1968 interpretation of the same group's "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds".[9]

The album cover for Tony Sings the Great Hits of Today! also tried to capitalize on current trends and was done in the psychedelic art style of Peter Max.[7][10] The bell-bottom pants and psychedelic necktie have been noted as contributing to the overall garish appearance.[6]

Released on January 7, 1970,[11] the commercial goals for the album were not met, as it charted only to #144 on the Billboard 200 albums chart.[12] The passage of time has not improved views of the album; in the 2000s, Allmusic and Time magazine both referred to it as a disaster.[6][8]

Years later Bennett would still recall his dismay at being asked to do contemporary material, comparing it to when his seamstress mother was forced to produce a cheap dress.[4][13] The album also helped speed Bennett's departure from his label: "I left Columbia Records for one reason: They were forcing me to sing contemporary songs and I just couldn't stand it. I actually regurgitated when I made that awful album—I got physically sick. ... If I really adore a song, I just get into the creative zone and try to get the definitive version of the song that would make the composer feel magnificent. Where he would say, 'That's what I was trying to convey.' And Columbia wouldn't let me do that anymore."[14]

At the time, Bennett soon recovered from this album artistically, by returning to the Great American Songbook for his material.[8] His commercial fortunes, however, would not improve until he staged a comeback in the late 1980s and early 1990s by appealing to a younger audience without changing his music in any way.[2][8]

For many years, the album was out of print and unissued on Compact Disc.[15] This finally changed with the 2011 release of Tony Bennett – The Complete Collection, a 73-CD box set. Giving a new look at the album, The Second Disc catalogue review site wrote that, "Within three years of 1969's controversial Tony Sings the Great Hits of Today! , the album which made the singer physically ill, Bennett was off Columbia. (Even that album doesn’t seem too bad in context; as inappropriate as 'Little Green Apples' and especially a half-spoken, half-sung 'Eleanor Rigby' are, the singer does well by 'The Look of Love', 'Something', 'My Cherie Amour' and 'Live for Life')."[16]

Track listing[edit]

  1. "MacArthur Park" (Jimmy Webb) – 3:22
  2. "Something" (George Harrison) – 3:18
  3. "The Look of Love" (Burt Bacharach, Hal David) – 2:49
  4. "Here, There and Everywhere" (John Lennon, Paul McCartney) – 2:44
  5. "Live for Life" (Norman Gimbel, Francis Lai) – 3:43
  6. "Little Green Apples" (Bobby Russell) – 2:49
  7. "Eleanor Rigby" (John Lennon, Paul McCartney) – 3:40
  8. "My Chérie Amour" (Henry Cosby, Sylvia Moy, Stevie Wonder) – 3:50
  9. "Is That All There Is?" (Jerry Leiber, Mike Stoller) – 3:25
  10. "Here" (Gene Lees) – 3:36
  11. "Sunrise, Sunset" (Jerry Bock, Sheldon Harnick) – 3:37

Personnel[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Allmusic review
  2. ^ a b c Gavin, James (1992-09-27). "Tony Bennett Carries the Torch for Classic Pop". The New York Times. 
  3. ^ Ruhlmann, William. "Tony Bennett: Biography". Allmusic. Retrieved 2005-06-11. 
  4. ^ a b c Davis, Francis (2004). Jazz and its discontents: a Francis Davis reader. Da Capo Press. p. 147. ISBN 0-306-81055-7. 
  5. ^ a b Tawa, Nicholas E. (2005). Supremely American: Popular Song in the 20th Century. Scarecrow Press. pp. 220–221. ISBN 0-8108-5295-0. 
  6. ^ a b c Ruhlmann, William. "Review: Tony Sings the Great Hits of Today!". Allmusic. Retrieved 2009-03-07. 
  7. ^ a b Friedwald, Will (1996). Jazz Singing. Da Capo Press. p. 397. ISBN 0-306-80712-2. 
  8. ^ a b c d Tyrangiel, Josh (2006-07-24). "Tony Bennett's Guide To Intimacy". Time. Retrieved 2009-03-07. 
  9. ^ "Shatner 'breaks' Beatles record". BBC News. 2003-05-02. Retrieved 2009-03-08. 
  10. ^ "Tony Sings the Great Hits of Today". Frank's Vinyl Museum. Retrieved 2009-02-16. 
  11. ^ Bennett, Tony; Friedwald, Will (1998). The Good Life: The Autobiography Of Tony Bennett. Pocket Books. p. 268. ISBN 0-671-02469-8. 
  12. ^ "Tony Bennett: Billboard Albums". Allmusic. Retrieved 2009-03-07. 
  13. ^ Bennett and Friedwald, The Good Life, p. 33.
  14. ^ Bennett, Tony; Sullivan, Robert (2007). Tony Bennett in the Studio: A Life of Art and Music. Sterling Publishing. pp. 90–91. ISBN 1-4027-4767-5. 
  15. ^ Friedwald, Jazz Singing, p. 441.
  16. ^ Marchese, Joe (December 22, 2011). "Holiday Gift Guide Review: Tony Bennett, 'The Complete Collection'". The Second Disc.