Live By Request
is a tribute concert, filmed for television in 1998, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the first time Tony Bennett adorned a ballad. He is, of course, worthy of the tribute. Bennett remains a singer blessed with an immense, understated charm, and with the obvious exception of Sinatra himself, nobody has ever done this kind of thing better. Bennett looks like he's having a whale of a time throughout this recording, but the fun doesn't necessarily translate as well to the viewer at home.
There's simply not enough here of Bennett doing what he has become famous for. Of the 16 songs featured, two are sung by other people (Clint Black performs "Cold, Cold Heart", Natalie Cole sings "Smile") and one is blighted by a duetting Muppet (an altogether unnecessary Elmo on "Little Things"). A great deal more time is taken up by pre-recorded tributes by an army of fellow entertainers (Elvis Costello, Kiss, George Clooney, Cameron Diaz, Madonna, Sting, among many others). While doubtless hugely gratifying if you are, in fact, Tony Bennett, the likelihood is that the overwhelming majority of people expected to buy this won't be.
On the DVD: Live By Request includes Dolby Digital and PCM Stereo sound options. The menus enable the viewer to select individual songs or, should they wish to, individual celebrity tributes to Bennett. The only bonus features are a none-too-enthralling selection of still photographs of Bennett and links to a few officially sanctioned Web sites. --Andrew Mueller
SONY 540359; SONY - Italia;