“The Art of Excellence” by Tony Bennett, originally released on LP in 1986, and now finally released on CD by Columbia Records in 2013, is a single CD with 12 songs. I have compiled a song listing (including album and single label & number, chart position, release date)(BB200=Billboard Album Chart):
LP “THE ART OF EXCELLENCE” (Columbia CK 40344)(BB200 160/1986): 01 Why Do People Fall In Love/People (4:09) Why Do People Fall in Love (3:16)(Columbia 38-06138)(uncharted a-side, June 1986)*rare gem; CD debut People (0:47) 02 Moments Like This (2:49)(Columbia 38-06138)(b-side, June 1986)*rare gem; CD debut 03 What Are You Afraid Of? (3:04) 04 When Love Was All We Had (5:10) 05 So Many Stars (3:48) 06 Everybody Has the Blues (3:41) 07 How Do You Keep the Music Playing? (4:20) 08 City of the Angels (2:27) 09 Forget the Woman (3:20) 10 A Rainy Day (3:02) 11 I Got Lost in Her Arms (4:33) 12 The Day You Leave Me (2:50)
1 “The Art of Excellence” was his first album upon re-signing with Columbia Records, this time with creative control, after tumultuous and struggling years at MGM and Improv from 1972 to 1979 and a near fatal cocaine overdose in 1979, and began his career comeback that would culminate in the mid-1990s and 2000s. This became his first album to reach the charts since 1972. He had also reunited with Ralph Sharon as his pianist and musical director, who would remain with Tony until Sharon's retirement in 2002. 2 The sound is wonderfully remastered. Sharon’s piano playing is outstanding, beautifully accompanied by Jorge Calandrelli & His Orchestra. The different instruments are clearly defined. The album was produced by Ettore Strata and Tony’s son, Danny Bennett, who was also instrumental in helping his dad with his drug and IRS problems. Tony is definitely back! 3 The original front and back album covers are on the front and back covers of the 4-page booklet, each occupying an entire page. Precious!
1 There is no additional essay. The inner sleeves of the booklet just stated the song listing. 2 There are no bonus tracks.
Personally, I am in the process of getting every Tony Bennett album on CD. Out of 73 domestic albums released so far, I am still missing “The Good Things in Life” and “Listen Easy” (both Verve/MGM). In retrospect, I did save some money not buying the ultra-expensive “Complete Collection”, although I still longed for the 3 CDs of non-album singles in that set. The same applies to the expensive “Complete Improv Recordings” box set containing rare non-album singles to complete my Complete Singles Collection on Tony Bennett.
This come-back album marked his 48th domestic album release. The original Tony is back in this set with great sound: jazz at its finest. The entire album is thoroughly enjoyable, and is a welcome addition to my Tony Bennett album library.
Hands up if you think you're a real Tony Bennett fan ... Hands up if you've ever heard this album ... If yes, then you'll know what I'm talking about. You have my permission to leave the room. If no, then you need to read on, because this is hands down, one of the most beautiful, artful albums ever recorded by any artist in the world, EVER!!! From first track to last, I have rarely heard more effortless, emotional singing from the big "B" (See also: cover photo.) My first memories stem from a late summer holiday spent in Astoria, Queens, the great birthplace of the great "B" himself. After late sultry nights in Manhattan, there were few better ways to unwind in the wee small hours than with a "cold one" from the ice box and Tony singing "why do people fall in love?" on the stereo, which is incidentally one of the greatest songs he's ever sung. I'm only allowing myself all this gross verbosity because I see that no one else has thought to review this remarkable album. What's the matter with you people!!! So, without any further ado, go ... fetch!!!
Five BIG Stars!!!!! SUPERB Bennet performances in a totally captivating set of carefully selected songwriting jewels. Spinning MESMERIZING performances, one after another, this is clearly one of Tony Bennet's best recordings and therefore an ESSENTIAL RECORDING for any fan of ballads, blues, and esoteric pop songs. Tony has a flair for finding little known tasteful songs that deserve more respect from singers and listeners. All songs are done up in fascinating Jorge Calandrelli arrangements played by a huge string laden orchestra which Jorge conducts. And yes, Ralph Sharon's amazing pianism and trio are here. Perfect!!
The beautiful opening song, "Why Do People Fall In Love?", is a soaring, lush triumph with a special surprise hidden at the end. Besides Tony, only Sarah Vaughn had the guts to sincerely tackle "So Many Stars", which got it's definitive reading from Lani Hall & Sergio Mendes, but Tony finds another wonderful slant on this cult classic. "Everybody Gets The Blues" is a 'Meeting of Titans' as Bennett and 'Brother' Ray Charles have a barrel of fun singing some very slick, humorous lyrics. "Moments Like This" is classic Bennett with Ralph Sharon's fabulous piano swinging lightly and so hard at the same time. "Moments.." had to bring a wide smile of admiration from Sinatra when he first heard it. "What Are You Afraid Of?" is after-dinner lushness of the highest order. Fred Astaire's "City of the Angels" gets the definitive reading of some clever lyrics by the great dancer. It's fun to drive around LA while listening to this very hip song. Fred (and Tony) nailed the experience! And don't forget "Forget the Woman" a towering, memorable performance with its searing relationship 'punchline': it's one of those songs tailor made for Tony's believable, heartfelt voice and style.
The two 'Pieces D'Resistance' for me begin with "When Love Was All We Had" which starts off out of tempo and surges to a great crescendo. The alto saxophonist is absolutely splendid on the interlude. And the other is "How Do You Keep the Music Playing?" with a spine-tingling ending as Tony pulls out all of the vocal stops. Amazing! But the entire CD is excellent. Five Big Stars!!!!!
(NOTE: There is a great foldout Annie Leibovitz photograph behind the CD photo cover. This review is written for the NEW Tony Bennett fans because the old fans bought the "Art of Excellence" CD years ago!! Welcome Aboard, new fans! You're so lucky!)
THIS 1986 ALBUM FINDS TONY IN SPECTACULAR VOICE.HE HAS DEVELOPED A DEPTH OF INTERPRETATION THAT BEGAN WITH THE WONDERFUL PHILLIPS ALBUM TELL HER THAT ITS SNOWING THAT AS FAR AS IM AWARE NOT ON CD.THIS WAS TONY IN HIS DYED HAIR PERIOD .SO PLEASED HE IS NOW GREY SO MUCH MORE FLATTERING FOR A MAN OVER 45