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'Duets II' another amazing achievement for Tony Bennett

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- At 85 years old and with a staggering 70 albums under his belt, Tony Bennett is no stranger to music. Working as a singer for more than 62 years, he has a rich musical background and a plethora of No. 1 hits. With the release of his new album, "Duets II," the jazz singer teams with the biggest stars of the current generation to give listeners a musical treat that celebrates jazz and standard pop.

The first song, Sinatra's classic "The Lady is a Tramp," features none other than the sensational Lady Gaga. It gets the album off to a wonderful start, with the duo ad-libbing and having so much fun that Bennett gleefully laughs as Gaga proudly blurts out, "I'm a tramp!" using some surprisingly powerful vocals that her albums would lead you to believe she lacked.

The album only gets better from there, with John Mayer, the late Amy Winehouse, Michael Bublé and k.d. lang covering songs from Fred Astaire, Coleman Hawkins, Duke Ellington and Bobby Vinton, respectively.

"Body and Soul" deserves a special mention, as it's the last song Winehouse recorded before her death. It's fitting, then, that she gives the best vocal performance of her life. She and Bennett sound so sincere, friendly and romantic in their singing, and their voices create a velvety lullaby of a love song.

Aretha Franklin, Sheryl Crow, Willie Nelson, Queen Latifah, Norah Jones, Josh Groban, Natalie Cole, Andrea Bocelli, Faith Hill, Alejandro Sanz, Carrie Underwood and Mariah Carey are the remaining duet partners, and each do an outstanding job with the songs they're given. Franklin's duet of "How Do You Keep the Music Playing," Latifah's rendition of "Who Can I Turn To (When Nobody Needs Me)" and Hill's performance on "The Way You Look Tonight" are the standouts of the album's second half.

Looking at this list of names, it's obvious that almost all of the duet partners here are out of their musical zone. Yet they still deliver performances that make them seem like they're all natural jazz singers. This goes to show that Bennett is the true king of jazz, and quite possibly music as a whole, as he creates a comfortable environment for his partners. "Duets II" is a huge success for Bennett and is sure to win him another Grammy. (The first "Duets" won two; he has 15.) The wide variety of songs covered is practically a musical history lesson, showing how much the industry has changed. Doing covers of classic hits with today's most talented artists proves that those tunes stand the test of time -- and so does Tony.


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