Tony Bennett

Greatest Hits of the '50s

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Released the month that Tony Bennett turned 80, this LP-length compilation of his 1950s records gives a good account of his first decade of recording, even if it does not live up to the "greatest hits" claim of its title. Some of Bennett's greatest hits of the '50s are included, among them the Billboard chart-toppers "Because of You," "Cold, Cold Heart," and "Rags to Riches." But the compilers were more concerned with presenting 46 minutes of highlights of the '50s tracks than in following the singles charts. They signal this right at the beginning by starting with Bennett's first recording for Columbia Records, "The Boulevard of Broken Dreams," which was not a hit at all. Proceeding in chronological order by recording date, they exhaust the first half of the '50s, Bennett's most successful as a singles artist, by the first half-dozen tracks, excluding numerous Top Ten and Top 20 hits. In the second half of the decade, Bennett scored consistently on the singles chart, but he only enjoyed one more Top Ten hit, "In the Middle of an Island" (not heard here). He turned increasingly to the efforts of the top Broadway songwriters, such as Comden-Green-Styne's "The Party's Over" from Bells Are Ringing and Kurt Weill and Maxwell Anderson's "Lost in the Stars" from the show of the same name. These songs were not hits, but they were among his most memorable recordings of the period, and they are featured here. Bennett also conducted jazz experiments, such as recording an album with the Count Basie Orchestra, two songs from which are included. Given its length, this album is no more than a sampling of Bennett's '50s work, and it will disappoint anyone who actually expects it to contain his "greatest hits." But it does arguably feature the best three-quarters-of-an-hour of his recorded work in the decade.

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