This Collectables label two-fer features two 1973 LPs from easy listening maestro André Kostelanetz. The times may change, but the Kostelanetz sound does not -- his opulent, soaring approach to the easy listening idiom remains constant whether the songwriter is Stephen Foster or Stevie Wonder. Of course, by the release of Last Tango in Paris, that sound is so anachronistic that it seems to originate from not just another time, but another planet -- worse, there's no rhyme or reason to explain the song selection, resulting in track-to-track progressions as absurd as "Love Theme from Lady Sings the Blues" into Hank Williams' "Jambalaya (On the Bayou)." Give Kostelanetz some credit for trying to keep abreast of new trends, however -- the sophisticated, string-sweetened Philly soul aesthetic would seem tailor-made for his lush arrangements, and the conductor responds with a silky rendition of Billy Paul's "Me and Mrs. Jones." As for the other half of this two-fer: playing the great hits of today is one thing -- doing them justice is another, and Kostelanetz falls wide of the mark. As always, he gravitates toward midtempo fare and romantic ballads, including Tony Orlando's "Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree," the Carpenters' "Sing," and Roberta Flack's "Killing Me Softly," but his arrangements are overbaked, even antiquated. Worse still are his wooden renditions of Stevie Wonder's "You Are the Sunshine of My Life" and Paul Simon's "Kodachrome," which possess none of the soulfulness or feeling of the originals. The criticism consistently lodged against Kostelanetz is that his records are interchangeable -- what that blanket assessment fails to acknowledge is that some are far drearier than others, and Plays Great Hits of Today ranks among the very dreariest.
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AllMusic Review by Jason Ankeny