Rhino's New York Songs has a clever idea, but it's too clever for its own good. Gathering 16 of the greatest songs about New York City and its boroughs and neighborhoods is a novel idea, and it seems that it would give a good idea about the city and the richness of its music. That's not the case, however. It's hard to fault any individual songs, many of which are quite good: the Drifters' "On Broadway," Ella Fitzgerald's "Take the 'A' Train," Nilsson's "I Guess the Lord Must Be in New York City," Mel Tormé's "Lullaby of Birdland," Bob & Earl's "Harlem Shuffle," Judy Collins' "Chelsea Morning," Ben E. King's "Spanish Harlem," Christopher Cross' "Arthur's Theme (Best That You Can Do)," Liza Minnelli's "Theme From New York, New York." But that list indicates that there's no cohesive musical personality to the record; it's just scatter-shot. And that list also doesn't include the selections from Sammy Davis, Jr., Bobby Short, Ace Frehley, and the cast of Annie. In other words, this is hardly a cohesive record; as a matter of fact, it sounds like a complete mess. Some could argue otherwise, since this disc is more about concept than music, but no matter how good particular songs are or how clever the concept is, New York Songs is simply a tedious listen.
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine