There’s a reason why they call them standards. They’ve stood the test of time and have been conquered by many a great singer. Frank Sinatra made standards his own. So has Tony Bennett and in the early ‘90s he had a new fan base with the hit single “Steppin’ Out With My Baby” (written by Irving Berlin and made famous by Fred Astaire in the 1948 film Easter Parade). He made a classic standard relevant with ease and style. Now Antonia Bennett’s album “Natural” takes a shot at this near in-conquerable genre with a jazz/blues sensibility.
Bennett’s voice has a light, ethereal air to it. In the song “Soon” there is a vulnerability and insecurity that shines through in the lyrics being sung. Still there isn’t anything special about this rendition that stands out. The same goes for “Puttin’ on the Ritz” where her singing is serviceable in that the song sounds pretty and she hits all the right notes, but does the world need another version of “Puttin’ on the Ritz?” A new rendition of a standard should make you forget anyone else who recorded the song. With this interpretation you’ll only want to find the Fred Astaire version and enjoy not only his singing, but his dancing.
“The Thrill Is Gone” is not for lightweights and this lumbering version will not give you incentive to want to continue to listen to this six-song album. But just when you’ve given up hope, there is the up-tempo “I Wish I Were In Love Again” which seems tailor made for Bennett’s singing style. Its light air and the approach of the musicianship of the pianist make a perfect combination. It will be well worth the price of the entire album.
The album only gets better from there. Bennett brings “I Fall To Pieces” her own stamp on a classic song. While it may not make you forget the Patsy Cline version, it will be one of your favorite interpretations of it.
The last song on the album is “Love Is A Battlefield.” Yes, the Pat Benatar hard-core, rocking hit of the ‘80s. Bennett brings out the introspective aspect of the song as she reflects on the words. The jazz/blues rendition of this track forces you to see another side to the lines “We are Strong//searching our hearts for so long/ both of us knowing/Love is a Battlefield.” At first listen it may shock you but the rhythmic arrangement and the slow, melodic overtones in Bennett’s voice will make you want to continuously replay this song.
Overall, “Natural” is a solid introduction to a talented singer with a voice that can tackle the standards. If nothing else Bennett takes chances and sometimes the payoff is worth it.