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March 2003

Tony Bennett/K.D. Lang
A Wonderful World
RPM/Columbia

As musical marriages go, it's hard to fathom an odder couple-or a more enchanting one. Fresh from a continent-wide tour, the king of laidback cool and the twangy Canadian chanteuse combine for a sublime salute to Louis Armstrong. With orchestrater Peter Matz setting a mood as soft and inviting as autumn twilight, producer T Bone Burnett does a superlative job of weaving Bennett's rough vocal magic, casually urbane as Saville Row tweed, with Lang's gorgeously sculpted sound, soft and rich as buttery suede yet sturdy as rawhide. Their combined appeal does, however, constitute substantially more than mere studio wizardry.

From the cuddly embrace of "I'm Confessin' (That I Love You)" to the soaring rapture of "Dream a Little Dream of Me," their deep affection and mutual respect for each other is palpable. Not since the pairing of Clooney with Crosby have duetists' instincts aligned so perfectly, meshing like a Bentley's gears. As Bennett eases into "What a Wonderful World," his wistfully nostalgic tone gently anticipates the youthful optimism of Lang's rejoinders. Similarly, their drowsy reading of "That Lucky Old Sun," such a welcome change from Frankie Laine's gut-busting grandiosity, captures the delicate synchronicity of Lang's sanguine yin and Bennett's reflective yang. Through it all, he remains the huggable teddy bear to her free-spirited mustang, the barroom smokiness to her outdoorsy robustness, the sage professor to her sassy pupil. When they swap warm sentiments on "You Can Depend on Me" you know they mean every word.

Originally published in March 2003
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