By Bruce Sylvester
When Mr. Nice Guy’s 2011 “Duets II” entered the charts at numero uno, a follow-up to that follow-up was almost inevitable. But how to make it unique? Answer: By bilingually redoing his hits from as far back as 1952’s Hank Williams cover, “Cold, Cold Heart” with 12 Latin artists of assorted ages, including Chayanne, Thalia, Christina Aguilera and Marc Anthony. Nothing matches the pizzazz of his “The Lady Is A Tramp” with Lady Gaga opening “Duets II,” but “Viva Duets” pleasantly proves how well an 86-year-old can do.
The former Anthony Domenick Benedetto (“benedetto” meaning “blessed”) has been called a popster attracted to jazz arrangements. Here, of course, the backup is largely Latin. Sung with Romeo Santos, “Rags To Riches” repeats the 1953 version’s intro, but quietly, just as the golden-toned power of Bennett’s early discs has now subsided into a relaxed finesse. His contemporary, Patti Page, once told Goldmine, “You keep your voice if you use it.” Bennett and fellow octogenarian, bluegrass’ Ralph Stanley, are examples of that truth.