Tony Bennett's second Duets album, after 2006's Duets: An American Classic, sees much the same fare as its predecessor - Bennett partnering up with some of the biggest names in modern day music to duet on famous jazz standards. While some of the guests on the 17 song collection do an admirable job, some struggle to keep up with the legendary singer. For all the records that John Mayer and Michael Buble have sold, Tony Bennett is the undoubted star of the show here. Of course, almost every vocalist in music nowadays would come up short when compared to Tony Bennett.
The real story of this album though is that if features the last ever recorded performance from Amy Winehouse. She and Bennett sing a duet of 'Body and Soul' a performance which resonates further than the rest of the songs on the album due to the heavy gravity involved with it. Bennett paid tribute to Winehouse upon news of her death as being one of the finest jazz singers of the past twenty years, likening her to Billie Holiday - a comparison which fits - and her tandem with Bennett is one of the highpoints of the album.
The arrangements on Duets II are predictably superb, as you would expect for any album featuring Bennett, and Bennett himself is in particularly fine voice throughout. Lady Gaga's tête-à-tête with Bennett on her version of 'The Lady Is A Tramp' is one of the more natural and light-hearted moments on the whole album. Gaga's vocal performance, too, shows her to be a vocalist of some repute. Willie Nelson
Elsewhere, the contributions of Aretha Franklin, Queen Latifah and Sheryl Crow fail to gel with Bennett, who seems more comfortable with the likes of Willie Nelson (who's even afforded a guitar solo). Musical pairing compilations like this often fail to really excite and, while that's sometimes the case with Duets II, it's a mostly enjoyable listening experience.