CD reviews: Paul Anka releases duets album

By Jackie Dosmanos

Posted at Sep 16 2013 04:47 PM | Updated as of Sep 17 2013 12:59 AM

Paul Anka

CD reviews: Paul Anka releases duets album 1

Q: What’s the value of a "duets" album by an all-time great?

A: It reminds listeners of the roots of today’s music and it validates whether the subject of the duets produced enduring classics.

Solo Paul Anka produced his first batch of hits in the ‘50s, got shuttled to the margins of the hit parade in the '60s then bounced back big in the ‘70s with “My Way” and “The Times of Your Life,” the Kodak TV ad theme from way back when.

With the first Tony Bennet duets album, mainstream and alt-rock artists joined him in the studio in tribute to his influence on succeeding generations of singers and songwriters.

In Paul Anka’s case, his "Duets" album released early this year holds no surprises, unless the presence of the dead (Michael Jackson, Frank Sinatra) jamming with the living still gives you the chills.

To cut to the chase, Anka’s latest album presents duets with 14 near-greats in the middle of the road (or soft-rock, if you will) pantheon. His pairing with pop-jazz icon Michael Buble on “Pennies From Heaven” fares better than duets with Michael MacDonald or Chris Botti. Sessions with Michael Jackson, Dolly Parton and Gloria Estefan could use a little more oomph, worthy of their 24-K pipes.
For sheer leftfield sensation, Willie Nelson’s ragged take on “Crazy” and Patti Labelle’s soulful screech on the flamenco-flavored “You Are My Destiny” lift the album from mere showpiece.

Sinatra ends "Duets" with his definitive rendition of “My Way,” crowning evidence of Paul Anka’s songwriting greatness.

Tom Odell
"Long Way Down"

CD reviews: Paul Anka releases duets album 2

Halfway through this debut album, anyone with a decent pair of ears will hear the music’s obvious debts to early ‘70s Elton John as well as to Bruce Springsteen keyboardist Gary Tallent and the Rolling Stones sixth man Ian Mclagan. Brit piano man/singer Tom Odell can rock and he can do ballads and in both instances, he conveys a unique poignancy seldom heard in love songs.

Song after song, newcomer Odell shows the ability to match the emotional impact of verses and chords without sounding derivative. “Another Love” can be best described as a sad-eyed ballad with balls and “Till I Lost” features a quirky falsetto in his rich baritone, adding a measure of ache to his tender singing. On the latter track, the instrumentation borrows as much from John Legend’s urban R&B as to Coldplay’s soft rockers.

Odell also has a way with words such that his songs, mostly ruminations on the possibility of enduring love, rise above easy listening rubbish. Here’s a promise to a lover should she choose to stay: “Our hands they might age, and our bodies may change but we’ll still be the same as we are/We’ll still sing our song, when our hair ain’t so blonde.”

Odell’s a throwback to the old-fashioned singer-songwriter tradition. He draws from a loaded source of inspiration so that his songs sound new and special at the same time.

Various Artists

CD reviews: Paul Anka releases duets album 3

The "Pure..." series is a compilation of hits grouped loosely around such themes as '60s, rock, '90s, trance, pop, etc. Each compiler comes with four CDs at P350 per volume.

"Pure .. dancefloor" assembles some 68 dance hits of the past two decade spread across four discs. It’s a steal even if the latest track dates back to 2012 (Jennifer Lopez’s “Dance Again”) and much older ones include “Macarena” from 1995 and Dr. Alban’s “It’s My Life from 1992.

Never mind the dates though because you also get certified classics from Faithless, Run-DMC, Apollo 440, Coldcut and Jamiroquai along with future classics from Pitbull, Ciara and Christina Aguilera, among others.

At the very least, it’ll keep any party humming and bumping from dusk till dawn.