Mitchell: Anka tales more lively than songs; Medeski gets new-agey

Anka's book is getting good notices for its tell-all openness, I don’t think this new album will sell nearly as well.

Paul Anka: Duets (Sony)

Paul Anka has released this new album at the same time as his autobiography titled (what else) My Way.

The book is getting good notices for its tell-all openness which will titillate many readers with its tales of the high life. Also, Anka isn’t going to get too much flack from any of the Rat Pack who are all dead now, so he really doesn’t risk too much for his bold and lurid stories.

I am sure that Anka’s book will be a best seller but I don’t think this new album will sell nearly as well.

Anka’s music is of a time. He was a teen heartthrob in the late ’50s when Sinatra and the rest of his Vegas gang were on the prowl as veterans but, oddly, Anka also credits his somewhat level-headed Canadianess with helping him get through the major pitfalls of stardom.

Anyway, Duets is a hit and miss affair with way more misses than hits.

There is just too much cheese here with too maudlin songs often with over-embroidered production.

However; there are a few diamonds in the coal. Willie Nelson’s duet of his signature Crazy is a superb late night saloon song (not Nelson’s normal millieu) while the light swing of Pennies From Heaven with Michael Buble has a modicum of cool.

The Tom Jones/Anka remake of She’s A Lady sounds limp without any testosterone and as a blue-eyed soul song.

Chris Botti blows a fine trumpet solo to save Les Filles De Paris but the rest of this lengthy 16-track, 76-minute CD is turgid, dated and too melodramatic with insincere Vegas emotions.

The book will be a blast but Duets with the likes of Celine Dion, Dolly Parton, Michael McDonald, Gloria Estefan, Leon Russell is a dud.

You know something is wrong when even the posthumous help from Michael Jackson and Frank Sinatra (guess which song) fall flat.

C

John Medeski:

A Different Time (OKeh)

 

John Medeski is better known for his avant garde play with his trio Medeski, Martin And Wood than his lone piano solo pieces.

But Medeski wanted to make an ultra mellow, mood jazz album where in his notes he even asks his listeners to experience A Different Time (and hence the title) late at night and alone.

Medeski also plays a rare instrument with the famous and large French piano known as a Gaveau (he uses a1924 model) that has a particularly sonorous appeal.

Most of the nine tracks here are original compositions with improvisations but Medeski also turns in a handsome take of Willie Nelson’s I’m Falling In Love Again as well as the Christian staple His Eye Is On The Sparrow that has been covered by the likes of Gaye, Aretha, Whitney, Ross (names so familiar only half are needed).

It is that final song and the billowy clouds that grace the CD liner that makes me think Medeski was maybe aiming for a new age release. Very calming and meditative stuff that feels comfortably right.

B