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  Listen Up! 3/11/02 Listen Up!

Monday, Mar 11

Tony Bennett, "Playin' With My Friends: Bennett Sings the Blues," Columbia Records. Bennett continues to amaze. I know he's dabbled in blues structures from time to time in his 55-or-so-year career, but here he turns out to be perfectly relaxed doing an entire album of the stuff. He brings along tons of guest stars, many of whom sound equally relaxed just being in his company. With subtle orchestrations from a backing band led by his long-time pianist, the great Ralph Sharon, these songs are joys to hear. Bennett continues to display the vocal prowess and the love of the songs he sings that has made him consistently one of the best singers in the game.

Pink, "Missundaztood," Arista Records. This really is as great as people are saying it is. You probably already know "Get the Party Started," easily one of the finest dance pop songs to come out in years. The rest of the record lives up to the grooves of that one, with mostly more straight-forward rock approaches to the songwriting. Lyrics jump out at me that are funny and clever - there's a great line bitching about how pretty Britney Spears is. And the songs are catchy and well-developed. Pink has an interesting voice, too, one that sounds more connected to expressing songs rather than impressing Star Search judges.

Playgroup, "Playgroup," Astralwerks. I liked the first cut I heard, when I got back from lunch. I think Jim Utz said Kathleen Hanna was singing. It sounded like something that could seque nicely from "Get the Party Started" by Pink. It was sexier, slower, but just as joyous. I'm barely noticing the other songs, which remind me of A3, the band that does the theme song on the Sopranos, without the blues influence.

--Steve Pick



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