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The Classic Collection (13CD) Box set, Original recording remastered, Import

Price: CDN$ 318.69
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 11 reviews
69 of 75 people found the following review helpful
A shoddy monument to a great artist's 80th year. Oct. 14 2006
By J. Pauley - Published on
Format: Audio CD
Five stars for the music but reduced to one star for content and value.


At around $135 this box set to mark Tony Bennett's 80th birthday year is obviously aimed at the hardcore Bennett fan / collector, rather than at the casual buyer. With that in mind one is left wondering what exactly it was that Sony/Columbia thought they were giving to us that was so special?

What we have ended up with is a frustratingly mixed bag.

Firstly, the packaging.

The picture on Amazon seems to be an early mock up of the set, as the finished product is more elaborate. The box is a cube covered in black velour with Bennett's signature embossed into the top. The front of the box has a perspex panel with a pencil portrait of the singer. Behind this is a montage of miniature album covers and photos, set slightly back from the panel to give a 3D effect. Above this on the top front surface of the box is a small silver metallic plate with Bennett's signature.

In the base of the box is a ribbon tag which when pulled reveals a small, hard backed book of approximately 60 pages, again covered in black velour with another small silver metallic plate featuring the singer's signature. Contents of the book are a collection of charcoal and pencil sketches by the singer and a collection of brief (and I do mean brief) hand-written personal comments on the albums included in the set. All very nice, but as a fan of the music I would have prefered recording information, anectdotes about the original album releases, session details, etc.

At approximately 7.5" x 7.5" x 7.5", the box will be an awkward if not impossible fit on the shelf beside the rest of your CDs.

OK - so what about what we really came here for, namely, the music? This is where the above mentioned frustration comes in. Let's take it album by album.

First of all there are several already available CDs, but in digitally remastered form, some with and some without bonus tracks. These are:

I Left My Heart In San Francisco - No bonus cuts but significantly improved sound quality over the previous release.

The Art of Excellence - No bonus cuts but significantly improved sound quality over the previous release.

Perfectly Frank - No bonus cuts but significantly improved sound quality over the previous release.

MTV Unplugged - Two bonus cuts ("Just a Little Street Where Old Friends Meet" / "When Will the Bells Ring for Me?") and slightly improved sound quality over the previous release.

The Movie Songs - Two bonus cuts ("A Time for Love" / "The Shining Sea") and slightly improved sound quality over the previous release.

Then we have a selection of albums that come under the banner of "pointless" as they have already been available for some time, already previously remastered:

Cloud Seven - Same as the previous release with no noticeable difference in sound quality.

The Beat of My Heart - Same as the previous release with no noticeable difference in sound quality.

If I Ruled the World: Songs for the Jet Set - Same as the previous release with no noticeable difference in sound quality.

The Tony Bennett / Bill Evans Album - An even more puzzling inclusion. Not a Columbia release, but recorded for the Fantasy label in the '70s. This is the original Fantasy CD release, not even repackaged for the box set by Columbia. It's just as if they bought a bunch of these from Fantasy and popped them into this collection. However, and again frustratingly, this is NOT the 20 Bit remastered edition of this CD that has been available for several years but the non-remastered, sonically inferior release from the late '90s. Perhaps Fantasy had a few thousand of these that they couldn't get rid of because they had been superseded by the remastered edition and unloaded them on Sony/Columbia? Whatever the reason this is a slipshod inclusion in the set, to say the least.

Next is one album already previously released and remastered, but here in a slightly amended form.

I Wanna Be Around - No noticeable difference in sound quality, but with different bonus cuts from the previous release. The previous CD release of this album included as a bonus, seven tracks from the "This Is All I Ask" album, a somewhat bizzarre and half-baked addition, as all of the tracks from "This Is All I Ask" would have fitted on to the disc making a two-on-one release. For the box set release we have three different bonus tracks "If I Love Again" (alternate take) / "Someone To Love" (alternate take) / "Indian Summer". So - if you want all of the bonus material you have to hold on to your (now deleted) previous CD release of this album.

The next album again comes under the heading of totally pointless:

The Singles Collection - considering this box set is aimed at the hardcore Bennett fan and not the casual buyer (casual buyers don't drop $135 on a whim), another "Greatest Hits" variant is completely pointless. Something tells me that the people likely to be forking over their hard-earned moolah for this box will already have everything on this disc, probably several times over. Heaven forbid Sony/Columbia should have given the fans something so outrageous as a disc of rare and unreleased tracks instead of this, their umpteenth hits compilation.

Finally, two albums that finally deliver the goods for the fans.

Tony Bennett Sings for Two - Briefly available on CD many years ago but rapidly withdrawn for some reason. This remastered version offers significant improvement in sound quality over the previous release.

When Lights are Low - first time ever relese anywhere in the world on CD (so far as I can ascertain). An absolute gem. More of this type of album -i.e. never before available on CD- is what this collection needed.

So - what do we have at the end of the day for the Bennett faithful? One previously unavaiable on CD release and one long unavailable on CD album, three albums in exactly the same form they are already avaiable in, one album in an inferior version to what is already available, one album with different bonus cuts to its previous release, five albums with remastered sound (two with bonus cuts) and, finally, one totally pointless "hits" collection.

Considering that approximately thirty Tony Bennett albums have never had a CD release, many more are long deleted on the format and bearing in mind the considerable amount of unreleased material in the vaults, this collection is a completely botched undertaking, a missed opportunity and a pretty shoddy commemoration of the man's 80th birthday.

Just exactly who executive producer Danny Bennett and Sony/Columbia are aiming this box set at is a bit of a mystery. If it is the dedicated fan, then I have to tell all parties involved in this release that we expect a lot more than two unavailable albums, a collection of already avaialble cleaned up recordings and seven -count'em folks- previously unavailable tracks for our $135.

Just what are the chances, I wonder, of Tony Bennett's back catalogue making it to CD before his original fanbase -or for that matter his newer devotees- are all in their graves?

This is a sorry monument to a great artist's 80th year.

(AFTERTHOUGHT: I'm still puzzled over the unusual number of discs in the set, namely, thirteen. Not a dozen, not twenty. but thirteen. Go figure. You know what they say about the number 13 - "...unlucky for some...". In this case the unlucky ones are Mr Bennett's fans.)
12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
Missed Opportunity Nov. 23 2006
By Mike D. - Published on
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Have to agree with J. Pauley's assessment. Amazon's description is misleading about some of the titles only being available on CD through this box set. Aside from the few bonus tracks, the only thing noteworthy in this collection is that "When Lights Are Low" is finally available on CD. Maybe we'll have to wait for Tony's 90th before some of his other albums from that period see the light of day.
12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
Great Music - Beautifully Presented - a MUST for Tony's fans Nov. 4 2006
By Bill Anthony - Published on
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
This elaborate 2006 box contains 12 great Tony Bennett albums, 11 of which are newly repackaged and remastered.
2 of the albums are on CD for the first time with the issue of this box set.
It also contains an exclusive compilation "The Singles Collection" which is entirely drawn from the 2 recently released Greatest Hits of the 50's / Greatest Hits of the 60's CD's.

The new artwork is fantastic! All the original LP covers have been replicated, front and back, with any liner notes, as well as new additional photos from the various eras of Tony's career. The front cover art is full size, unlike the late 90's Tony Bennett Master Series. The discs are all in standard jewel cases.
[The photo on Amazon is not accurate - it shows some discs in their earlier Master Series versions, which are not included here]

CLOUD 7: same mastering from 2004 by Darcy Proper (new artwork also includes Jonathan Schwartz's liner notes from the 2004 edition)
THE BEAT OF MY HEART: new mastering by Dae Bennett, same 6 bonus tracks as 2004 edition
TONY SINGS FOR TWO: first time on CD!, mastered by Dae Bennett
I LEFT MY HEART IN SAN FRANCISCO: new mastering by Mark Wilder
I WANNA BE AROUND: new mastering by Mark Wilder, new bonus tracks "If I Love Again (alt take)", "Someone To Love (alt take)", and "Indian Summer"
(the 1995 CD of this album had 7 bonus tracks from the album "This Is All I Ask" which makes it a keeper as well)
WHEN LIGHTS ARE LOW: first time on CD!, mastered by Dae Bennett, previously unreleased bonus tracks "How Long Has This Been Going On", "All Of You", "We'll Be Together Again"
THE MOVIE SONG ALBUM: new mastering by Dae Bennett, new bonus tracks "A Time For Love" and "The Shining Sea"
SONGS FOR THE JET SET: new mastering by Dae Bennett, bonus track "Falling In Love With Love"
THE ART OF EXCELLENCE: new mastering by Dae Bennett
PERFECTLY FRANK: new mastering by Dae Bennett
MTV UNPLUGGED: new mastering by Dae Bennett, new bonus tracks "Little Street Where Old Friends Meet" and "When Do The Bells Ring For Me"

{Of these 11 new editions, only I Left My Heart In SF, Perfectly Frank, and MTV Unplugged have been released to stores seperately as of Nov 2006}

TONY BENNETT / BILL EVANS ALBUM: this is the original Fantasy CD version (not the 20-Bit remaster) that Sony apparently purchased and included because of it's classic status. An incredible album, but nothing new in packaging or mastering

SINGLES COLLECTION: 26 tracks out of the 32 included on the 2 new Greatest Hits of 50's / Greatest Hits of 60's CDs available in stores. The artwork is completely different from those sets and very nice. Among the tracks are 2 found only on this and the GH of 50's CD: "The Party's Over" and "Climb Every Mountain"

-----UPDATE UPDATE 2011 - TONY BENNETT'S Entire Catalog of Albums, along with Bonus discs of singles and rarities,
has been released in one mammoth CD box set "The Complete Collection" by Columbia Records - available mainly at
Barnes & Noble and online.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
A terrific set with some real flaws. April 11 2007
By Douglas J. Richardson - Published on
Format: Audio CD
The music in this set is phenomenal. Aside from it being Tony Bennett, sonically the CDs are top notch. Yes, I agree that to make this a truly special set, Sony/ Legacy could have thrown in some rare stuff. What Bennett fan, though wouldn't rejoice at having "When Lights are Low?" In many cases, original LP artwork and liner notes are reproduced...a lot of thought, it seems, went into the production of the discs and inserts.

The physical flaws of the set are evident, and are quite stunning for a $170.00 set. When the box is opened, you see that the discs aren't in place holders....the 13 discs are just inside the box. At first, the booklet (which isn't that remarkable, sorry) was hard to get out. I can see the other reviewer's point that the box, physically, can't tolerate much or it will fall apart. Thus, physically, the design of the box leaves a lot to be desired. But the music, timeless and beautiful, makes the purchase worthwhile...although you can sense that for Sony it was a missed opportunity. How many fans are willing to spend this $$ for stuff they already have, and how many novices are willing to spend it on somebody they're wondering about? It's a good idea, not quite executed correctly.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
$50 on eBay - amazing value Aug. 10 2011
By Viktor Nehring - Published on
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Most of the above nit-picking is correct. The Bill Evans disk especially is a puzzler. HOWEVER for $50 on eBay or roughly $75 here, this set is a good deal. I'd have picked different disks overall -- good god! that horrible MTV set? ugh! -- but we all have our favorites, so I can't fault the suits too much for choosing as they did. We got some gems included, to be sure! "Sings For Two" and "When Lights Are Low" are exquisite sets.

If you are a novice, try the "40 Years" box set. You can get it for a song -- haha! -- cuz it was surpassed by the "50 Years" box. Then I'd jump in here. Or vice versa would work too. There's a lot of value here and in the other sets. Jump in! You CANNOT go wrong.