Tony Bennett, “Here’s That Rainy Day” (1972)
from With Love
Columbia KC 31460
I have a friend who argues that Tony Bennett is a superior artist to Frank Sinatra. I think she’s wrong—Tony Bennett would say she is wrong—but there are times when I see what she means. Like when I listen to this cut, which may be the finest in his long career. Amazingly, it had been out of print for 40 years until Sony released Tony Bennett: The Complete Collection last year.
It was on Tony’s last album for Columbia before his contract lapsed and he launched his own label and wandered in the pop wilderness for a decade or more, which may explain why it got lost. Sublimely supported by Robert Farnon’s arrangement, Bennett embraces softness after a career spent to a large degree sending his voice up to the third balcony. (Bennett was a much more operatic a singer than Sinatra ever was.) This may have been a necessary strategy: Tony’s pitch wavers a bit throughout the album, suggesting vocal problems or perhaps rocky confidence at a point of career crisis. But it works here, and it was an understated mode he would turn to with increasing success and frequency when his career bounced back in the 1990s.
Then there’s the Van Heusen-Burke song—really, the perfect Valentine’s Day song if you’re a glass-half-empty type of person. I’ve never heard a version of this classic that wasn’t moving, but this one, for all its brevity, plumbs its depths like no other I know.