While Tony Bennett sings with present-day proteges such as Lady Gaga, Carrie Underwood and John Mayer on his upcoming "Duets II" album, the rest of his career and his 85th birthday will be celebrated via "Tony Bennett -- The Complete Collection," a massive 73-CD and three-DVD overview coming Nov. 8 exclusively via Barnes & Noble and TonyBennett.com.
As the title indicates, the weighty box set includes all of Bennett's recordings, both albums and singles, since the mid-40s, mostly at Columbia Records, his home since 1952, but also for Roulette, MGM, Fantasy and Improv, a label Bennett ran from 1973-76. Besides individual albums "The Complete Collection" also includes a two-CD "Rarities, Outtakes and Other Delights" -- which features Bennett's first known recording, a 1946 V-disc take of "St. James Infirmary Blues" -- and "The Columbia Singles," which spans six CDs.
A pair of previously unreleased albums finally see the light of day as part of "The Complete Collection." Bennett recorded "On the Glory Road" in June of 1962, but it was shelved when "(I Left My Heart in) San Francisco" became a national hit, with some of its tracks parsed out to subsequent albums. "Live at the Sahara," meanwhile, was recorded over four nights during April 1964 in Las Vegas.
"Tony Bennett Sings...with the London Philharmonic" is the rarest of the three DVDs, hailing from a 1971 BBC "Show of the Week" broadcast and later released as the album "Get Happy." "MTV Unplugged: Tony Bennett" captures the 1994 edition of the show that includes duets with Elvis Costello and k.d. lang, while "Tony Bennett: An American Classic," directed by Academy Award winner Rob Marshall, aired in November of 2006 on NBC to celebrate Bennett's 80th birthday and won seven Emmy Awards.
"You know, there's 73 albums in that box set, and there's not one side that makes me cringe when I hear it," Bennett told Billboard.com. "It's the best orchestrations, the best artists playing on the records and there's a quality in the engineering, so I'm very proud of that work I did."
Bennett is planning to special concerts to celebrate the Sept. 20 release of "Duets II" and his 85th birthday. He plays Sept. 18 at New York's Metropolitan Opera, benefiting his no-profit Exploring the Arts organization, where Aretha Franklin is planning to join him for their "Duets II" track "How Do You Keep the Music Playing?" Then, on Sept. 24, he'll play the Staples Center in Los Angeles with Underwood, Mayer, Diana Krall and Stevie Wonder as an AARP-sponsored benefit for the Drive to End Hunger.
Bennett and Underwood will also perform "It Had to Be You" from "Duets II" on the Sept. 23 season premiere of CBS' "Blue Bloods."