When various artists compare how they spent the summer of 2001, k.d. lang is likely to be the source of widespread envy. After all, she spent it with one of her idols: the legendary Tony Bennett.

When various artists compare how they spent the summer of 2001, k.d. lang is likely to be the source of widespread envy. After all, she spent it with one of her idols: the legendary Tony Bennett.

"Originally, I had no intention of leaving my home this summer," she says with a smile. "But when Tony Bennett calls and asks you to go on tour with him, you don't do more than say 'thank you' and find out the date of the first gig." The season-long trek closes in two weeks, after a brief pause following the Sept. 11 tragedies.

Bennett and lang have been inching toward working together since 1994, when they appeared on a TV special singing the pop standard "Moonglow." "I'll never forget that night," says lang. "As the music began, my knees were literally shaking. But once we started to sing, I relaxed enough to savor the moment and recognize that we had chemistry."

Bennett returns the compliment, citing lang as one of his favorite vocalists: "She's an extraordinary performer. She has one of the best voices I've ever heard."

Touring with Bennett has been a fine complement to lang's current Reprise release, "Live by Request," a sterling concert recording captured by the A&E TV series of the same name. Released Aug. 14, it's the kind of project the artist says she never anticipated releasing.

"Quite frankly, I've never been a big fan of concert albums," she says. "In my experience as a listener, I've never felt like they fully illustrate the intimacy or the energy of being in the room as a show unfolds."

But on the night that lang performed on "Live by Request," the singer says she felt a special energy in the room as she played a set that included the Grammy-winning "Constant Craving," as well as her country-era gems "Big Boned Gal" and "Pullin' Back the Reins," and more current pop tunes like "Summerfling" and "The Consequences of Falling."

"About midway through the evening, I remember thinking that something unique was happening," lang notes. "This wasn't just another concert."

Although the artist says she cannot identify the intangible element that sets this performance apart from others she has given, lang notes that it was "incredible good fortune" that it was recorded. "I listened to the show, and I was totally pleased. You truly can feel the emotion and the electricity in the room. When the label suggested releasing it as an album, I surprised myself by saying yes. I wanted as many people as possible to share this experience."

"This album is a wonderful chance to have a lot of k.d.'s most beloved songs on one disc -- and yet it's not a best-of release," says Rich Fitzgerald, senior VP at Warner Bros. "It's a unique way of exploring what has been a remarkably rich career so far."

Actually, lang says trekking back in time was one of the true treats of doing "Live by Request."

"It certainly has been a long and winding road," she says with a laugh, adding that a live recording allows her to review her career on a CD without doing a greatest-hits album. "Looking back, some periods certainly worked better than others, but they were all completely honest and real for me. I have no regrets about anything I've ever done."

She continues, "There are times when I look back on my career, and I feel like it's someone else. I prefer to remain humble and focused on the craft of making music."

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