Thursday, May 15, 2008

Rating Game Redux 35: Duos ex Microphone

(Above: My most tortured title yet.)

This was yet another one of those categories for our local paper's "Rating Game" that could've baffled and confounded: "Best Duets." Consider the thousands of wonderful pairings most of us barely remember--if we know them at all--or cannot fully appreciate, given our musical tastes. For my trio of choices, I didn't even consider opera--not that there's anything wrong with that; I just don't know one performer from another ("They're all wonnnnderful," he enthused diplomatically). And I left out the quirky ones I know (David Byrne once sung a duet with Selena).

Nonetheless, this was the easiest "Rating Game" ever--I actually have a short list of all-time favorites. The first two sprang immediately to mind; the third I had never heard--although my wife, Jill, saw them perform--and you can too, at the bottom of this post (and try not to be distracted by the video--although it's fun(?) seeing John Cryer (get it?) with his 1987 feather-cut). I have always held this duet in my head as a dream-team moment--which it is.

So for once, it seems, three is enough.

“Let’s Do It”

Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong sail with humor and affection through Cole Porter’s comic ode to—well, doing it, down to the last educated flea and sentimental centipede.

“I Never Talk to Strangers”

Like Armstrong-Fitzgerald, another gravel-and-butterscotch combination, as Tom Waits and Bette Midler cat-and-mouse their way through a bar pickup, eventually admitting “we all begin as strangers” before clinking their glasses in (at least temporary) agreement.

“Crying”

Roy Orbison takes a late run at one of his standards with K.D. Lang, and the result is one of the greatest pop-opera moments ever recorded.

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