Eagles co-founder Glenn Frey is now touring better concert halls and casinos everywhere in support of his new album "After Hours," on which he performs such chestnuts as "The Shadow of Your Smile" and "For Sentimental Reasons." This comes on the heels of Paul McCartney's hugely successful release of "Kisses on the Bottom," on which the honey-toned ex-Beatle lined up easy-listening titans like Diana Krall and John Pizzarelli to back him on songs such as "I'm Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter," "Bye Bye Blackbird" and "Ac-cent-tchu-ate the Positive." (click below to read more)
Of course, the whole thing got started a few years ago with Rod Stewart belting out classics like "Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered" on his multivolume "The Great American Songbook." Eccentric songsmith Harry Nilsson may have given birth to the genre by recording an album of smoky standards in the early '70s. And over the years Roxy Music lead singer Bryan Ferry has recorded many venerable tunes like "As Time Goes By" and "Falling in Love Again," though usually performing them in an ironic, almost subversive fashion.
There's also a reverse trend in which easy-listening types opt for a grittier edge. In 1997 the innocuous crooner Pat Boone released "In a Metal Mood: No More Mr. Nice Guy," which included such tracks as "Crazy Train" and "Smoke on the Water." And long before that, Frank Sinatra had covered the "edgy" Sonny & Cher hit "Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)." These are real, available recordings.
Now, in terrific news for fans of the rocker-turned-lounge-lizard Starbucks Label genre, rumors are circulating that Ozzy Osbourne is in the studio at this very moment, working on "The Cole Porter Songbook." The album, with accordion legend Dick Contino lending support on Ozzy's tender rendition of "I Love Paris," will include a guest appearance by punk goddess Patti Smith duetting with Black Sabbath's co-founder on "My Heart Belongs to Daddy."
It's also said that Alice Cooper is getting ready to release "Welcome to My Nightclub," an album of his parents' favorite numbers, in which he'll apply his idiosyncratic stylings to standards like "Begin the Beguine," "The Hokey Pokey" and "Blame It on the Bossa Nova." Other imminent releases in this genre range from "The Wu-Tang Clan Sings Rodgers & Hammerstein" to "Megadeth: The Mambo Album." Meanwhile, back on the softer side, rumored new tribute compilations include "Josh Groban Does Def Leppard" and "Exit Sandman: Manilow Meets Metallica."
There's something immensely heartwarming about the Frey and McCartney projects, in which aging rock stars pay homage to legends of the past. But there's also a bittersweet element, as we ruefully contemplate how much wonderfully accessible music some stars might have produced, had they not died so young. At this point in his career, Jim Morrison, who died in Paris, might have been ready to record "Morrison Chante Les Plus Belles Chansons d'Edith Piaf." Otis Redding might have recorded "On a Clear Day You Can See Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa-Ever: Otis Sings Streisand." And Jimi Hendrix might have given us "High-Chaparral Hendrix: Jimi Goes Country." Other treasures might have included "How Great Thou Aren't: Kurt Cobain Sings Mahalia Jackson's Greatest Hits" and "I'll Be Home for Crystal Meth: The Sid Vicious Christmas Album."
Luckily, thanks to the miracle of digital technology, all is not lost. Rumor has it that a new Duets series—in which long-dead icons like Sinatra and Nat King Cole are paired with living performers like Bono and Natalie Cole—will feature Janis Joplin teaming up with Susan Boyle on a heartbreaking rendition of "Autumn Leaves," Joey Ramone harmonizing with Taylor Swift on "Teardrops on My Guitar," and Tupac Shakur and Tony Bennett showing off their chops on "Don't Get Around Much Anymore." Still, the showstopper in the series will be "Viaggio Inglese-Americano," which fuses the talents of John Lennon, Buddy Holly, James Brown and Andrea Bocelli on a performance of "Time to Say Goodbye."
An appropriate title if there ever was one.