[Rating: 2.5 stars]
On Naked Willie, producer Mickey Raphael stripped the schmaltz from his boss’s early tunes. But Tommy LiPuma piled it back on for this collection of Great American Songbook entries, a la this year’s great Two Men With the Blues and Willie’s celebrated 1978 release, Stardust. The “beautiful music” strings and brushes may sound better than they did coming from your parents’ Buicks, but it’s still a bit much. Willies’ voice is as creamy-smooth as ever, but this album sounds like it exists more because it seemed like a good idea than because he feels real passion for the material. There’s a nice duet with Diana Krall on “If I Had You,” but “Angel Eyes” and “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” featuring a playful Norah Jones, and Willie’s guitar solo on Trigger, are the only songs that seem really inspired.