Born more of commercial considerations than artistic ones, Frank Sinatra’s Duets II (Capitol) doesn’t tinker one gin-soaked iota with its predecessor’s formula, from the LeRoy Neiman cover portrait to the roles filled by the duet partners. Instead of Liza, we get Steve and Eydie for a Vegas-highball rendition of ”Where or When.” Chrissie Hynde replaces Bono as jaded rock lounge singer on ”Luck Be a Lady.” Luis Miguel fills in for Julio Iglesias as Latin balladeer on an innocuous ”Come Fly With Me.” And so on, all of them mailed digitally from separate recording studios, as with the first Duets.
Sinatra and his coarsely charismatic pipes give it all they’ve got left, and nearly every song comes out swinging, with shrilly horns that threaten to break the studio glass. But once again, many of the partners — particularly Jimmy Buffett and Jon Secada — vaporize next to the master. The album’s only two must-hears are a languorous ”Embraceable You” with a similarly weathered Lena Horne and a male-diva summit with Neil Diamond on ”The House I Live In.” The reason is simple: Those singers have personality, the one ingredient needed to nullify the fake, electronically created backslapping of these ”duets.” Otherwise, Duets II only amounts to a smart career move for all involved. C+