Frank Sinatra: S/D

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I bought my first Sinatra CD (Songs for Swingin' Lovers!) tonight, so I can play it when I have my sweetie over for dinner, since she's a fan. I'm not, but this CD is okay. I already like some of these songs from renditions by other singers, which helps a bit. Also, it brings back the fox trot lessons I need to return to (slow, slow, quick-quick, slow, slow, quick-quick).

Anyway, I'm not planning on buying a lot of Sinatra, but I think ILM should have a Sinatra S/D thread.

Rockist Scientist, Sunday, 12 January 2003 01:02 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

Search: Only The Lonely: Totally bleak and depressing but not overwrought despite the full Nelson Riddle treatment.
Destroy: 1970 onward is probably the main cut-off date.

Chris Barrus (xibalba), Sunday, 12 January 2003 02:19 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

Search: Stuff with Dean Martin in the background just generally macking the fuck out.
Destroy: Stuff that doesn't feature Dean Martin in any respect.

Dom Passantino (Dom Passantino), Sunday, 12 January 2003 02:45 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

i don't know a huge amount by frank sinatra,to be honest,but search one for my baby,for a start...

robin (robin), Sunday, 12 January 2003 02:58 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

Man, you have to get In the Wee Still Hours of the Morning. Most depressing alb ever. He had just broken up with Ava Gardner and recorded this masterpiece (and why wouldn't you? god, what a babe). Every song a self-pitying lament to love lost.

Only the Lonely is another great wrist-slitter too. In some way he sort of pioneered the "concept album".

Of course as far as great Italian-American voices go, ol' blue eyes PALES in comparison to guys like Jimmy Rosseli or Al Martino.

But it helps to have friends in high places, if you know what I mean.

Mr. Diamond (diamond), Sunday, 12 January 2003 11:11 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

You bought the best first, probably. The others around that time are great too, like Swing Easy, One For My Baby and Songs For Young Lovers. I have 28 of his albums, and I think I at least like them all.

Martin Skidmore (Martin Skidmore), Sunday, 12 January 2003 13:33 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

The early 70s 'comeback' albums for pure menopausal madness. 'Some Nice Thing's I've Missed' sounds like a cross between Richard Harris and Kool G Rap. The Rod McKuen album is great too.

dave q, Sunday, 12 January 2003 13:36 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

While the swing LPs are good, for some reason his mid/late 60s stuff appeals to me the most. Anyone heard "Watertown", his concept album from '69? It looks fascinating.

Jeff W, Sunday, 12 January 2003 14:08 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

Sinatra? Didn't Miss Kittin say it best? "He's dead. Dead. ::giggles::"

maria b (maria b), Sunday, 12 January 2003 16:46 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

Everything Frank did for Capital in the 50s and 60s is gold.
For another great "swing" album, try Swinging Affair. It has perhaps my very favorite Sinatra performance, "Look at Me Now."

Jim M (jmcgaw), Sunday, 12 January 2003 16:51 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

Another cry to search: In the Wee Small Hours and Only the Lonely. Also No One Cares. Ballads brought out the best in Sinatra, I think.

If you have some cash The Capitol Singles Collection is a perfect place to start too. Be careful about the Reprise stuff; some of it is pretty good but much is garbage. One good LP is the one with Antonio Carlos Jobim.

The Columbia stuff is almost uniformly good but much is in a more big band vein than what was to come on Capitol.

Amateurist (amateurist), Sunday, 12 January 2003 17:13 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

If you can find an MP3 out there, search "I'll Be Around" from In the Wee Small Hours and you'll be sold.

Amateurist (amateurist), Sunday, 12 January 2003 17:18 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

search: film appearances. 'The Manchurian Candidate' and 'The Man With the Golden Arm' are excellent.

'A Man Alone' is the Rod McKuen one Dave Q mentions. the other late-60s stuff with Don Coasta is nice too, like 'Cycles'.

michael (michael), Sunday, 12 January 2003 17:27 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

I think some of the late '60s stuff is for people who don't really like Sinatra; at least, some of his stabs and a kind of MOR rock-influenced sound, or at least a "continental" folk-pop sort of thing. I personally can't stand much of this (I hate Watertown, his Bob Gaudio-produced concept album) as it veers into kitsch too often. But to each his own. Although as I mention before the Sinatra/Jobim album is one crossover which works.

I think can fairly safely say: destroy the Duets albums.

Amateurist (amateurist), Sunday, 12 January 2003 17:31 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

"He's dead. Dead. ::giggles::"

What does that mean?

Amateurist (amateurist), Sunday, 12 January 2003 17:32 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

(I think I'm a Sinatra rockist.)

Amateurist (amateurist), Sunday, 12 January 2003 17:33 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

Search: Sinatra on Sunday (WNYC), Pal Joey, High Society...

Destroy: Nancy (with the laughing face)

Mary (Mary), Sunday, 12 January 2003 17:44 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

Also Search: the Jobim album and two movies - Guys and Dolls and On the Town (both flawed, admittedly, but worth seeing at least once, even if the cast albums may be better)

Destroy: The Sunday Show on WNYC. Jonathan Schwartz is perhaps the single most annoying man on radio (is his response to all the music he plays really breathless admiration? does he talk so slowly because he's an egotist?), including Rush Limbaugh, and that WNYC keeps playing his easy listening/cabaret music while virtually eliminating its classical music programming is unjust. I'm still waiting for a Sunday show as good as Eddie Stubbs' (country/honky-tonk, formerly broadcast from Nashville to WAMU in Washington, DC).

gabbneb, Sunday, 12 January 2003 18:05 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

Search: 'Water Town', Jobim album, 'In the Wee Small Hours...' in particular.
Many of the other earlier ones don't have such an impression on me. 'Water Town' is a quite daring change in his sound; i like it a lot, reminds me of the great Four Seasons album, 'Imitation Life Gazette'.

Tom May, Sunday, 12 January 2003 18:24 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

I grew up with Italian-American male vocalist stuff, my dad had *hundreds* of those kind of records (tons of jazzy female vox too)... funny I really don't remember much of it, he kind of stopped listening to them pretty early on. The only Sinatra I have is the Jobim one; maybe I should put it on now.

Sean (Sean), Sunday, 12 January 2003 18:58 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

Can anyone in the DC area remember who presented Sinatra Sundays on WWDC (1260AM), back in the day? A web search turned up nothing but the alarming fact that one can now go on Music Of Your Life cruises.

Funny this thread should pop up when I've just spent the evening listening to In The Wee Small Hours, trying to put Everton's defeat at Spurs in some perspective. Also recommended: his earlier work with Tommy Dorsey.

Michael Jones (MichaelJ), Sunday, 12 January 2003 20:27 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

If we're talking movies, I'd recommend most of them - I think he was almost as great an actor as he was a singer. Golden Arm, yes, but very much also The Manchurian Candidate.

Martin Skidmore (Martin Skidmore), Sunday, 12 January 2003 20:30 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

Search: I've not heard a bad Capitol album yet, and I've got most of them. In particular the ballads albums - 'In the wee small hours', 'No-one cares', 'Only the lonely', 'Point of no return'.

Also, 'Live at The Sands' with Count Basie, and 'September of my years' are damn fine.

Destroy: 'Love and marriage'

James Ball (James Ball), Monday, 13 January 2003 11:18 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

I rather like "Watertown," but for full effect it has to be heard in conjunction with "Genuine Imitation Life Gazette" by the Four Seasons, also written and produced by Crewe and Gaudio - each album has musical and lyrical references to the other one.

Marcello Carlin, Monday, 13 January 2003 11:28 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

search: bim bam baby
destroy: high hopes, and anything else he did with annoying children's voices on it

pauls00, Monday, 13 January 2003 16:47 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

Search his Basie discs -- Fly Me To the Moon swings like a sonafabitch.

christoff (christoff), Monday, 13 January 2003 17:44 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

two weeks pass...
News alert: Dusty Groove is currently selling The Capitol Years for $100. This is a box set of all of Sinatra's vocal albums for Capitol, plus The Rare Sinatra (which is not available outside of the set)--21 CDs in all, I believe. Supposedly the remastering on these CDs (which come from EMI-Holland) is even better than on the American versions. Usually sells for $250 or $300. I just picked a copy up. I suspect they won't last too long at this price, so if you're Sinatra-curious....

Note that I have no affiliation with Dusty Groove and am only posting this for the potential benefit of other Sinatra-philes.

Amateurist (amateurist), Thursday, 30 January 2003 04:26 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

The 2000 Capitol comp Classic Sinatra is the most played CD of my lifetime, mostly because I used it as an honours course in pop singing. The only problem is that it creates an illusion of infallibility which is impossible to live up to (actually even some of the later performances on Classic grate a little as well, but that's after 100 listens). To specify, a few of his ballads sound second-hand (which never happens with Holiday). When the swing tracks fail, that's usually the arranger's fault, and of course it happens extremely rarely with Nelson Riddle. I'd trade any vocal performance I've heard for Frank's on "Under My Skin" on Swinging Lovers - and I'd trade that record for "Night and Day" on A Swingin' Affair.

I wouldn't trade either for From Here to Eternity, though I'd think about it.

B.Rad (Brad), Thursday, 30 January 2003 09:43 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

I can't get into him. I don't hate the CD I bought. It's quite tolerable, but I don't enjoy his voice, don't like his persona, and don't feel any emotional connection to anything he sings.

Rockist Scientist, Thursday, 30 January 2003 14:25 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

I don't rate him as one of my very favorite singers, but now that I've made the investment in the box set, I will be devoting more attention to him. Maybe I can report back later with what I find.

Amateurist (amateurist), Friday, 31 January 2003 00:23 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

Amateurist -- Thanks for the head's up, on both the title and the store itself; very extensive selection and reasonable -- very nice. 'Cept now i've got the urge to drop my next paycheck on music, you bastard!

christoff (christoff), Friday, 31 January 2003 16:07 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

You're most welcome. Be careful lest you drop $500 on the Todo Caetano box set now on sale.

Re. Sinatra, I have made one observation today. I've heard a few times of Sinatra's supposed influence on Scott Walker, but wasn't convinced. I thought perhaps Sinatra was the only reference point that certain rock critics had as regards pre-rock popular song. But listening to Sinatra's 1962 record Point of No Return (from the box set), I am struck by a great similarity not just between Sinatra's vocals here and Scott, but also between the arrangements here (by Axel Stordahl) and those on Scott's early solo records.

Amateurist (amateurist), Friday, 31 January 2003 22:18 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

I'm getting to like Frank a little better after having my girlfriend (?) give me fox trot lessons at my place last night, with this CD playing. Maybe I will go for another one.

Rockist Scientist, Sunday, 2 February 2003 15:23 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

Or maybe that box set, just for characteristic overkill. At that price, how can I afford not to buy it, even if I don't necessarily want it.

Rockist Scientist, Sunday, 2 February 2003 15:30 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

"Man, you have to get In the Wee Still Hours of the Morning. Most depressing alb ever. He had just broken up with Ava Gardner and recorded this masterpiece (and why wouldn't you? god, what a babe). Every song a self-pitying lament to love lost."

'In the Wee Small Hours' sounds positively jaunty compared to 'Where are you?'. Another great ballads album, but darker still.

James Ball (James Ball), Monday, 3 February 2003 17:09 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

Rockist Scientist, you may be out of luck. I stopped by Dusty Groove yesterday and was told they had sold out of the Sinatra box sets, as I had expected. My impression is that someone found a few of these in a warehouse, and was willing to get rid of them at a bargain price. But you might want to go to their website; they have a feature where they can email you when a particular title comes back in stock. It's worked for me in the past.

Amateurist (amateurist), Monday, 3 February 2003 17:55 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

Amateurist, it's probably just as well. I don't really need that much Sinatra. Was thinking of giving it to my (maybe) girlfriend, but I don't think she would know what to do with that much Sinatra. She's not a music fiend like me, though she enjoys enough of what I enjoy for comfort. It was a very tempting price, however.

Rockist Scientist, Monday, 3 February 2003 17:59 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

two years pass...
I like what James says vis-a-vis 'Where Are You?' and 'In the Wee Small Hours.' Another fine ballad album is 'No One Cares'; its version of "Why Try to Change Me Now?" was the first song I played after learning of Sinatra's death.

As for darkness, all these are the 1910 Fruitgum Co. next to 'Only the Lonely.'

Rickey Wright (Rrrickey), Saturday, 28 May 2005 09:44 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

Search: "Five Minutes More." It's from his very early years, and I'd rather listen to that song than any other thing he's ever done (which isn't saying much b/c I deeply hate most everything else he's done...).

PB, Sunday, 29 May 2005 00:26 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

I like '69's "A Man Alone" and "Watertown" from the next year. They're the two best late Sinatra albums I know. From '63, "Sinatra-Basie" is fine; "Francis A. & Edward K.," with Ellington, '68, is also very good indeed. "Live in Australia, 1959," with Red Norvo, is awesome, as is "Sinatra '57--In Concert."

I used to be a real skeptic about Frank. The Great American Songbook, fuck that. But what really converted me are all the great bootlegs my Sinatra-obsessed pal here in Nashvegas turned me onto--if you can track 'em down, "FS After Hours," with Bill Miller on piano, is very fine. "Inside Basie: In the Studio October 2-3 1962" is great as well, and listening to it gives you a sense of how smart he was about what he was doing, how in control.

edd s hurt (ddduncan), Sunday, 29 May 2005 20:34 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

Search:
"Songs For Swingin' Lovers" (the ultimate popular music swing album)
"Sings For Only The Lonely" (the ultimate doom ballad album)
"September Of My Years" (the ultimate album about getting old)

Destroy:
Most of what he did after 1970.

Geir Hongro (GeirHong), Monday, 30 May 2005 11:18 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

Even though it's played out as hell, I really love "Something Stupid" with Nancy. Someone told me the song was once though to have incestuous connotations, because it's (sort of) a love song sung by father and daughter. Hello, ever heard of assuming a role?!

Tuomas (Tuomas), Monday, 30 May 2005 12:39 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

two years pass...

I've been listening to In the Wee Still Hours of the Morning a lot lately, and guess at what hours. Man, you ain't never been blue 'till you've heard his "Mood Indigo." It's an odd album, really, in its tenacious consistency. It's one goddamn sad-ass breakup song after another, sixteen of them in all, but you can't turn it off. Amazing.

kenan, Saturday, 23 February 2008 10:57 (ten years ago) Permalink

i haven't heard it, i really should. i've heard precious few proper albums. i really want the '75 comeback special in vegas that pbs is always pushing... last year i listened to, or rather studied a little 20 song capitol compilation in my car for a good 3 months last year.

tremendoid, Saturday, 23 February 2008 11:21 (ten years ago) Permalink

oh i forgot SANG. i nailed 'i've got you under my skin' and 'witchcraft' doing karaoke with strgn last week.

tremendoid, Saturday, 23 February 2008 11:22 (ten years ago) Permalink

Kenan, I love that album, too, bit it's still small beer, or a Saturday afternoon at the carnival, compared to Only the Lonely.

If Timi Yuro would be still alive, most other singers could shut up, Saturday, 23 February 2008 14:06 (ten years ago) Permalink

but

If Timi Yuro would be still alive, most other singers could shut up, Saturday, 23 February 2008 14:06 (ten years ago) Permalink

I bought six Sinatra albums - Wee Small Hours, Only The Lonely, No One Cares, Songs For Swingin' Lovers, A Swingin' Affair and Come Fly With Me - a couple of weeks back. Haven't worked my way through all of them yet, but so far No One Cares kicks ass.

unperson, Saturday, 23 February 2008 14:44 (ten years ago) Permalink

That cover!

http://k-punk.abstractdynamics.org/archives/no-one%20cares_.jpg

Alfred, Lord Sotosyn, Saturday, 23 February 2008 20:31 (ten years ago) Permalink

A certain "demonic" torrent tracker had HQ rips of the original mono vinyl releases of Only The Lonely, Swing Along With Me, etc. and holy crap they're astounding.

I imagine they're still floating around out there.

Elvis Telecom, Sunday, 24 February 2008 02:15 (ten years ago) Permalink

He left *it*, the camp, in Vegas storage, that is.

dow, Saturday, 11 April 2015 01:11 (three years ago) Permalink

his racial politics also reveal a common limitation of white liberalism in the US - ie, overt legal/institutional racism and discrimination is wrong but we still get to make racist jokes

― Οὖτις, Friday, April 10, 2015 3:19 PM (6 hours ago) Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

^ Yeah, but I see that as just part of the overall evolution of society, the way things progress in stages. But to switch to the party that is more or less overtly racist, forsaking all previous political connections - that's surprising. To marry a hippie in 1966 and end up endorsing Ronald Reagan in 1970 requires some explanation. It's hard to believe it's all about the Kennedys.

― Josefa, Friday, April 10, 2015 5:41 PM

Charleton Heston, guys.

The burrito of ennui (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Saturday, 11 April 2015 01:40 (three years ago) Permalink

He was at the March on Washington and 18 year later was one of Ron and Nancy's more honored White House guests.

The burrito of ennui (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Saturday, 11 April 2015 01:41 (three years ago) Permalink

messy, undisciplined doc that struggles mostly because dude's life was so damned huge and all over the map. That "Ol' Man River" footage with MLK in attendance was really something. Nice to see a Watertown shoutout - would have gladly watched a doc of the same length that stuck to just the music.

fuck me, archipelago (Simon H.), Saturday, 11 April 2015 05:07 (three years ago) Permalink

If you want to see concert docs (which might have some commentary added as bonus material by now, I dunno), def try the TV specials that show him at his 60s peak, as elder statesman (well, Dadpop, flaunting his age amidst the rising tide of Boomer hormones) who also found his own way through some current trends, to creative and commercial success. These also loop back through initial hits, his 50s post-Ava Gardner/throat hemorrhage renaissance as the king of Adult Pop (cool and vs. that greasy kid stuff from Memphis), with Gordon Jenkins and Nelson Riddle aboard sometimes. Check A Man And His Music, from 1965, AMAHM Part II, '66 (think that's the one where he duets with Nancy), and 1967's AMAHM + Ella + Jobim(There's also a 1980 or '81 concert set titled The Man And His Music, but I don't think I've seen it, unless it's the one where he's growling at Wolf Trap, almost like the Muddy Waters of lounge, at times).
The range of the TV trilogy can be disconcerting, especially when he kicks ass on "That's Life," then practically busts a vein on the singing waiter special, "Come Back To Sorrento," like he's immediately gotta reassure Jilly and da boys that he ain't turnin'...reminds me of Greg Tate writing that he couldn't listen to a whole FS album at one sitting, because of getting creeped out by certain old school associations (like race talk in The Godfather). But ain't that America. Think there are audio-only editions, at least there is or was a double-album version of the first special.

dow, Saturday, 11 April 2015 13:57 (three years ago) Permalink

Sonny Rollins said when he was on high school, or maybe shortly thereafter, he was really inspired by Sinatra's "The House I Live In," which may have been a "soundie," a pre-video short subject for movie theater (saw an amazing collection of those once, think it was titled Jazz Ball, with a pre-disco ball on the poster)(there was even an attempt or proposal to put them on visual jukeboxes vs television, the new challenger to flicks). This was a gutsy thing to do, early in Sinatra's solo career especially, when racial integrationist sentiments themselves were (at least) highly suspect to some, let alone such sentiments capable of being spread via our National airwaves! And the Silver Screen!

This helped put him on HUAC's shit list; his name was brought up a number of times during the hearings, though he himself was never brought before the committee.

Montgomery Burns' Jazz (Tarfumes The Escape Goat), Saturday, 11 April 2015 16:51 (three years ago) Permalink

My parents liked the HBO doc alot. I need to watch it. Alas, my Mom, who was once president of the Hoboken, NJ based Sinatra fanclub did not get interviewed.

curmudgeon, Saturday, 11 April 2015 17:01 (three years ago) Permalink

Liked what I saw of the doc and figured they wouldn't be able to get too deep into the music. Which meant at least they didn't have commentary by Bono, unless that was in the first half.

You Play The Redd And The Blecch Comes Up (James Redd and the Blecchs), Saturday, 11 April 2015 17:05 (three years ago) Permalink

I've watched the first part... I really dug the stuff about how hard he worked coming up, his dad kicking him out & then welcoming with open arms when he got his radio gig

having nancy & nancy do some voiceover was a great touch too

difficult-difficult lemon-difficult (VegemiteGrrl), Saturday, 11 April 2015 17:13 (three years ago) Permalink

Mitch - out.

You Play The Redd And The Blecch Comes Up (James Redd and the Blecchs), Tuesday, 21 April 2015 01:14 (three years ago) Permalink

one month passes...

my bff is a huge sinatra nerd, and she came over a few sundays ago & we watched the whole thing together. by the second half of part 2 when he's basically just a walking asshole even she was was like FUCK THIS CLOWN UGH lol

but goddamn it really does feel like he lived like four lifetimes. the whole doc is such a sprawling rollercoaster.

puka shell denim suit Frank with the orange shag carpet & potted palms behind was so lol

difficult-difficult lemon-difficult (VegemiteGrrl), Monday, 1 June 2015 03:24 (three years ago) Permalink

six months pass...

happy 100th, clown

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AJ04Lwt2PlU

skateboards are the new combover (Dr Morbius), Saturday, 12 December 2015 13:35 (two years ago) Permalink

That's life.

Thank you very much, you've got a Lucky Wilbury (James Redd and the Blecchs), Saturday, 12 December 2015 15:09 (two years ago) Permalink

Happy Birthday, Francis Albert.

Anyway, it's not a three, it's a yogh. (Tom D.), Saturday, 12 December 2015 17:12 (two years ago) Permalink

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AEp9ViXWRWY

gets no better. if there are 10 better sounding records, i haven't heard em.

piscesx, Saturday, 12 December 2015 18:01 (two years ago) Permalink

Last two posts otm. If you read the Ruy Castro book, you will find that he was one of the key inspirations for Bossa Nova to come about, iirc

Thank you very much, you've got a Lucky Wilbury (James Redd and the Blecchs), Saturday, 12 December 2015 18:27 (two years ago) Permalink

i have most of the capitol era stuff on cd, but never got the jobim stuff.
more fool me.

mark e, Saturday, 12 December 2015 18:32 (two years ago) Permalink

1959 World Series:

http://i.telegraph.co.uk/multimedia/archive/01807/sinatra-martin-rac_1807744i.jpg

I was really interested in his music for a time, kind of drifted away from it.

clemenza, Saturday, 12 December 2015 22:56 (two years ago) Permalink

Started digging the song "Angel Eyes" when I heard the Mark Murphy version on WBGO after he passed away the other days.

Thank you very much, you've got a Lucky Wilbury (James Redd and the Blecchs), Sunday, 13 December 2015 01:51 (two years ago) Permalink

Damn I didn't know Mark Murphy had died. Great talent.

Josefa, Sunday, 13 December 2015 15:32 (two years ago) Permalink

His last words were "excuse me while I disappear."

Thank you very much, you've got a Lucky Wilbury (James Redd and the Blecchs), Sunday, 13 December 2015 15:51 (two years ago) Permalink

Was Bob Dorough's birthday too. Enjoying his tribute shows as well this weekend.

Thank you very much, you've got a Lucky Wilbury (James Redd and the Blecchs), Sunday, 13 December 2015 22:43 (two years ago) Permalink

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rPQcsDqv0mI

dow, Sunday, 13 December 2015 22:58 (two years ago) Permalink

DAMMIT I WANT THESE (a little shorter[?] than print ed. I saw, but also check Friedwald interview on Fresh Air)
‘A Voice on Air: 1935-1955’ and ‘Lost & Found: The Radio Years’ Reviews
Two new releases amount to the most important new Sinatra music issued since the legend's death in 1998

By Will Friedwald
Updated Dec. 10, 2015 6:47 p.m. ET
WSJ
In terms of the critical perception of his long career, Frank Sinatra reverses the general equation of such fellow giants of American music as Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington. Too many evaluations of the latter two concentrate only on their breakthrough early work, while ignoring virtually everything they did after age 40. With Sinatra (whose centennial is being celebrated this year), by contrast, the remarkable—even revolutionary—albums he made in his 40s and 50s completely overshadow the equally outstanding singing that he did in his younger “skinny” years.

A Voice on Air: 1935-1955

Sony Music Legacy

Lost & Found: The Radio Years

Smithsonian

Two new releases, “A Voice on Air: 1935-1955” (four CDs from Sony Music Legacy) and “Lost & Found: The Radio Years” (a single disc from Smithsonian), at last start to shine the spotlight on the singer’s often amazing work in the years during and immediately after World War II. Taken together, these five discs amount to the most important new Sinatra music issued since his death in 1998.

Any serious look at the early Sinatra necessitates a change in focus: The singer later known as the Chairman of the Board was a singularly driven recording artist who all but single-handedly created the modern pop album as early as 1946. Yet in the 1940s, commercial recordings were strictly a secondary medium—the real money was in network radio. That’s where Sinatra concentrated most of his energies, developing songs for as many as two or three live appearances on various shows (his own and guest spots on others) a week and bringing only a select few of these arrangements into the recording studio.
Opinion Journal Video
Author Will Friedwald on the recent release of two Frank Sinatra albums focusing on his seminal work during the World War II era. Photo credit: Getty Images.

Later, on television, Sinatra was a brilliant singer but an indifferent host; he never seemed entirely committed to that medium—at least not until the “Man and His Music” concert-style specials of 1965 onwards (in which all he had to do, essentially, was sing). Yet he was completely invested in his radio shows, which becomes apparent not only when he’s singing but whenever he talks to the audience or banters with his guests.

There’s a remarkable energy to these shows: Sinatra is spreading his young wings and testing the extent of his powers with the first generation that loved him. At the time of Pearl Harbor, Sinatra was a semi-anonymous boy singer with Tommy Dorsey’s orchestra, but by V-J Day, in 1945, he was the biggest star in the country, thanks largely to his success on the radio and that of his first MGM film, “Anchors Aweigh.” These performances of the late war years represent the absolute best of Sinatra in his “sailor suit” era.

“The Voice,” as he was known at the time, sounds more innocent than he would 10 years later. But he never sounds naïve; the emotional content of his interpretations always cuts deeper than any other singer of the period. He even makes “The Trolley Song” sound wise and knowing, not to mention swinging. There’s a great preponderance of songs and arrangements that he never released on records (like a ballad interpretation of “I Get a Kick Out of You” on the Smithsonian disc in which he can’t help but chuckle at one moment, 10 years before he canonized that Cole Porter song as a swinger). In an era when Hollywood leading men were stoic, unemotional types like Gary Cooper and John Wayne, Sinatra was precisely the opposite—he lets every emotion show. You feel his joy and pain more than any other singer save Armstrong or Billie Holiday.

The spontaneity of these live performances is enhanced by the guest stars, especially when he crosses cadenzas with Nat King Cole, Peggy Lee and Benny Goodman; two particularly interesting moments are an especially zany encounter with hipster supreme Slim Gaillard, and a unique one-shot song done in honor of comic strip icon Li’l Abner. The 4-CD box, which includes all these, climaxes with 10 remarkably intimate tracks of the mature Sinatra swinging with a small band on his final radio series in 1953-55.

The audio quality on all of these CDs, taken from what sound like pristine acetate and glass masters, is significantly better than what listeners heard on home AM radios at the time. The overall effect is that these tracks give us a better idea (than the commercial 78s) of what all the screaming was about. And, in some cases, they give us the screaming itself; the bobby-soxers, those young girls who constituted Sinatra’s first fan base, are audible on many tracks. Far from being distracting, those sounds are a welcome part of the background noise of a remarkable era.

Mr. Friedwald writes about music and popular culture for the Journal and is the author of “Sinatra! The Song Is You” (Da Capo).

dow, Sunday, 13 December 2015 23:07 (two years ago) Permalink

Didn't Johnny Mercer write the songs for that L'il Abner musical?

Thank you very much, you've got a Lucky Wilbury (James Redd and the Blecchs), Sunday, 13 December 2015 23:52 (two years ago) Permalink

That's what Wiki says.

Happy belated 100th Frank.

curmudgeon, Monday, 14 December 2015 17:22 (two years ago) Permalink

that equire profile that's been going around is amazing

Amira, Queen of Creativity (upper mississippi sh@kedown), Monday, 14 December 2015 18:39 (two years ago) Permalink

hadn't really registered with me how much his output diminished after Watertown. Can only speculate what would have happened if he'd stuck around long enough for Rick Rubin to get his hands on him lol.

I'm listening to some of his mid- to late-60s albums and man this stuff gets pretty dire, even with the occasional big hit/"signature song" popping up. It's crazy how rapidly he became totally irrelevant, and you can't really blame him for not giving as much of a fuck. What was he supposed to do, make a rock opera? Retreat to small jazz combo recordings? He had nowhere to go.

Οὖτις, Monday, 14 December 2015 20:56 (two years ago) Permalink

Been a while, but I liked the ones w Jobim and Ellington. Main thing: he came back strong on the radio, King of Dad Pop, while upstart Elvis was in eclipse. Adult Pop was the way Sinatra, Bennett etc. had been marketed in the 50s, talkin' back to that greasy kid stuff. Even prestigious albums, as albums first became a big deal (not in kid music, o course). Then he became a compulsive self-parody with that Rat Pack shit ('bout ruined his movie career/cred), but for a while there in the 60s, pretty good, and even when not good, still pretty big (on the radio). Uniquely so, for a guy of his generation, in that time segment (might've sucked again by late 60s though, don't remember).

dow, Monday, 14 December 2015 21:23 (two years ago) Permalink

yeah everyone loves the Jobim one afaict, I was just listening to That's Life! (ugh what is with the organ and the female backup chorus?!) and Strangers in the Night. Both generated big hits that must've felt like combative throwbacks at the time.

Οὖτις, Monday, 14 December 2015 21:26 (two years ago) Permalink

The movie version of Pal Joey is fine anytime Frank is singing, or Rita Hayworth is moving or singing. Kim Novak ventilating "My Funny Valentine," not so much.

Also there's a cute dog doing shtick throughout, to keep your mind off all the transactions in human flesh going on.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D0Uw5dDEa7U

skateboards are the new combover (Dr Morbius), Monday, 28 December 2015 18:54 (two years ago) Permalink

(was surprised at the amount of San Francisco location shooting, very early for that kinda stuff unless something Serious like a Kazan film)

skateboards are the new combover (Dr Morbius), Monday, 28 December 2015 18:56 (two years ago) Permalink

(also i should note that neither of the female stars did her character's singing)

skateboards are the new combover (Dr Morbius), Monday, 28 December 2015 18:58 (two years ago) Permalink

this one got a lot of publicity and actually went gold:

http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51KwTJmY-nL._SX300_.jpg

The burrito of ennui (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Monday, 28 December 2015 19:01 (two years ago) Permalink

one month passes...

i felt the Gibney doc kinda skimps over his gangster affiliations

i;m thinking about thos Beans (Michael B), Saturday, 30 January 2016 21:16 (two years ago) Permalink

seven months pass...

this John Lahr essay (year unknown) is a wowser

The result Riddle achieved in “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” was, he said, “a sort of a cornerstone recording for both him and me.” The arrangement starts with a comfortable, loping rhythm that Riddle called “the heartbeat rhythm” (“Sinatra’s tempo is the tempo of the heartbeat,” he said) and then sets up a marvellous instrumental tension around Sinatra’s voice. Riddle always found little licks—certain spicy, nearly out-of-key notes—that would tease the key, and added the glue of “sustaining strings” almost subliminally to the rhythm and woodwind sections. At the instrumental breaks in the songs, Riddle gave solo voices to oboes, muted trumpets, piccolos, bassoons; in “I’ve Got You Under My Skin,” it was to Milt Bernhart’s trombone, which whipped up the excitement until Sinatra joined the song again and brought it back to the heartbeat rhythm where it had begun. Sinatra had wanted an extended crescendo; Riddle provided one that was longer than had ever been heard in an organized arrangement....

After the humiliations of his decline, nothing so moved Sinatra as the spectacle of himself as a powerhouse: big talent, big guys around him, big bucks behind him, big connections to the mainstream and to underworld power. “He used his success in film, in singing, and in business to pump up the persona of untouchable,” Tony Curtis says. “Notice I don’t bring up the Mafia. He in himself was his own godfather. He ran his own family and his friends like that. Untouchable.”...

Sinatra stood before an audience as a person who had caroused with killers and kings. He’d been married to the most beautiful woman in the world. He had won and lost and now won again. All this made him more interesting as a performer than anything he sang. Sinatra’s best songs of the period—“All the Way,” “Call Me Irresponsible,” and especially “Come Fly with Me”—were written by Sammy Cahn, who had roomed with Sinatra, travelled with Sinatra, and lived a lot of Sinatra’s story with him. The material was Sinatra. “Sammy’s words fit my mouth the best,” he told the producer George Slaughter.
But lyrics, like everything else, could suffer from Sinatra’s egotism. “Ira Gershwin hated that Sinatra took ‘A Foggy Day’ and sang ‘I viewed the morning with much alarm,’” the singer Michael Feinstein, who was for a long time Gershwin’s assistant, says. “The lyric is ‘I viewed the morning with alarm.’ It drove Gershwin crazy, because he felt the word ‘much’ weakened what he originally wrote.” Leonora Hornblow tells of an evening at actor Clifton Webb’s when Cole Porter was present: “Frank fiddled with the lyrics. I think it was ‘I Get a Kick Out of You’—you know, ‘You give me a boot.’ Cole got up and walked out. Cole had perfect manners. For him to do that while somebody was singing was like stripping his clothes off.” Sinatra revered Porter (he leased Porter’s apartment at the WaldorfTowers), but he also thought Porter “a snob,” whereas Cahn wrote lyrics that had Sinatra’s common touch....

At Caesar’s Palace, sometime in the early eighties, Shirley MacLaine caught Sinatra’s show. “I don’t know what was bugging him,” she told me, describing the evening’s first set. “The magic wasn’t there. He marked it. He couldn’t wait to get out.” Afterward, at dinner, Sinatra asked what she thought, and she gave him her version of a pep talk. “Frank, you really ought to remember how you got so many of us through a Second World War, and a New Deal, and gave us an education in music,” she said. “Please don’t just mark it, because it disrespects everything you meant to the whole country. You might seem to some like a ruin but to most of us that ruin is a monument.” MacLaine adds, “His eyes just…It was like nobody had said that to him in a long time.”

http://johnlahr.com/frank-sinatra/

The Hon. J. Piedmont Mumblethunder (Dr Morbius), Tuesday, 27 September 2016 20:53 (one year ago) Permalink

ooh!

Οὖτις, Tuesday, 27 September 2016 21:00 (one year ago) Permalink

woah.. good stuff.

piscesx, Tuesday, 27 September 2016 22:07 (one year ago) Permalink

formatting putting me off making it through the whole thing but pretty much every paragraph has a great bit in it

Οὖτις, Tuesday, 27 September 2016 22:09 (one year ago) Permalink

I highly recommend the biography "The Chairman" by James Kaplan. It's 900 pages, and begins at From Here To Eternity but boy is it entertaining. Basically, Frank was a mean drunk who drank a lot. And the older he got, the meaner he got.

He also kicked out a car radio when he heard Light My Fire on 3 consecutive stations.

kornrulez6969, Wednesday, 28 September 2016 00:23 (one year ago) Permalink

That Lahr piece is fantastic. Is the Kaplan book the two-part one?

Don Van Gorp, midwest regional VP, marketing (誤訳侮辱), Wednesday, 28 September 2016 00:56 (one year ago) Permalink

I've always viewed the Rat Pack's rage/bitterness at the ascendancy of rock with a mixture of pity and "Now you guys know how Rudy Vallee felt, huh?"

The Hon. J. Piedmont Mumblethunder (Dr Morbius), Wednesday, 28 September 2016 16:26 (one year ago) Permalink

three months pass...

Nancy Sinatra made it clear two weeks ago that she believed her father Frank Sinatra would not have supported Donald Trump, or performed at his inauguration.

Now a fan has asked her how she feels about the prospect of 'My Way' being sung at the event, after reports that the famous song would be performed for Trump's first dance with his wife Melania as US President.

"Just remember the first line of the song," she responded....

Sinatra himself came to hate the song despite popularising it in 1969, according to his daughter Tina, who said he "always thought that song was self-serving and self-indulgent".

http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/music/news/nancy-sinatra-responds-donald-trump-my-way-sang-us-presidential-inauguration-having-frank-sinatra-my-a7534701.html

Supercreditor (Dr Morbius), Thursday, 19 January 2017 15:46 (one year ago) Permalink

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cuIcRiHlHoY

kornrulez6969, Thursday, 19 January 2017 18:05 (one year ago) Permalink

Absolutely insane story. Sinatra was a mean drunk to put it mildly (according to the huge James Kaplan biography from last year) and this story certainly backs that up.

kornrulez6969, Thursday, 19 January 2017 18:06 (one year ago) Permalink

eleven months pass...

I like Something' Stupid a bit more than you while also forever being frustrated and perplexed by Nancy being so low in the mix. I think of tunes like this as "Italian Restaurant Music."

Josefa, Wednesday, 3 January 2018 16:53 (eight months ago) Permalink

And here's my top 25.

morning wood truancy (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Sunday, 14 January 2018 04:13 (eight months ago) Permalink


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