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Frank Sinatra
Albums

  • Songs For Young Lovers,
  • Swing Easy,
  • In The Wee Small Hours,
  • Songs For Swingin Lovers
  • A Swingin' Affair








  • Adrian's Album Reviews |

    Frank Sinatra

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    Songs For Young Lovers( 1953 ) more best albums...
    My Funny Valentine / The Girl Next Door / A Foggy Day / Like Someone In Love / I Get A Kick Out Of You / Little Girl Blue / They Can't Take That Away From Me / Violets For Your Furs

    Popular recording artiste and sometime film maker Frank Sinatra had achieved considerable success but the times they were a-changin'. By the end of the forties, shamelessly trivial pieces of music were topping the singles charts and Columbia Records tried to push Frank in that direction. Frank resisted, and the end result was that his recording contract wasn't renewed come the early fifties and following a period lacking hit recordings. For an artist of twelve years standing as far as record making was concerned, this was something of a shock to the system for Sinatra. Capitol Records picked up on Frank commencing an artistically and commercially successful 12 year association. A different market was evolving for the long playing album. The LP format had been introduced in 1948, but by the mid fifties was really coming into it's own. So, the strategy was Capitol and Frank would have a two-pronged attack. Singles were recorded separately, albums were planned over many hours and weeks, selecting thematic material to make each 10" long player a unique experience. Concept albums? Yes, sir! 'Songs For Young Lovers' was issued in 1953 and became an immediate success, everyone was happy. 'Songs For Young Lovers'? The title slightly gives the game away. Romantic material coated in strings courtesy of arranger Nelson Riddle. You may find this hard to believe if your only memory of Mr Sinatra is croaking out 'My Way' for the umpteenth time whilst waiting to die, but once upon a time he was a superlative interpreter of song.

    I've never heard another version of the now evergreen 'My Funny Valentine' as sensitively performed and arranged as this. Frank sings with a tenderness and compassion in his voice, a genuine longing and perfect appreciation of the material. 'The Girl Next Door' benefits greatly from its string arrangement which run with the descending vocal lines perfectly. 'A Foggy Day' sets it's scene beautifully through the orchestral introduction. You really can picture the fog! Mr Sinatra starts to sing and gets everything right. 'I Get A Kick Out Of You' is one of the few songs here that swings, this is after all an album of romantic ballads. 'They Can't Take That Away From Me' sports another utterly distinctive introduction courtesy of Mr Riddle. Mr Sinatra? Mr Riddle? Yeah, it's called respect! Respect is due, yo! Besides, the closing 'Violets For Your Furs' is the best of all, a perfect marriage of impeccable vocals and orchestral instrumentation. Some song, too. A tune, a song, a smile. A string drenched lightness, a playfulness. Clouds parting ways to reveal the coming of spring. A young girl smiles at you from across a half-crowded street and life is good.

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    Swing Easy( 1954 )
    Just One Of Those Things / I'm Gonna Sit Right Down And Write Myself A Letter / Sunday / Wrap Your Troubles In Dreams / Taking A Chance On Love / Jeepers Creepers / Get Happy / All Of Me

    The same as before, only this time a little more swingin'. I should really put some exclamation marks in here, shouldn't I? Ok, then. !!!!! Happy now? Good. Let's continue. Old Frank shows his other side with this follow-up to 'Songs For Young Lovers' for Capitol Records. Nelson Riddle is in charge of the orchestra again, and that's pretty much it. Well, this is a superbly professionally performed mixture of songs. The playing is exemplary, the strings and arrangements perfection in themselves and Frank doesn't put a single foot wrong, vocally. But, personally speaking, I prefer 'Songs For Young Lovers' just a little to this album. Both are now available on the same CD ( these are short albums, but give Frank a break - it was 1954! ) and great value for money! 'Just One Of Those Things' is all swooping vocal lines and Jazz music, 'Write Myself A Letter' is only a semi-serious song, very light but wonderfully sung and happy all the same. 'Sunday' has some great brass parts courtesy of the orchestra and really does swing! Frank still manages to dominate proceedings even with a very full sounding band performance around him. 'Wrap Your Troubles In Dreams' is a delightful song, sung with just the right feeling and emphasis in just all the right places. The songs are standards, more or less. This album in itself isn't especially an essential work of art or anything, but this combination of inventive arrangements and beautifully judged, accomplished vocals is perhaps some kind of lost art these days. Well, within this particular style of music in any case - it may well be.

    'Take A Chance On Love' is much the same as appears elsewhere on this album, which is why I prefer 'Songs For Young Lovers' - that record has greater variety. Variety does appear here, 'Write Myself A Letter' is lighter, 'Jeepers Creepers' is certainly lighter, well, funnier at least. The lyrics are great, OK so Frank didn't write the song or anything, but he was certainly the man with the largest say in which songs were performed. The songs almost 'became' his, in any event, such were the level of performances. The brass returns noticeably for 'Get Happy' which works to make me smile. The closing song, 'All Of Me' has also been performed by Billie Holiday, amongst others. Her version is possibly the most famous and may have been part of the reason Frank chose the sing the song. Frank was a huge admirer of the art of Billie Holiday. This version is a lot more raucous and brass filled than Billie's version - but really, both versions are great. Besides, this treatment here makes for a great album closer, all dramatic orchestration and yeah, soaring brass parts. An enjoyable album on the whole. Very little to complain about, even if for me, this just aint as emotional or special in atmosphere as 'Songs For Young Lovers'.

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    In The Wee Small Hours 9 ( 1955 )
    In The Wee Small Hours Of The Morning / Mood Indigo / Glad To Be Unhappy / I Get Along Without You Very Well / Deep In A Dream / I See Your Face Before Me / Can't We Be Friends? / When Your Lover Has Gone / What Is This Thing Called Love / Last Night When We Were Young / I'll Be Around / Ill Wind / It Never Entered My Mind / Dancing On The Ceiling / I'll Never Be The Same / This Love Of Mine

    A photo album, hence ‘an album’ in a musical sense. Back in the day, likely to be a series of bound together 78s or 45s, possibly several 10” records playing at 45rpm. ‘In The Wee Small Hours’ was one of the very first 12” LPs proper, playing at the now time honoured 33rpm. The Lazarus like rise Sinatra had enjoyed at Capitol In 53 and 54 was fully cemented with the release of this album. Working with arranger Nelson Riddle, the concept established a pattern for the remainder of Frank’s time at Capitol. Upbeat swing releases alternating with more downbeat and/or romantic affairs. With the split between Frank and Ava Gardner still fresh and much talked about, the release of a seemingly confessional, honest and personal album as ‘In The Wee Small Hours’ was perceived as admirable and brave. A listener could tell exactly what the songs were referring to and I guess the songs endeared Frank even more to his audience. Nelson Riddle was in many ways the perfect arranger for a guy like Frank who demanded each take be releasable and demanded perfection of his musicians. Nelson was a supremely talented arranger with that rare gift of being able to re-write ( or indeed write! ) arrangements in his head, for example. Frank would reportedly get bored sometimes, so this was a good thing! The title track of the album was a song given to Frank who obviously liked it, turning round to the writers and exclaiming, ‘That’s MY kind of song!’. Indeed, it sends shivers down the spine and the lyrics are absolutely spot on. Anybody anywhere who has ever had a relationship break-up will immediately identify with the song. ‘Mood Indigo’ is self-explanatory, the next excellent and brilliantly masterful high point arrives with ‘I Get Along Without You Very Well’, “of course I do.” sings Frank, although his heart was breaking and the split with Ava would stay with him for many years. The arrangement is a beautiful frame for a story-picture, a masterclass in ballad singing.

    This is an album that presents sadness in a way that ties up perfectly with the album artwork, a masterpiece in itself. Frank in a deserted street illuminated only by the blue lamplight, smoking a ciagarette. The style of music clearly may put some people off, the strings and arrangements are obviously partly of their time, jazz and old film scores spring to mind. Yet, with arrangements so cleverly inventive and sympathetic, with Frank destroying any preconceptions you may have had about him through the artistry and honesty on display here. Everybody should give 'In The Wee Small Hours' a chance. I'd delve in here before the arguably more lauded likes of 'Songs For Swingin Lovers'. Friends and relatives report that Sinatra and Riddle were both lonely men. Nelson Riddle would later complain that Frank would rarely socialize with him. Perhaps it was just the music, or that the music said more than words could convey, so any other socialization could 'break the magic'. Who knows? More highlights abound and everyone seems to have different favourites here. 'I'll Be Around' is real goosebumps time. There's so much more to say, and not say, and the album is something that will reveal more and more throughout the years. Another song that always leaps out at me when listening to 'In The Wee Small Hours' is 'Can't We Be Friends'. "I thought i'd found the girl of my dreams, now it seems this is how the story ends."

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    Readers Comments

    Peter peter@taylor-house.org.uk
    This album is without doubt the most sensitive & artistic works that Mr Sinatra performed. I could listen to it all day!



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    Songs For Swingin Lovers 8 ( 1956 )
    You Make Me Feel So Young / It Happened In Monterey / You're Getting To Be A Habit With Me / You Brought A New Kind Of Love To Me / Too Marvellous For Words / Old Devil Moon / Pennies From Heaven / Love Is Here To Stay / I've Got You Under My Skin / I Thought About You / We'll Be Together Again / Makin Whoopee / Swingin Down The Lane / Anything Goes / How About You?

    Certain thoughts to begin this discussion. Nelson Riddle's orchestral arrangements are uniformly superb. The music here is imaginative, accomplished and distinctive. The songs themselves ( most likely chosen by Sinatra ) collectively contain a fair share of all time classic compositions. Frank? He'd sing in a booth, the recordings would be live, the orchestra would play, Frank would sing in his booth facing a small invited audience in the studio. Since first signing for Capitol, Frank had arrived at a point where he was well and truly, back! This is often considered a landmark LP, his masterpiece, if you will. I can't really argue with the professionalism, the vocals, the arrangements. But, I still the prefer that very human and touching 'Songs For Young Lovers' LP to this. I prefer it, slightly. I can't really go around saying that album is BETTER - I couldn't argue the fact very convincingly. Let's just say this particular album here is something to enjoy, yes - but more so something to admire. It's a difficult situation for me to come to terms with. A case of enjoying something more that you know isn't really better. It just says something to you emotionally to push it over the edge. Does that make sense? One song here that certainly does affect my emotions ( smooth transition! ) is the opening cut, 'You Make Me Feel So Young'. Frank doesn't sound especially youthful singing it - he sounds 'older' than 'Songs For Young Lovers', even though that record was recorded a mere two years prior to this. But, there's something about the song, the lyrics - the musical touches deft and light, full and imaginative. And yeah, the vocals are good. You know, what can you say? Humorous aside. Putting the CD in RealOne Player, it correctly identifies this as Frank Sinatra, 'Songs For Swingin Lovers' - but the genre chosen is interesting. Comes up as New Age! Yeah, dig that crazy new age Frank Sinatra!

    'It Happened In Monterey' sees Frank effortlessly soar above a rich sounding big band orchestra performance. This really swings and would sound great driving to or from a big city, late at night, with a girl by your side. This is music that paints pictures, much credit goes to Nelson Riddle, the arranger. Frank gets the vocal for 'You're Getting To Be A Habit With Me' just right, rising and dropping in all the correct places. 'Too Marvellous For Words' is a song more familiar to me sung by Billie Holiday. This version sounds completely different. Frank did make material his own. That's a rare talent in itself. 'Old Devil Moon', 'Pennies From Heaven', 'I've Got You Under My Skin' - classics all. I'd have placed the fun 'Makin Whoopee' as track ten at this point, and finished the album. There are another five songs here, and it sounds silly to say this album is too lengthy, or contains too many songs, when it's only forty five minutes long. Then again, that was a LONG album for 1956! And suddenly, the arrangements seem a little too rich, a little too much to take in one sitting. Still, a fine album. Oh, before I go. The brass section that comes in half way through 'Swingin Down The Lane' is fantastic!

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    Readers Comments

    Jim georgeomahony@yahoo.com
    I read that Nelson Riddle and his wife were on their way back from recroding the album (Songs for swinging lovers) when the record company requested 3 more songs! His wife drove all night while Nelson chose the extra songs and wrote all the arrangements for the orchestra by torchlight in the back of the car including the definitive version of Under my skin (it wasn't on the original album).

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    A Swingin' Affair( 1957 )
    Night And Day / I Wish I Were In Love Again / I Got Plenty O' Nuttin' / I Guess I'll Have To Change My Plans / Nice Work If You Can Get It / Stars Fell On Alabama / No One Ever Tells You / I Won't Dance / Lonesome Road / At Long Last Love / You'd Be So Nice To Come Home To / I Got It Bad And That Ain't Good / From This Moment On / If I Had You / Oh Look At Me Now

    'Songs For Swingin' Lovers' usually gets the plaudits, but I prefer this set of tunes. Nelson Riddle and Frank Sintra seem beautifully in unison with each other, both at the top of their game. If the material isn't always excellent, usually an arrangement will bring out something in each and every song here. I mean, I love Billie Holiday and she did 'Stars Fell On Alabama' and 'Night And Day', yet you have to say Frank makes both tunes his own. His performance on these two tracks in particular is bordering on perfection, especially his phrasing throughout the former. In addition to a largely upbeat set of jazz-swing, Sinatra as always has an eye towards pacing and album construction, thus the utterly perfect ballad 'No One Ever Tells You' pops up, 'No one ever tells you how it feels to be alone' sings Frank, as only he can. 'This Lonesome Road' is a little kooky with shuffling percussion, although ultimately, another masterclass of vocals plus band. I don't know what it was that put me off ever so slightly when listening to 'Songs For Swingin' Lovers' - ah yes - the arrangements being too rich. I know it's regarded impeccably, yet 'A Swingin' Affair' surely contains better work from Riddle? Even material such as the relatively slight 'You'd Be So Nice To Come Home To' gets the full Sinatra/Riddle makeover subsequently coming out of your speakers just as it should do, a happy dance before the dramatic quiet to loud of 'I Got It Bad'.

    What's funny is how the best Sinatra albums really drawn you in and take all your worries away. This is an album it's almost impossible not to be cheered up by. Coming from a severe suffering of depression some fifteen years standing, for me to say that is really quite something.

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    this page last updated 10/03/09


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