NOTE: Continuing with the Capitol Years, this next set finds Sinatra at the very top of his game, seesawing between some of the most brash, dancable swing ever recorded, and the darkly-hued ballads that haunted listeners long into the wee hours of the morning.  Sinatra stuck with Nelson Riddle mostly, but also worked succesfully with Gordon Jenkins and Billy May.  The results of those collaborations speak for themselves, with powerfully emotional one-of-a-kind albums that continue to stand the test of time. 

Close To You And More
Capitol 72435 33743 2 7 [CD]
Released 1957; CD Release January 8, 2002

1.Close to You (Hoffman/Lampl/Livingston) - 3:37
2.P.S. I Love You (Jenkins/Mercer) - 4:21
3.Love Locked Out (Kester/Noble) - 2:41
4.Everything Happens to Me (Adair/Dennis) - 3:20
5.It's Easy to Remember (Hart/Rodgers) - 3:34
6.Don't Like Goodbyes (Arlen/Capote) - 4:51
7.With Every Breath I Take (Rainger/Robin) - 3:38
8.Blame It on My Youth (Heyman/Levant) - 2:58
9.It Could Happen to You (Burke/VanHeusen) - 3:13
10.I've Had My Moments (Donaldson/Kahn) - 3:47
11.I Couldn't Sleep a Wink Last Night (Adamson/McHugh) - 3:25
12.The End of a Love Affair (Redding) - 4:11
13.If It's the Last Thing I Do (Cahn/Chaplin) - 4:00
14.There's a Flaw in My Flue (Burke/VanHeusen) - 2:41
15.Wait Till You See Her  performed by Sinatra / Hollywood String Quartet - 3:08

REVIEW:  Sinatra's most delicate album, quieter and more simple than anything he's ever laid down before, Close To You has an intimacy unlike any of his other albums due to the small chamber orchestra - sometimes just a string quartet accompanying him - which puts all Sinatra's vocals very close.  He sings softly, tenderly, and each song leans towards the menlancholy side of the scale.  While not having the emotional weight of "Wee Small Hours," "Close To You" quietly unfolds it's own charms.  The songs are all perfectly polished gems: with "Close To You" receiving another interpretation; "P.S. I Love You" perhaps the best realized reading, since it's subject matter - that of a lover writing a letter to his now-departed mate - benefits from the smaller-scale accompianment, giving the song a lonelier, bleaker tone.  On other songs, such as "It's Easy To Remember," a flute and harp give a pastoral tone to the song, as if the singer is walking through the country as he recalls his past.  Other songs also benefit from the small scale arrangements - "Don't Like Goodbyes" begins with a disturbing swirl of strings that echoes the emotional turmoil of the singer at a moment of parting. This is torch music at it's most seductive, and Frank manages to make even the awkward "There's A Flaw In My Flue" sound warm and compelling, and THAT takes talent.  A perfect dinner album, setting the mood like few can.


A Swingin' Affair! 
Capitol C2-94518 [CD];
Released 1957; CD Release September 8, 1998

1. Night and Day (Porter) - 3:58
2. I Wish I Were in Love Again (Hart/Rodgers) - 2:27
3. I Got Plenty O' Nuttin' (Gershwin/Gershwin/Heyward) - 3:09
4. I Guess I'll Have to Change My Plans (Dietz/Schwartz) - 2:23
5. Nice Work If You Can Get It (Gershwin/Gershwin) - 2:20
6. Stars Fell on Alabama (Parish/Perkins) - 2:37
7. No One Ever Tells You (Atwood/Coates) - 3:23
8. I Won't Dance (Fields/Hammerstein/Harbach/Kern/McHugh) - 3:21
9. Lonesome Road (Austin/Shilkret) - 3:53
10. At Long Last Love (Porter) - 2:23
11. You'd Be So Nice to Come Home To (Porter) - 2:03
12. I Got It Bad (And That Ain't Good) (Ellington/Webster) - 3:21
13. From This Moment On (Porter) - 3:50
14. If I Had You (Campbell/Connelly/Shapiro) - 2:35
15. Oh! Look at Me Now (Bushkin/DeVries) - 2:48
16. The Lady Is a Tramp [*] (Hart/Rodgers) - 3:14

REVIEW:  Sinatra's return to swing territory with Nelson Riddle finds him still atop the heap when it comes to picking songs.  Every song on A Swingin' Affair! is remade by Sinatra's interpretive gifts into a lightning-strike of effervescent fun and bounce.  Some fans even prefer this album over the more lauded Songs For Swingin' Lovers since it's song selection is more varied, while the quality remains as high as the previous album. Sinatra nearly bursts out of his buttons on each song: even on the gloomier sentiments of "I Guess I'll Have To Change My Plans" and "No One Ever Tells You," he hardly sounds like the heartbroken loser - on the contrary, he seems about as defiant and joyful as on "I Got Plenty O' Nuttin'" and the fiery "At Long Last Love." He chooses from the best songwriters there are: Gershwin on "Nice Work If You Can Get It" and the previously mentioned "Nuttin'"; Rogers & Hart with "I Wish I Were In Love Again" and included as a bonus track, the immortal "The Lady Is A Tramp"; Cole Porter checks in with "From This Moment On," "At Long Last Love," "You'd Be So Nice To Come Home To" and "Night and Day." (In fact Cole Porter's songs dominate, which may explain the cheeky tang this album has.) But the whole album gives a marvelous lift to the listener, and is highly recommended.

Where Are You?
Capitol CDP 33746 [CD];
Released 1957; CD  Release January 8, 2002


1. Where Are You? (Adamson/McHugh) - 3:30
2. The Night We Called It a Day (Adair/Dennis) - 3:28
3. I Cover the Waterfront (Green/Heyman) - 2:58
4. Maybe You'll Be There (Bloom/Gallop) - 3:07
5. Laura (Mercer/Raksin) - 3:28
6. Lonely Town (Bernstein/Comden/Green) - 4:12
7. Autumn Leaves (Kosma/Mercer/Prevert) - 2:52
8. I'm a Fool to Want You (Herron/Sinatra/Wolf) - 4:51
9. I Think of You (Elliott/Marcotte) - 3:04
10. Where Is the One? (Finckel/Wilder) - 3:13
11. There's No You (Adair/Hopper) - 3:48
12. Baby Won't You Please Come Home (Warfield/Williams) - 3:00
13. I Can Read Between the Lines [*] (Frank/Getzov) - 2:48
14. It Worries Me [*] (Reichner/Schulz/Sigman) - 2:53
15. Rain (Falling from the Skies) [*] (Finlay/Mellin) - 3:25
16. Don't Worry 'Bout Me [*] (Bloom/Koehler) - 3:08

REVIEW:  Where Are You? reveals Sinatra going in a darker direction on his ballads, with the introspection found of "In The Wee Small Hours" and "Close To You" giving way to more self-pity, and a sustained sense of world-weariness.  During the course of the album, Sinatra never allows his voice to rise above a soft croon, never letting the listener achieve any emotional cartharsis or release; so the songs play as one sad sigh: an unbearable lonliness that rejoices in its own miserable state.  Sinatra chose Gordon Jenkins to chart these songs for orchestra, and he does an inestimable job, letting the strings tremble and shudder; the wood instruments moan along in harmony with the singer.  If it sounds too desparing to listen to, it's not - Frank always lets us know that it's just him that hurting, and he's needs someone to talk to.  The listener becomes the sympathetic bartender; the best friend who lends a shoulder to cry on.  The orchestra, under Jenkin's baton becomes more of an orchestral color to each song, never trumpeting the singer's emotions, so that each song is a wash of mood, whispering and muttering to itself.  Of all the songs, "Laura" is the one that has the most sweeping sound, with its panoramic strings crying out like an old film score, but even that dies down to a whisper of regret and longing.  The CD fills out the running length with four appropriate bonus tracks, all arranged by Nelson Riddle and dating from 1953, but they're just the icing on the cake; Where Are You? is a potent brew all by its lonesome.


A Jolly Christmas From Frank Sinatra
Capitol 72435-21381-2-8 [CD];
Released 1957; CD Release August 24, 1999

1. Jingle Bells (Pierpont) - 2:00
2. The Christmas Song (Torme/Wells) - 3:28
3. Mistletoe and Holly (Sanicola/Sinatra/Stanford) - 2:18
4. I'll Be Home for Christmas (Gannon/Kent/Ram) - 3:11
5. The Christmas Waltz (Cahn/Styne) - 3:03
6. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas (Blane/Martin) - 3:29
7. The First Noel (Sandys) - 2:44
8. Hark! The Herald Angels Sing (Mendelssohn/Wesley) - 2:24
9. O Little Town of Bethlehem (Brooks/Redner) - 2:06
10. Adeste Fideles (Oakeley/Reading/Traditional) - 2:34
11. It Came Upon a Midnight Clear (Sears/Willis) - 2:51
12  Silent Night (Gruber/Mohr) - 2:31
13. White Christmas (Berlin) - 2:37
14. The Christmas Waltz [Alternate Version] (Cahn/Styne) - 3:01

REVIEW:  With the very first song, you can tell A Jolly Christmas is going to be a markedly different Christmas album from Frank, who'd released numerous Christmas singles over the years.  This is his first long-playing album however, and he brings the same polish and swing to this seasonal offering as his earlier albums on Capitol.  Listen to his scat his way through "Jingle Bells" with cool vocalists spelling it out in the background.  Gordon Jenkins is brought back again to conduct and orchestrate, and he lends an appropriately wintery sheen to each song, with sleighbells, trembling strings, and heavenly choirs.  Frank sings with complete conviction, not easing off on his trademark phrasing or mastery of breath control for an instant.  He pays his personal friend Mel Torme a compliment by covering his "The Christmas Song" with reverence; and Frank gets a composing nod in with the newly written "Mistletoe and Holly" which sounds like an instant classic, melodic, with a nod to childlike wonder.  The rest of the album cherry picks both sacred and secular pieces for a sure-to-please-everyone mix of classics.  The reissue also includes two bonus tracks arranged by Nelson Riddle which were released as singles: "White Christmas" and an alternate version of "The Christmas Waltz."  A perfect Christmas album, sure to set the mood when trimming the tree.


Come Dance With Me!
Capitol 72434 94754 2 7 [CD];
Released 1958; CD Release May 26, 1998

1. Come Dance With Me (Cahn/VanHeusen) - 2:31
2. Something's Gotta Give (Mercer) - 2:38
3. Just in Time (Comden/Green/Styne) - 2:24
4. Dancing in the Dark (Dietz/Schwartz) - 2:26
5. Too Close for Comfort (Bock/Holofcener/Weiss) - 2:34
6. I Could Have Danced All Night (Lerner/Loewe) - 2:40
7. Saturday Night (Is the Loneliest Night of... (Cahn/Styne) - 1:54
8. Day In - Day Out (Bloom/Mercer) - 3:25
9. Cheek to Cheek (Berlin) - 3:06
10. Baubles, Bangles and Beads (Forrest/Wright) - 2:46
11. The Song Is You (Hammerstein/Kern) - 2:43
12. The Last Dance (Cahn/VanHeusen) - 2:11
13. It All Depends on You [*] (Brown/DeSylva/Henderson) - 2:06
14. Nothing in Common [*] (Cahn/VanHeusen) - 2:32
15. The Same Old Song and Dance [*] (Cahn/VanHeusen/Worth) - 2:52
16. How Are Ya' Fixed for Love? [*] (Cahn/VanHeusen) - 2:25

REVIEW:  You'd think that after so many fine albums so far, that Sinatra would hit a bump somewhere, drop the ball, and release at least one clunker - but nope Come Dance With Me has, if anything, even more propulsive fun with each song.  Siantra's looser and more confident in his singing, and Billy May, who's the band leader for this turn out, is sharp and percussive - bringing a wild abandon to his orchestrations.  In fact, "Come Dance With Me" is probably the most energetic album Sinatra's made yet, and that's saying a lot!  This was one of Sinatra's most popular albums as well, staying on the album charts for two years, and it still sounds electric today. Billy turns up the brass on this album, with crazy solos bursting out on the title track and especially "Something's Gotta Give," which finds Frank shouting out "Let's tear it up!" at the end of the song, but it sounds like they've already passed that point. Sinatra swings more freely, with an almost absurd sense of timing which seems like he's going to leave the construct of the song entirely, but he always brings it back - in total control. I can't even pick a favorite track since they are all top notch swing. From the wonderful "Too Close For Comfort" (which would become a signature song for his close friend Sammy Davis, Jr.), to a spitfire remake of "Saturday Night (is the Lonliest Night) which he had already covered when he was at Columbia. Honestly, you can't go wrong with this album. A first pick, (along with all of the others.)


Frank Sinatra Sings For Only The Lonely
Capitol 33738 [CD]
Released 1958; CD Release May 26, 1998

1. Only the Lonely  performed by Sinatra / Nelson Riddle - 4:09
2. Angel Eyes  performed by Sinatra / Nelson Riddle - 3:44
3. What's New?  performed by Sinatra / Nelson Riddle - 5:12
4. It's a Lonesome Old Town  performed by Sinatra / Nelson Riddle - 4:16
5. Willow Weep for Me  performed by Sinatra / Nelson Riddle - 4:49
6. Goodbye  performed by Sinatra / Nelson Riddle - 5:45
7. Blues in the Night  performed by Sinatra / Nelson Riddle - 4:45
8. Guess I'll Hang My Tears Out to Dry  performed by Sinatra / Nelson Riddle - 4:02
9. Ebb Tide  performed by Sinatra / Nelson Riddle - 3:17
10. Spring Is Here  performed by Sinatra / Nelson Riddle - 4:46
11. Gone With the Wind  performed by Sinatra / Nelson Riddle - 5:15
12. One for My Baby (And One More for the...  performed by Sinatra / Nelson Riddle - 4:25
13. Sleep Warm [*]  performed by Sinatra / Nelson Riddle - 2:45
14. Where or When [*]  performed by Sinatra / Nelson Riddle - 2:25

REVIEW:  Considered by many critics to be Sinatra's masterpiece, Only The Lonely sums up every art that Frank had cultivated from his years of performing, and here he drenches every song with an overwhelming pathos.  Sinatra like to call these his "suicide songs," for good reason: each one is a monument to self-pity, from the emotional wreckage of "Ebb Tide" to the drown-in-your-sorrows lament "One For My Baby (And One More For The Road)," from the devastating title song to the bleak, left-out-in-the-cold irony of "Spring Is Here," Sinatra really twists in the screws to every breakup.  Listen to the vanishing point of "Angel Eyes," and you'll see why he used to close his shows with it: "excuse me, while I disappear..." makes for a remarkable parting shot.  Riddle's arrangments don't so much stand out and simply color each song; drifting from moment to moment in unobtrusive ways which allows Sinatra's voice to melt into the lyric.  In short, it shows off to best advantage what makes Sinatra such a successful and unmatched interpreter: his ability to become the person he's singing about.  He puts each song on like a glove, and is able to link into the character he's singing about, making the listener believe absolutely that it's Siantra who feels the way the song intends.  The album also has a natural flow to it that's reminiscent of a tone poem: a complete, natural work that hangs together as if each song was written for the single purpose of being here, rather than a patchwork of seperate songs by different authors. Only The Lonely is a marvelously complex, rich weaving of mood and music that stands as one of my favorite albums.

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