title
THE REPRISE YEARS I (1960-1962)
I - II - III - IV - V


NOTE:  When Sinatra formed Reprise records in 1960, he envisioned it as a safe harbor for both himself and his friends.  Too long he had labored under the whips of other masters at Columbia and Capitol; this time it was going to be all for him.  He sang what he wanted to sing, brought in who he wanted to work with, and in so doing, reshaped his image once again: this is the "don't-mess-with-me" Chairman Of The Board, the rat-packin' finger-snappin' bar-hoppin' hard-drinking undisputable King of Sin City.  And Sinatra started it all off with a bang like the shot heard 'round the world.

The Complete Reprise Studio Recordings
Warner Brothers 47045 [CD];
Released October 20, 1998


 
  • Contains 20 CD's - the complete studio recordings sequenced in chronological order.
  • Numerous unreleased tracks, including alternate takes, unreleased songs, and rarities.
  • Hardbound book with extensive notes, discography and photographs.
  • Attractive slimline case.
  • Digitally remastered from master tapes.
  • Click here for the complete track listing.

REVIEW:  Both an extremely important and deeply flawed box set, The Complete Reprise Studio Recordings is a monument to the final significant phase of Sinatra's career, and at the same time, reveals how much Sinatra had to compromise in his career both artistically and professionally.  There were two versions of this set produced: the massively overpriced leather trunk with housed twenty CD's in individual cases, and the streamlined box which fit everything into a shelf-sized unit with the CD's couched in two book-sized sleeves.  The booklet and sound are identical in both sets, so the only selling point on the leather case is if you're really into the whole leather thing (you know who you are.)  The set is essential for completists for it contains numerous never-before released rarities, good sound, and of course, completeness (with a few exceptions), and among the hundreds of tracks are many that are fantastic - and that no fan of pop music should be without.  But the compiling of this set poses a major difficulty: the selections are sequenced chronologically by recording date, which breaks up the original albums, changes their running order, and often breaks up the mood set by the LP releases.  So albums like Watertown which tells a story in it's song sequence, is broken up; however, other albums like September Of My Years, and the "Future" section of Trilogy are kept in their original running order; so there is no consistancy in the set.  The music is both essential and trite, with some brilliant albums (Ring-A-Ding Ding, Watertown, Sinatra & Swingin' Brass, Moonlight Sinatra to name just a few) rubbing elbows with such dreck as Cycles and A Man Alone.  And Warner Brothers, in spending so much on the leather trunk, really skimped on the presentation of the booklet and discs, with black and white photos only (even of the album covers!) and (in the trunk) ugly two-tone brown CD inserts.  Fans will slobber of this set of course, but I would recommend beginners to purchase the fine individual CD's of this era before deciding to buy this.  Here's a rundown on Sinatra's Reprise albums:


 

Ring-A-Ding Ding!
Warner Brothers 46933 [CD];

Released March, 1961


 
1. Ring-A-Ding Ding (Cahn/VanHeusen) - 2:44
2. Let's Fall in Love (Arlen/Koehler) - 2:11
3. Be Careful, It's My Heart (Berlin) - 2:04
4. A Foggy Day (Gershwin/Gershwin) - 2:17
5. A Fine Romance (Fields/Kern) - 2:11
6. In the Still of the Night (Porter) - 3:25
7. The Coffee Song (They've Got an Awful Lot... (Hilliard/Miles) - 2:51
8. When I Take My Sugar to Tea (Connor/Fain/Kahal) - 2:05
9. Let's Face the Music and Dance (Berlin) - 2:58
10. You'd Be So Easy to Love (Porter) - 2:24
11. You and the Night and the Music (Dietz/Schwartz) - 2:36
12. I've Got My Love to Keep Me Warm (Berlin) - 2:52
13. Zing! Went the Strings of My Heart [*] (Hanley) - 2:48
14. Last Dance [*] (Cahn/VanHeusen) - 2:46
15. Second Time Around [*] (Cahn/VanHeusen) - 3:03

REVIEW:  Sinatra bounds out of the starting gate of his own label with this clarion call of an album.  Absolutely ripping to shreds any doubt that he is still "The Chairman Of The Board," Frank sounds invogorated here, with Johnny Mandel conducting and (mostly) arranging each track in spectacular fashion.  Where Nelson Riddle generally got out of the way of Sinatra's singing, Mandel and Sinatra fight for space, with the arrangements busy and filled to the brim.  It creates a remarkable tension on each song as Frank and the orchestra seem to duel it out.  Frank has never sounded brasher, or more confident: from the Sammy Cahn/Jimmy VanHeusen penned title track which rings with bells both orchestral and lyrical, to the runaway gallop of "The Coffee Song," to the meat-and-potatoes swagger of "Let's Fall In Love," this shows that Sinatra is in full force, with enough energy to bounce listeners around the room.  Sinatra may seem a wee bit too cocky in some places, sacrificing the lyric for the clenched-teeth joy of the music, but it's all so invigorating and intoxicating, that I can't help but be swept up in it every time I listen.  Sinatra barely takes a breather even on the slower numbers, with "In The Still Of The Night" and "A Foggy Day" receiving remarkably phrased readings short on nuance, but long on style.  This is Sinatra reborn... ring-a-ding ding indeed!


 

Swing Along With Me (aka Sinatra Swings)
Warner Brothers 47242 [CD];
Released July, 1961


 
1. Falling in Love With Love (Hart/Rodgers) - 1:49
2. The Curse of an Aching Heart (Fink/Piantadosi) - 2:06
3. Don't Cry Joe (Let Her Go, Let Her Go, Let (Marsala) - 3:05
4. Please Don't Talk About Me When I'm Gone (Clare/Stept) - 2:56
5. Love Walked In (Gershwin/Gershwin) - 2:19
6. Granada (Dodd/Lara) - 3:38
7. I Never Knew (Fio Rito/Kahn) - 2:14
8. Don't Be That Way (Goodman/Parish/Sampson) - 2:41
9. Moonlight on the Ganges (Myers/Wallace) - 3:18
10. It's a Wonderful World (Adamson/Savitt/Watson) - 2:17
11. Have You Met Miss Jones? (Hart/Rodgers) - 2:30
12. You're Nobody 'Til Somebody Loves You (Cavanaugh/Morgan/Stock) - 4:09

REVIEW:  Frank Sinatra and Billy May collaborate again on Sinatra's umpteenth swing album, and it seems like the material is in need of a second look.  Oh - make no mistake, Billy's still got his writing chops - the frenetic "I Never Knew" kicks in with his signature hot trumpet licks, and the easy mid-tempo swing of "Falling In Love With Love" is right where it should be, and even "Curse Of The Aching Heart" sounds like a match for the similarly-themed "(Love Is) The Tender Trap" in this setting. But on the flip side you have the turgid "Don't Cry Joe," which doesn't really fit on a swing album, and the forgettable "Moonlight On The Ganges" has stayed out of the canon of popular favorites for a very good reason.  Swing Along With Me is a good album, but it feels like the songs are stretched a little thin - as if Sinatra didn't want to revisit the old masters, but then, who else is there?  There are two Rodgers & Hart songs, and one Gershwin tune, but the rest are picked from here and there - certainly not grand masters of American music; and perhaps because the material is less than A-list, Sinatra's doesn't exhibit the same fierce joy that he has on earlier albums.  You probably won't notice if you don't play it side by side with Come Dance With Me, but if you do compare, you can't help but notice that "Swing Along" feels a little bloodless.  But it's still worth snapping up for "Granada," "Have You Met Miss Jones?" and the popular "You're Nobody 'Til Somebody Loves You."


 

I Remember Tommy
Warner Brothers 46969 [CD];
Released October, 1961


 
1. I'm Getting Sentimental over You (Bassman/Washington) - 3:42
2. Imagination (Burke/VanHeusen) - 3:05
3. There Are Such Things (Adams/Baer/Meyer) - 3:13
4. East of the Sun (And West of the Moon) (Bowman) - 3:24
5. Daybreak (Adamson/Grofe) - 2:43
6. Without a Song (Eliscu/Rose/Youmans) - 3:39
7. I'll Be Seeing You (Fain/Kahal) - 2:49
8. Take Me (Bloom/David) - 2:19
9. It's Always You (Burke/VanHeusen) - 2:49
10. Polka Dots and Moonbeams (Burke/VanHeusen) - 3:43
11. It Started All over Again (Carey/Fischer) - 2:32
12. The One I Love (Belongs to Somebody Else) (Jones/Kahn) - 2:48
13. In the Blue of Evening [#] (Adair/DArtega) - 4:03
14. I'm Getting Sentimental over You (Reprise) (Bassman/Washington) - :49

REVIEW:  First, shouldn't this album have been subtitled: "...and he was a crook!" (at least for truth in advertising...)   But seriously, it seems strange for Sinatra to record an album in memory of Dorsey when the feelings between the two were so publicly confrontational, but Frank was never one to hold a grudge (oh, wait...) anyway - so Sinatra goes back and revisits songs that both Dorsey and himself made famous, with fine, predictable results.  He doesn't exactly reinvent the wheel with the songs, and that's a shame, since otherwise the album sounds like an older, more experienced Frank riffing on the old songs - not a bad thing, mind you, but nothing to write home about.  In fact, for my tastes, Frank sounds too sentimental here; the old chestnuts like "Polka Dots and Moonbeams" and "East Of The Sun (And West Of The Moon)" - despite Sinatra's involved readings - sound old-fashioned.  I would have loved to have sic'ed Neal Hefti or Billy May on these charts and watch them crank 'em up a notch or two, but Frank seems content to have arranger Sy Oliver treat them as reverentially as a piece by Rachmaninov.  I'm not one to begrudge Sinatra a look back, but Reprise was all about looking forward, and this feels like watching a fine automobile going in reverse.  Fine and good - it's exactly what you might expect, Frank singing the old songs for sentimental reasons, with his incredible phrasing and juicy orchestrations - I just think a catfight or two would have made it all more interesting.


 

Sinatra & Strings
Warner Brothers 46970 [CD];
Released February, 1962


 
1. I Hadn't Anyone Till You (Noble) - 3:44
2. Night and Day (Porter) - 3:37
3. Misty (Burke/Garner) - 2:41
4. Stardust (Carmichael/Parish) - 2:48
5. Come Rain or Come Shine (Arlen/Mercer) - 4:06
6. It Might as Well Be Spring (Hammerstein/Rodgers) - 3:15
7. Prisoner of Love (Columbo/Gaskill/Robin) - 3:50
8. That's All (Brandt/Haymes) - 3:21
9. All or Nothing at All (Altman/Lawrence) - 3:43
10. Yesterdays (Harbach/Kern) - 3:45
11. As You Desire Me [#/*] (Wrubel) - 2:52
12. Don't Take Your Love from Me [*] (Nemo) - 4:05

REVIEW:  Ahhh, this is more like it!  Sinatra singing great songs, with a fresh, yet familiar twist that makes it all sound new again.  Don Costa, who had achieved his biggest successes with Paul Anka, was brought in for the first time to create a dreamy soundscape using a large string orchestra, and Sinatra sounds heavenly crooning along to standards like Cole Porter's "Night And Day," "Misty," "Come Rain Or Come Shine," and Rodgers & Hammerstein's "It Might As Well Be Spring."   It's obvious that the choice of material is what can make or break a Sinatra album; he's such a good interpreter that only the best material really challenges him.  His phrasing and breath control are in full bloom here, with long, languid lines (howzzat for alliteration?) sweeping the listener along on Costa's serene river of strings and woodwinds.  Although the sound and overall vibe is similar to Sinatra's work with Alex Stordahl while they were at Columbia, Sinatra's deeper, richer voice, and sophisticated maturity brings new layers of meaning to even these well-worn songs, and he sings with such finesse and commitment that everything old sounds new again.  In fact, he even revisits one of the first songs that he recorded with Harry James: "All Or Nothing At All," which recieves a grand, passionate reading here.  A great, romantic album that bears repeated listenings.



Sinatra And Swingin' Brass
Warner Brothers 46971 [CD];
Released July, 1962


 
1. Goody Goody (Malneck/Mercer) - 1:47
2. They Can't Take That Away from Me (Gershwin/Gershwin) - 2:41
3. At Long Last Love (Porter) - 2:14
4. I'm Beginning to See the Light (Ellington/George/Hodges/James) - 2:34
5. Don'cha Go 'Way Mad (Jacquet/Mundy/Stillman) - 3:12
6. I Get a Kick Out of You (Porter) - 3:14
7. Tangerine (Mercer/Schertzinger) - 2:03
8. Love Is Just Around the Corner (Gensler/Robin) - 2:27
9. Ain't She Sweet (Ager/Yellen) - 2:07
10. Serenade in Blue (Gordon/Warren) - 2:58
11. I Love You (Archer/Thompson) - 2:16
12. Pick Yourself Up (Fields/Kern) - 2:33
13. Everybody's Twistin' (Bloom/Koehler) - 2:31
14. Nothing But the Best (Rotella) - 3:00
15. You Brought a New Kind of Love to Me (Fain/Kahal/Norman) - 2:38

REVIEW:  This is the album that finally "turned me on" to Sinatra, so I may be a wee bit biased, but I just have to say that this album ROCKS!  Orchestrated by Neal Hefti (famed for his much-lauded theme for the campy 1966 "Batman" TV series), and apparently recorded while Sinatra was fighting a bad cold, Swingin' Brass has a kick and blaze of sound that is as potent as anything on the similarly roaring Ring-A-Ding Ding.  The album blasts into orbit with the ferocious diatribe of "Goody-Goody" - chronicling a biting reparte between two disaffected lovers, before swinging into a grinning romp of "They Can't Take That Away From Me," and the let-it-all-hang-out belting of my favorite song on the album: Cole Porter's "At Long Last Love."  Then it settles down a little into the mid-tempo hustle of "I'm Beginning To See The Light," and it's mirror image: "Don'tcha Go 'Way Mad" with Frank trying to cool down a lover who has discovered an infidelity.  Frank kicks away at a hard-swinging version of "I Get A Kick Out Of You," squeezes out the best from "Tangerine," and clicks into a groove during the walking tempo of "Love Is Just Around The Corner."  Perhaps it's because of his cold while this was being laid down, but Sinatra seems to bite off the words a bit more here, giving the entire album a brass-knuckle attitude that knocks me out every time.  Quite simply one of my favorite albums, and a lot of fun.


 

Sinatra And Sextet: Live In Paris
Warner Brothers 45487 [CD];
Released March 22, 1994


 
1. Introduction - Charles Aznavour 
2. Goody Goody
3. Imagination
4. At Long Last Love
5. Moonlight in Vermont
6. Without a Song
7. Day In - Day Out
8. I've Got You Under My Skin
9. I Get a Kick Out of You
10. Second Time Around
11. Too Marvelous for Words
12. My Funny Valentine
13. In the Still of the Night
14. April in Paris
15. You're Nobody Till Somebody Loves You
16. They Can't Take That Away from Me
17. Chicago
18. Night and Day
19. I Could Have Danced All Night
20. One for My Baby (And One More for the Road)
21. Foggy Day
22. Ol' Man River
23. Lady Is a Tramp
24. I Love Paris
25. Nancy (With the Laughing Face)
26. Come Fly With Me

REVIEW:  Though recorded in 1962, shortly after the release of Sinatra and Swingin' Brass album, Live In Paris wasn't released until 1994, although I don't know why.  Sinatra was touring at the time with a small jazz combo, which seemed to set Sinatra free on many numbers, he really swings here, with loose phrasing and finger-snapping attitude spilling off the stage.  Unfortunately captured only in mono sound, it sonically doesn't have the snap and sparkle of the Sands recording, but it's still a hot set, with Sinatra swinging the daylights out of "I Get A Kick Out Of You," "Too Marvelous For Words," "Lady Is A Tramp" and the biting "Goody Goody."  He also takes the house lights down for somber readings of "Moonlight In Vermont," "April In Paris," and "Ol' Man River" (after which he insensitively says "that's for Sammy Davis Jr.'s people.")  Ah, well.  This is Frank in the 60's when what he said made as many headlines as what he sang.  Aside from the bad jokes, this is a great document of the times, and if Reprise kept pumping out live albums of Frank into the market, I for one won't be complaining.  Recommended.


Great Songs From Great Britain
WEA International 45219 [CD];
Released October, 1962


 
1.   The Very Thought of You (Noble) - 3:34
2.   We'll Gather Lilacs in the Spring (Novello) - 3:15
3.   If I Had You (Campbell/Connelly/Shapiro) - 4:07
4.   Now Is the Hour (Kaihan/Scott/Stewart) - 2:51
5.   The Gypsy (Reid) - 3:21
6.   Roses of Picardy (Weatherly/Wood) - 3:01
7.   A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square (Maschwitz/Sherwin) - 3:54
8.   A Garden in the Rain (Dyrenforth/Gibbons) - 3:24
9.   London by Night (Coates) - 3:20
10.   We'll Meet Again (Charles/Parker) - 3:44
11.   I'll Follow My Secret Heart (Coward) - 3:16

REVIEW:  Popular sentiment among fans has been that this is a poor album; that Sinatra disliked it so much that it was only made available in England for many years; and that he's in shockingly poor voice.  More recently, Sinatra apologists have claimed that this is a lost classic, unfairly dismissed, and worthy of a second appraisal.  The truth?  Somewhere in between.  To be honest, this isn't a great album, although it's a curious concept for Sinatra to tackle.  Recorded in England during a strenuous tour, the album is exactly what it claims to be - a whole platter devoted to British composers, and particularly songs about Great Britain (A Nightingale Sang In Berkeley Square," "London By Night," "Roses Of Picardy.")  Sinatra does seem to take it easy on the recording, never really stepping up to the plate to deliver a home run - but these aren't belters anyway - arranger and Canadian-born bandleader Robert Farnon wrote some truly delicious charts that have a grand sweep and charm to them, and Frank just floats along with it, delivering beautiful phrasing, so that the album has a pastoral shimmer to it that's very appealing, in a detached sort of way.  I think the biggest problem is that Frank never connects with the songs; it's his first "Big Concept" record, where the idea sounded good on paper, but in practice, there was nothing for Sinatra to sink his teeth into.  Frank always sounded more at home singing sad saloon songs than trying to interact with upper-crust Anglophiles, and on Songs From Great Britain you can hear why.  Still, a good album, and a curious sidenote in Sinatra's discography.


All Alone (October, 1962) 
WEA International 927022 [CD];
Released October, 1962


 
1.   All Alone (Berlin) - 2:42
2.   The Girl Next Door (Blane/Martin) - 3:18
3.   Are You Lonesome Tonight? (Handman/Turk) - 3:31
4.   Charmaine (Pollack/Rapee) - 3:17
5.   What'll I Do? (Berlin) - 3:15
6.   When I Lost You (Berlin) - 3:43
7.   Oh, How I Miss You Tonight (Burke/Davis/Fisher) - 3:21
8.   Indiscreet (Cahn/VanHeusen) - 3:52
9.   Remember (Berlin) - 3:23
10.   Together (Brown/DeSylva/Henderson) - 3:21
11.   The Song Is Ended (Berlin) - 3:25
12.   Come Waltz With Me [*] (Cahn/VanHeusen) - 2:53

REVIEW:  Another curious, and more successful "half-concept" album released by Sinatra the same month as Great Songs From Great Britain.  The conceit for All Alone was to choose songs that all shared a 3/4 time signature - in essence a series of waltzes, and since waltzes are traditionally songs of love and longing (the 3/4 time signature musically representing the heartbeat), the songs selected also wove a sonic tapestry similar to In The Wee Small Hours and Where Are You? Gordon Jenkins, who had a strong classical streak running through the ballad charts that he wrote with Sinatra, is the perfect choice here, with echoes of Faure and Rachmaninov running through the arrangements.  All Alone a soft, stately album, mixing standards (including four songs by Irving Berlin) and more modern fare (with two songs by chums Sammy Cahn & Jimmy VanHeusen), yet it never feels like a series of old-fashioned waltzes due to Sinatra's canny phrasing, which stretches and molds each song into an immaculate dance.  All Alone is a tremendously romantic album, with a poignancy that hearkens back to Sinatra's most blue albums.  Gordon Jenkins includes some wonderful flourishes, like the cascading melody offset by plucked strings on "Charmaine," or the threatening cello line that opens "When I Lost You" which sets an ideal mood of misery.  But the whole album is gorgeous, and highly recommended, but unfortunately only available in the Complete Reprise Studio Recordings box, mp3 download, or as an import for fans in the U.S.


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