I - II - III - IV - V

NOTE: The Chairman of the Board recorded a monumental masterpiece on his 50th birthday in the autumnal September Of My Years, but that album also heralded the slow decay of Sinatra's place as a viable creative force.  While what followed contained some undeniably fine efforts, these alternated with albums which began to show Sinatra struggling for relevancy amid the ever-increasing proliferation of Rock 'n' Roll as well as the burgeoning trend of singer-songwriters who were eroding Sinatra's aging fan base.  Frank scaled back on Nelson Riddle during these years, and increasingly experimented with his sound.  Sinatra himself began to be the object of great respect during this period (and for the rest of his life), but his albums were becoming more and more anachronistic with the times.


September Of My Years 
Warner Brothers 46946 [CD];
August, 1965

1. The September of My Years (Cahn/VanHeusen) - 3:12
2. How Old Am I? (Gordon/Jenkins) - 3:30
3. Don't Wait Too Long (Skylar) - 3:04
4. It Gets Lonely Early (Cahn/VanHeusen) - 2:57
5. This Is All I Ask (Jenkins) - 3:03
6. Last Night When We Were Young (Arlen/Harburg) - 3:33
7. The Man in the Looking Glass (Howard) - 3:25
8. It Was a Very Good Year (Drake) - 4:25
9. When the Wind Was Green (Stinson) - 3:22
10. Hello, Young Lovers (Hammerstein/Rodgers) - 3:41
11. I See It Now (Engrick/Wilder) - 2:50
12. Once upon a Time (Adams/Strouse) - 3:30
13. September Song (Anderson/Weill) - 3:30

REVIEW:  Sinatra, probably smarting after the dual failures of Softly, As I Leave You and Sinatra '65, and approaching his 50th birthday - turned around from his explorations into contemporary songwriting and arrangements, and released this remarkable album that not only played to his strengths of interpretation and immaculate songcraft, but also set the stage for a new, darker tone from Sinatra that would carry him through the rest of the decade.  In what was the first of it's kind, Sinatra here explores aging, and although he was reportedly initially uncomfortable with exploring a subject so uncomfortably close to his own privately-held sentiments, he gave it his all, and delivered what some fans consider to be one of his very finest albums.  Each song is tinged with a wintery sadness as the singer, feeling the weight of years, searches his soul and finds himself lacking.  The songs are all gems, with some recent ones ("Once Upon A Time") mixed with ones that Sinatra had covered before ("Hello, Young Lovers"), but now with a weary veneer, courtesy of the smooth, smart arrangements of Gordon Jenkins, who lets the woodwinds and strings moan and cry with each nostalgic sentiment.  It's not hard to imagine that the fear, worry and uncertainty that Frank brings to each song is his own, given the changing times and his own age, but that gives the album a reality that his previous albums of the last several years have been lacking.  For sheer emotional power and conviction, September Of My Years is the equal of Only The Lonely of ten years earlier, and is an truly essential album in Frank's repetoire.

A Man And His Music
Reprise 1016 [LP] 1016-2 [CD];
Released November, 1965

1. Put Your Dreams Away (For Another Day) [Lowe, Mann, Weiss] 3:10
2. All or Nothing at All [Altman, Lawrence] 4:26
3. I'll Never Smile Again [Lowe] 2:49
4. There Are Such Things Adams, [Baer, Meyer] 2:57
5. I'll Be Seeing You [Fain, Kahal] 3:06
6. The One I Love (Belongs to Somebody Else) [Jones, Kahn] 3:03
7. Polka Dots and Moonbeams [Burke, VanHeusen] 4:46
8. Night and Day [Porter] 4:29
9. Oh! What It Seemed to Be [Benjamin, Carle, Weiss] 3:26
10. Soliloquy [Hammerstein, Rodgers] 8:19
11. Nancy (With the Laughing Face) [Silvers, VanHeusen] 4:21
12. The House I Live In [Lewis, Robinson] 4:40
13. From Here to Eternity [Karger, Wells] 2:44
14. Come Fly With Me [Cahn, VanHeusen] 2:13
15. (How Little It Matters) How Little We Know [Leigh, Springer] 2:29
16. Learnin' the Blues [Silvers] 2:31
17. In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning [Hilliard, Mann] 2:43
18. Young at Heart [Leigh, Richards] 3:51
19. Witchcraft  [Coleman, Leigh] 2:52
20. All the Way [Cahn, VanHeusen] 3:27
21. Love and Marriage [Cahn, VanHeusen] 1:29
22. I've Got You Under My Skin [Porter] 3:26
23. Ring-A-Ding Ding [Cahn, VanHeusen] 1:07
24. The Second Time Around [Cahn, VanHeusen] 2:13
25. The Summit  [Sinatra, Dean Martin ...] 5:20
26. The Oldest Established [Loesser] 2:09
27. Luck Be a Lady [Loesser]  2:25
28. Call Me Irresponsible [Cahn, VanHeusen] 2:45
29. Fly Me to the Moon [Howard]  2:30
30. Softly, As I Leave You [Calabrese, DeVita, Shaper] 2:57
31. My Kind of Town [Cahn, VanHeusen]  2:30
32. The September of My Years [Cahn, VanHeusen] 3:22

REVIEW: I've been confused about where to place this album for a long time, since on many discographies it's listed as a compilation album, merely a greatest-hits companion to the television special of the same name; but, of the 32 tracks included, twenty-two are new recordings, some of which were tracked beginning in 1963 - so this album has much more in common with say, Sinatra's Sinatra than a greatest hit compilation, and so I think it deserves a place in the pantheon of his regular LPs.  In many ways, it's unique in Sinatra's canon of music, as it stands as an extraordinarily personal look back at Frank's career; and most interestingly to fans, it contains a running commentary by Frank himself in revealing, funny, and occasionally surprising nods to each of the collaborators he's worked with in his career.  Although Frank pointedly ignores his start with Harry James, he fondly embraces the hits from his time with Dorsey, giving due reverence to the breathing and line techniques which he gleaned from Dorsey's trombone playing, and singing these songs in lush arrangments, which instead of being paler imitations of the originals, (like many on the previously mentioned Sinatra's Sinatra album), gain a tremendous weight and import from his world-weary voice, and become new experiences.  "Put Your Dreams Away," "Night and Day," "I'll Never Smile Again" and more of his earliest hits are given readings here which lend a previously unheard depth to the lyrics, which Sinatra's didn't possess in his youth, but here sings with all the mature powers of experience at his command.  In a way, listening to this album is like hearing Sinatra live in concert, finding him in a mellow, contemplative mood as he discusses his life and reflects on his successes.  To listen to him sing songs that he's loved and sung time and again and hear why he loves these songs is revelatory.  In particular, it's great to hear Frank's brauvara take on Rodgers & Hammerstein's "Soliloquy" which he'd sung many times before, but in this latest interpretation, he ramps up the emotion, and acts the song better than ever before.  It's one of those "chills up and down your spine" moments.  And while some have complained that the commentary becomes tiresome after one or two listens, I find the album richer because of it, and think this CD (which can only be found with the commentary in it's original form), is worth picking up.


Moonlight Sinatra
WEA International 927036 [CD];
Released March, 1966

1. Moonlight Becomes You (Burke/VanHeusen) - 2:50
2. Moon Song (Coslow/Johnston) - 3:05
3. Moonlight Serenade (Miller/Parish) - 3:30
4. Reaching for the Moon (Berlin) - 3:08
5. I Wished on the Moon (Parker/Rainger) - 2:56
6. Oh, You Crazy Moon (Burke/VanHeusen) - 3:15
7. The Moon Got in My Eyes (Burke/Johnston) - 2:54
8. Moonlight Mood (Adamson/DeRose) - 3:11
9. Moon Love (David/Davis/Kostelanetz) - 4:19
10. The Moon Was Yellow (Ahlert/Leslie) - 3:10

REVIEW:  For many fans, this Sinatra/Riddle album must've sounded very much like a return to form.  Although the concept of this "concept album" was slight - just a bunch of songs with the word "moon" in the title - the execution was perfect, and the album was probably the most romantic and tasteful the duo had produced in years.  Even the title is clever: a take on Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata."  Sinatra avoided an obvious choice in the song selection by ommitting "Moon River" (which he and Riddle had recorded a couple of years previously) in favor of some less recognizable songs: Irving Berlin's "Reaching For The Moon," with its string bass counterpoint; Sonny Burke's (who also produced this album) three inclusions: "Oh, You Crazy Moon," "The Moon Got In My Eyes," and the immortal "Moonlight Becomes You;" and the final trio of songs (including a clever Tchaikovsky take-off on "Moon Love") are all less than standards, but nevertheless suit this album to a "t" with their soft rhythms and cool strings.  Riddle's arrangements are as unobstrusive and fitting as ever, with his light and free touches leaving Sinatra plenty of room in which to stretch a lyric or bend a note.  Interestingly enough, half of these songs were previously recorded by Bing Crosby, making this CD a reverent homage of sorts.  Avaliable as part of the Complete Reprise Studio Recordings box set, or as an mp3 download, this album is worth tracking down by all Sinatra/Riddle fans.


Strangers In The Night
Warner Brothers 1017 [CD];
Released May, 1966

1. Strangers in the Night (Kaempfert/Singleton/Snyder) - 2:25
2. Summer Wind (Bradtke/Mayer/Mercer) - 2:53
3. All or Nothing at All (Altman/Lawrence) - 3:57
4. Call Me (Hatch) - 3:07
5. You're Driving Me Crazy! (Donaldson) - 2:15
6. On a Clear Day (You Can See Forever) (Lerner/Loewe) - 3:17
7. My Baby Just Cares for Me (Donaldson/Kahn) - 2:30
8. Downtown (Hatch) - 2:14
9. Yes Sir, That's My Baby (Donaldson/Kahn) - 2:08
10. The Most Beautiful Girl in the World (Hart/Rodgers) - 2:24

REVIEW:  After the release of a couple of compilation albums (My Kind Of Broadway and A Man And His Music), Sinatra accomplished a remarkable feat by topping the charts in 1966 with the title song of this album (in fact, the album was rush-recorded after the song was a hit.)  But it's also a notable album for a couple of other reasons: foremost in that it was the last album that features Nelson Riddle as the sole arranger/conductor.  For whatever reasons, Sinatra never chose to use Riddle as his main collaborator, despite their remarkable track record that by now had spanned thirteen years.  However, they would work on some one-off sessions in the 1970's, and also perform together live in concert.  The second notable aspect of Strangers In The Night was that the sound is the first time that Sinatra was able to successfully fuse contemporary sounds with his own style.  Riddle does this by subtly adding organ, percussion and other "rock" elements into his own string and horn instrumentation - so the arrangements aren't a sudden shifting of styles for Sinatra, but a gentle nudge in a more modern direction.  The songs too, are better suited to Sinatra's style, with a gentle "Summer Winds" and a shimmery "On A Clear Day (You Can See Forever)" as well as the driving "Downtown" all receiving sympathetic, energized reading from Sinatra.  My favorite tracks may be the swinging "All Or Nothing At All" which Frank gives a ferocious bounce, and the uptempo "The Most Beautiful Girl In The World" which benefits from the unusual, zippy tempo.  But other tracks sound only middling in their delivery, with "You're Driving Me Crazy," and "Yes Sir, That's My Baby" sounding off-kilter in the midst of an otherwise consistant and tasteful album.


Sinatra At The Sands
Warner Brothers 46947 [CD];
Released August, 1966


1. Come Fly With Me  - 3:45
2. I've Got a Crush on You  - 2:42
3. I've Got You Under My Skin  - 3:43
4. The Shadow of Your Smile  - 2:31
5. Street of Dreams  - 2:16
6. One for My Baby (And One More for the...  - 4:40
7. Fly Me to the Moon - 2:50
8. One O'Clock Jump  - :53
9. The Tea Break  - 11:48
10. You Make Me Feel So Young  - 3:21
11. All of Me  - 2:56
12. The September of My Years  - 2:57
13. Luck Be a Lady  - 4:40
14. Get Me to the Church on Time - 2:21
15. It Was a Very Good Year  - 4:01
16. Don't Worry 'Bout Me  - 3:18
17. Makin' Whoopee  - 4:24
18. Where or When - 2:46
19. Angel Eyes  - 3:26
20. My Kind of Town - 3:04
21. A Few Last Words  - 2:30
22. My Kind of Town (Reprise)  - 1:00

REVIEW:  Without doubt, Frank Sinatra was long overdue for a live album by the time Sands came out in 1966, but what a show to document!  Quincy Jones took the podium for this special concert at the Sands Casino in Las Vegas, leaving Sinatra and Basie to simply cut loose - and they do.  Transporting the listener to Rat Pack era when Frank would be at his swingin'est, finger-snapping best, telling racially inflammatory jokes that would get him thrown out of most places today, and just hittin' each song right outta the ballpark, Frank and Basie finally click on record, and it just doesn't get any better.  Frank sounds fine, a little gruff, but that just adds to the smoke and whisky flavor of the setting.  The songs are all standards, but he sings them with joy, affection, and a comfortable familiarity that never settles into perfunctory readings.  He tackles both the uptempo (an out-of-control pace on "Get Me To The Church," and a restored-to-CD version of "Luck Be A Lady") to a surprise or two (a dark, fitting interpretation of "September Of My Years"), and allows Basie and his band to go crazy a couple of times on their own.  Also restored to the running order is an 11-minute monlogue that shows just where Sinatra was at in 1966.  Ribald, raw and oh-so-Frank, it's essential listening.  But I can't say enough good about this album.  It's the definitive concert album, with everything that makes Sinatra an icon of the Twentieth Century right here on display for everyone to hear.  Absolutely essential.


That's Life!
WEA International 927039 [CD];
Released November, 1966

1. That's Life (Gordon/Thompson) - 3:10
2. I Will Wait for You (Demy/Gimbel/Legrand) - 2:19
3. Somewhere My Love (Lara's Theme) {From... (Jarre/Webster) - 2:19
4. Sand and Sea (Becaud/David/Vidalin) - 2:29
5. What Now, My Love? (Becaud/Leroyer/Sigman) - 2:32
6. Winchester Cathedral (Stephens) - 2:38
7. Give Her Love (Harbert) - 2:14
8. Tell Her (You Love Her Each Day) (Ward/Watkins) - 2:42
9. The Impossible Dream (Darion/Leigh) - 2:34
10. You're Gonna Hear from Me (Previn/Previn) - 2:57

REVIEW:  I'm going to step away from the pack of popular opinion on That's Life and say out loud that I like this album a lot!  The title track is one of the hardest R&B numbers Sinatra's ever tackled, with almost autobiographical lyrics ("I've been a puppet, a poet, a pauper, a pirate, a pawn and a king; I've been up and down and over and out and I know one thing: Each time I find myself flat on my face I pick myself up and get back in the race.") and it really kicks, with arranger Ernie Freeman's charts hot with trumpets and drums.  I would've loved to have Sinatra record an entire album of this kind of material, but the album reaches into other areas as well, from the treacly "Somewhere My Love (Laura's Theme)" to the bombast of "The Impossible Dream," this album shows that Sinatra was still reaching out for new ideas, and new ways to catch the audiences ear.  Unfortunately the music is pretty low-brow, with lots of mindless repetition in the lyrics, and arrangements that you might expect to hear coming from Engelbert Humperdink instead of The Chairman Of The Board.  I mean, "Winchester Cathedral?!?"  But it's still an interesting album, with Frank apparently feeling like he can do no wrong, and the unbridled power of his voice makes up for a lot (even the dreck of "I Will Wait For You.")  If you can put away your preconceptions about how Sinatra should sound, then you might find some real fun in That's Life.  Worth checking out if you're wanting something different.


Francis Albert Sinatra & Antonio Carlos Jobim
Warner Brothers 46948 [CD];
Released March, 1967

1. The Girl From Ipanema - 3:13
2. Dindi - 3:25
3. Change Partners - 2:40
4. Quiet Nights Of Quiet Stars - 2:45
5. Meditation - 2:51
6. If You Never Come To Me - 2:10
7. How Insensitive - 3:15
8. I Concentrate On You - 2:32
9. Baubles, Bangles And Beads - 2:32
10. Once I Loved - 2:37

REVIEW:  One of the things that made Sinatra so successful as an artist is that he was able to reinvent himself over and over again, incorporating new sounds without alienating his core audience.  For this album he teamed with Antonio Carlos Jobim, a successful singer/songwriter who had scored hits in the United States with "How Insensitive" and "The Girl From Ipanema."  For this collection, those two songs, plus four others of Jobim's, were combined with three others ("Baubles, Bangles and Beads," "Change Partners," and "I Concentrate on You") and arranged into a program of light bossa-nova, courtesy of arranger/conducter Claus Ogerman.  Jobim is present on background vocals and guitar, but this is Sinatra's album all the way, and it's a smash!  Sinatra whispers his way through the vocals in a way never fully explored before, and Ogerman's arrangments, utilizing muted brass, sensuous strings, and soft, percolating percussion all create an exotic soundscape that ebbs and flows from song to song.  The LP runs very short, less than 30 minutes, but that's a perfect time for the listener to become mesmerized by the perfectly-crafted minatures that each track becomes.  This album isn't one that reaches out and grabs the listener by the throat, or wrenches their emotions with heartbreak, but repeated listenings confirm that Sinatra has successfully transformed himself again, and this album rewards the listener who takes the time to listen and meditate with it.


The World We Knew
WEA International 927043 [CD];
Released August, 1967

1. The World We Knew (Over and Over) (Kaempfert/Rehbein/Sigman) - 2:47
2. Somethin' Stupid (Parks) - 2:35
3. This Is My Love (Harbert) - 3:30
4. Born Free (Barry/Black) - 2:02
5. Don't Sleep in the Subway (Hatch/Trent) - 2:22
6. This Town (Hazlewood) - 3:06
7. This Is My Song (Chaplin) - 2:26
8. You Are There (Sukman/Webster) - 3:27
9. Drinking Again (Mercer/Tauber) - 3:10
10. Some Enchanted Evening (Hammerstein/Rodgers) - 2:35

REVIEW:  The only times that Sinatra really sounded like a fish out of water was when he dipped his toe into rock 'n' roll.  From the awkwardness of "From The Bottom To The Top" during his Capitol years to the mis-steps heard on That's Life Sinatra continually shows his willingness to experiment with rock stylings that repeatedly reveal how ill-suited they were to his talents.  On The World We Knew, the most blatant displays of this experimentation show up, from the inane slush of "Somethin' Stupid" (an extremely appropos title) to the over-the-top sentiments of "Born Free;" from the fuzz-guitar laced histrionics of the title track to the syrupy pap of "You Are There," this album shows that when it came to contemporary sounds, Sinatra was out of his element.  Part of the problem lies in the patchwork of arrangers who were commissioned for this project: Nancy's producer Lee Hazlewood, Billy Strange, Ernie Freeman, Don Costas, and Gordon Jenkins each bring a distinctly different sound to each track, creating nothing approaching a cohesive album.  Some tracks fare better than others: a remarkably sensitive, piano-driven "Drinking Again" is one of the best things Frank recorded during the latter half of the sixties; and the down and dirty R&B of "This Town" shows Sinatra's "bad boy" image off to good effect.  But you know something's wrong when Sinatra sleepwalks his way through the big, juicy bombast of "Some Enchanted Evening," and overall this album is a sporadically interesting mess.


Francis A. & Edward K.
Warner Brothers 1024 [CD];
Released January, 1968

1.   Follow Me [From Camelot] - 3:56
2.   Sunny  - 4:15
3.   All I Need Is the Girl [From Musical Gypsy] - 5:01
4.   Indian Summer - 4:14
5.   I Like the Sunrise - 5:02
6.   Yellow Days - 5:00
7.   Poor Butterfly - 4:29
8.   Come Back to Me [From On a Clear Day You Can See Forever] - 3:22

REVIEW:  This highly-anticipated pairing of Sinatra and "Duke" Ellington was a bust on the charts, and listening to it, I can see why - it's a dull recording.  Ellington's band sounds muted and detached, and Frank never connects with the songs.  Although by now Frank was focusing on more pop-oriented material, there are enough good songs on here to make it work: Bobby Hebb's "Sunny," which is one of the best songs here, sung tenderly by Sinatra, and "Indian Summer" (Ellington's only tune included) is lovely; but this album should swing, and it never even gets up to running speed, much less off the ground.  It's the prototypical somnabulist sleep-walker of an album, with most everything plodding along at the pace of an dead horse.  Even a song as happy as "All I Need Is the Girl" feels dull and listless.  What's really surprising is that Billy May wrote the arrangements, and if anyone knows how to jump 'n' jive, it's him!  Urgh.  Lots of fans enjoy this album for it's "elegant" nature, but for me, I'd rather listen to something with some meat to it, be it swing or saloon songs, anything rather than this half-hearted exercise in redundancy.

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