title
THE REPRISE YEARS IV (1969-1971)
I - II - III - IV - V

NOTE: This is where is all begins to fall apart.  With decreasing control over what material he can sing, Sinatra begins to fall into turgid covers of mediocre songs, increasingly pop-oriented arrangements that lack any of the emotional depth that an orchestra brings to the fore, and his voice is beginning to age as well, lacking the elasticity and range that he once had.  Still, there is much good here, but it's becoming more and more apparent that Sinatra is losing the mastery over his recordings that he once had  After the release of Sinatra & Company, Frank officially announced his professional retirement.

The Sinatra Family Wish You A Merry Christmas
Artanis Records 103 [CD];
Released September, 1969


 
1. I Wouldn't Trade Christmas - 2:55
2. It's Such a Lonely Time of Year  performed by Sinatra, Nancy Jr - 4:38
3. Some Children See Him Peformed by Frank Sinatra Jr. - 2:59
4. O Bambino (One Cold and Blessed Winter)  - 2:59
5. The Bells of Christmas (Greensleeves) [Greensleves]  - 3:41
6. Whatever Happened to Christmas? (Webb) - 3:05
7. Santa Claus Is Coming to Town  performed by Tina Sinatra - 2:35
8. Kids  performed by Sinatra, Nancy Jr. - 3:01
9. The Christmas Waltz (Cahn/Styne) - 3:12
10. The Twelve Days of Christmas  - 4:26

REVIEW:  I know lots of Sinatra fans love this kitchy album as a product of its times, but as music, it's very, very lame.  Even with Nelson Riddle taking the reigns, this album holds limited interest for music fans, and even less interest for Frank Sinatra fans.  With Nancy, Tina, and Frank Jr. all in tow, Frank himself is featured on only two tracks, soloing on "Whatever Happened To Christmas?" and "The Christmas Waltz," while the rest of the album has his kids warbling along to a thick choir, or doing overly cutesy versions of "The Twelve Days Of Christmas" (with Frank appearing only on the twelth day.)  Honestly, it sounds less like a Frank Sinatra outing and more like Christmas with... the Osmonds.  I mean, if the sparkling white polyester on the front cover doesn't tip you off that the Rat Pack days are over, the music inside certainly will.  Nelson's orchestrations are all sufficiently schmaltzy to make you forget that he was ever the king of subtlety, and listening to Tina warble her way through "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town," or to hear Frank Jr. ape his father on "Some Children See Him" is pretty painful, but for those who enjoy their Christmas music extra chirpy (and there is a lot of period nostalgia here for old-timers), then this album is for you.  For the rest of you - you've been warned.


 

Cycles
WEA International 927048 [CD];
Released November, 1968


 
1. Rain in My Heart (Pike/Randazzo) - 3:20
2. Both Sides Now (Mitchell) - 2:55
3. Little Green Apples (Russell) - 5:00
4. Pretty Colors (Gorgoni/Taylor) - 2:35
5. Cycles (Caldwell/Caldwell) - 3:07
6. Wandering (Caldwell) - 2:45
7. By the Time I Get to Phoenix (Webb) - 3:55
8. Moody River (Bruce) - 2:33
9. My Way of Life (Kaempfert/Rehbein/Sigman) - 3:05
10. Gentle on My Mind (Hartford) - 3:25

REVIEW:  It kills me when I go to online music stores and see that some jokers have given this album four-and-a-half or five stars, like it's at all comparable with Sinatra's best albums.  It's not.  Easily one of his weakest, most dispensible albums, Cycles has long been vilified by long-time fans for good reasons.  The songs are nothing but the everyday fluff that was showing on the radio regularly at this time.  We have a couple of Glen Campbell covers, ("Gentle On My Mind" and "By The Time I Get To Phoenix") a Judy Collins cover ("Both Sides Now") and some truly dated period songs like "Little Green Apples" and "Pretty Colors" which might make a buyer think that this album is comparable with the soft-spoken Sinatra - Jobim album; but that record had style, and something different - here Sinatra sounds like a Gordon Lightfoot wanna-be!  That's how far the mighty have fallen.  Don Costa's arrangements are perfunctory, but nothing here is heart-felt or worthwhile for music fans the entire album feels like filler, with Sinatra giving it his best, but you can't get blood from a turnip, and this album badly needed an infusion of good songwriting and competent arrangements.  One of the last albums I would recommend you seek out.


 

My Way
Warner Brothers 1029 [CD]; Concord Records 
Released 1969, Reissued May 9, 2009


 
1. Watch What Happens (Gimbel/Legrand) - 2:17
2. Didn't We (Webb) - 2:55
3. Hallelujah, I Love Her So (Charles) - 2:47
4. Yesterday (Lennon/McCartney) - 3:30
5. All My Tomorrows (Cahn/VanHeusen) - 4:35
6. My Way (Anka/Francois/Revaux/Thibault) - 4:35
7. A Day in the Life of a Fool (Bonfa/Sigman) - 3:00
8. For Once in My Life (Miller/Murden) - 2:50
9. If You Go Away (Brel/McKuen) - 3:30
10. Mrs. Robinson (Simon) - 2:55

REVIEW: My Way was a marginally better album than Cycles, but that's not saying much - the only way it could be worse is if it it was "Sinatra & Swingin' Bagpipes."  Yes, it contains the bombastic "Bolero"-like anthem "My Way" which stands as a checkpoint for Sinatra in his concert years, and yes, the songs and arrangements are overall stronger, with a fine cover of the Beatles' "Yesterday," Paul Simon's "Mrs. Robinson," Ray Charles' "Hallelujah, I Love Her So," and the strong declaration of "For Once In My Life" - these are all solid songs, and if they're not written for Sinatra's saloon sensibilities, he can still sing them without embarrassing himself. The light bossa-nova rhythms of "A Day In The Life" hearken back to the fine Sinatra & Jobim album, and "All My Tomorrows" is one of my favorite tracks; everything here is just more vital and interesting this time around.  But that doesn't make this a great album - it's still Sinatra trying to sound contemporary, working with songs written for the 60's generation, some of them, like "If You Go Away" with banal lyrics, and most with little of the grand passion he used to bring to his singing; and by now he's far removed from the young crowd this seems to be aiming for.  As hard as it is to say, he sounds like an old guy trying to be hip; and if you can excuse that rather large stumbling block, then you'll enjoy this album.  But I think most fans would be better off buying a greatest hits album first, which will have "My Way" on it, and then if they want more, check this out.


 

A Man Alone & Other Songs Of Rod McKuen
WEA International 927050 [CD];
Released August, 1969


 
1. A Man Alone (McKuen) - 3:47
2. Night (McKuen) - 2:25
3. I've Been to Town (McKuen) - 3:13
4. From Promise to Promise (McKuen) - 1:31
5. The Single Man (McKuen) - 3:01
6. The Beautiful Strangers (McKuen) - 2:41
7. Lonesome Cities (McKuen) - 3:18
8. Love's Been Good to Me (McKuen) - 3:27
9. Empty Is (McKuen) - 2:46
10. Out Beyond the Window (McKuen) - 2:45
11. Some Traveling Music (McKuen) - 2:36
12. A Man Alone (Reprise) (McKuen) - 1:30

REVIEW:  Rod McKuen is a hack, let's just get that out of the way, OK?  A blatant self-promoter, he put out poetry in the 1960's like McDonald's puts out hamburgers - warmed over, and after selling millions of his books, it's not much of a stretch to think that Sinatra wanted to get a piece of the action.  It sounds like a high-minded concept album, doesn't it?  Contemporary poetry and Sinatra together - but McKuen was popular - which most poets aren't, and in this case it means that his "poetry" is simplistic and redundant.  His music is the same, with dull melodies, and often no melody at all, leaving Frank to recite lines of poetry on the album with about as much feeling as if he's reading a grocery list.  Only six of the songs on the album are proper songs, with the rest instumental backing over Frank's readings.  Don Costa manages to pull more out of the songs than is actually there, making them sound decent, and Frank of course would sound good reading the phonebook, making songs like the title track and "Lonesome Cities" almost sound worthwhile; but the lyrics are so dumb, with a "moon/june/tune" sameness to them that hamstrings every song.  Yeah, it sounds pretty good, but you don't want to listen too hard, otherwise you will find yourself astounded that Sinatra condescended to tackle this lackluster material.


 

Watertown
WEA International 45689 [CD];
Released March, 1970


 
1. Watertown (Gaudio/Holmes) - 3:36
2. Goodbye (She Quietly Says) (Gaudio/Holmes) - 3:06
3. For a While (Gaudio/Holmes) - 3:09
4. Michael and Peter (Gaudio/Holmes) - 5:10
5. I Would Be in Love (Anyway) (Gaudio/Holmes) - 2:31
6. Elizabeth (Gaudio/Holmes) - 3:38
7. What a Funny Girl (You Used to Be) (Gaudio/Holmes) - 3:00
8. What's Now Is Now (Gaudio/Holmes) - 4:04
9. She Says (Gaudio/Holmes) - 1:51
10. The Train (Gaudio/Holmes) - 3:26
11. Lady Day (Gaudio/Holmes) - 2:47

REVIEW:   A fascinating and controversial album, given the short shrift by Warner Brothers (the last album to be released on CD), and ignored by the general public, but more worthy of examination by fans than Cycles or My Way.  A collaboration between Frank Sinatra and writer/producer Bob Gaudio (of pop group The Four Seasons fame) - Watertown began as just another pop/rock oriented-album, but Gaudio, with his collaborator Jake Holmes were most intrigued by Sinatra's concept albums of the fifties, and decided what they wanted to do most was craft a "story-album" for Frank.  Watertown was the result: a loose arrangement of songs that tell the story of a man sitting at a train station reminiscing while waiting for his estranged wife (?) to arrive.  The album is arranged in a light rock style, with percussion, horns and guitar, but the songs are what drive the arrangments, rather than the opposite, and the mood is kept sad and forlorn, as the singer contemplates how his life has fallen apart since he and his wife parted.  Siantra's voice had deteriorated to the point where he sounds old here, which serves the bleakness of the songs - this is a man whose life has now passed him by; there will be no fresh starts for him as he stagnates in the small town.  Songs that stand out for me are the sad "The Train;" "She Says," which contains the voice of a little girl singing during the chorus, and the longing "Elizabeth."  Also affecting is the song "Michael and Peter" which has the singer comparing his two boys and how each one carries traits of one or the other parent ("Michael is you.  He still has your face, he still has your eyes - Peter is me, except when he smiles").  The arrangments sound a little thin throughout the album, leaving Sinatra's voice naked and raw, which only helps him shape the character he's singing about.  The album may be too bleak and off-putting for many fans, but the effect of it is more powerful than I expected, and I find myself returning to it over and over. 


 

Sinatra & Company
Warner Brothers 1033 [CD];
Released March, 1971


Currently out of print.  Check availability at Amazon.com: 
1. Agua de Beber  performed by Sinatra / Jobim, Antonio Carlos - 2:35
2. Someone to Light up My Life  performed by Sinatra / Jobim, Antonio Carlos - 2:37
3. Triste  performed by Sinatra / Jobim, Antonio Carlos - 2:40
4. Don't Ever Go Away (Por Causa de Voce)  performed by Sinatra / Jobim, Antonio Carlos - 2:28
5. This Happy Madness (Estrada Branca)  performed by Sinatra / Jobim, Antonio Carlos - 2:57
6. Wave  performed by Sinatra / Jobim, Antonio Carlos - 3:25
7. One Note Samba (Samba de Uma Nota So)  performed by Sinatra / Jobim, Antonio Carlos - 2:20
8. I Will Drink the Wine (Ryan) - 3:30
9. (They Long To Be) Close to You (Bacharach/David) - 2:34
10. Sunrise in the Morning (Ryan) - 2:50
11. Bein' Green (Raposo) - 3:00
12. My Sweet Lady (Denver) - 3:01
13. Leaving on a Jet Plane (Denver) - 2:25
14. Lady Day (Gaudio/Holmes) - 3:41

REVIEW:  Well, there's half of a good album on Sinatra & Co., which should be enough of a recommendation for fans.  Specifically, the first half, where Sinatra re-teams with Antonio Carlos Jobim for a follow-up to their critically lauded first collaboration.  And although the basic idea is the same, the sound is different, due to the presence of arranger Eumir Deodato who gives a stronger, more active flavor to Jobim's songs than Claus Oberman did on the first LP.  Where the first Jobim-Sinatra album whispered, this one grins, with Sinatra giving a fine reading to "Someone To Light Up My Life" (not to be confused with the hit single by Debbie Boone), and Sinatra's vocalise exercise on the tour-de-force "One-Note Samba."  Unfortunately, Sinatra started the sessions with Jobim, then abandoned them in favor of the songs that became "My Way."  By the time Sinatra picked up these tracks again, he spliced them together into another "contemporary" album, with songs by John Denver, Burt Bacharach and others.  So while the first half of the album has a unified sound, the second half jumps all over the place, with the lurching carnival atmosphere of "I'm Not Afraid" rubbing elbows with the "what-was-he-thinking" novelty number "Bein' Green" and a sacharine-sweet "Close To You." Frank fares better on the John Denver numbers, giving a little swing to "Leaving On A Jet Plane" and giving an appropriately tender reading of "My Sweet Lady," but when compared to side one, the final seven numbers pale.  Soon after this LP was released, Frank Sinatra announced that he was retiring from show business.


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