THE REPRISE YEARS V (1973 - 1984)
I - II - III - IV - V

NOTE:  Sinatra wasn't very good at retirement.  It lasted all of two years, and then he came back with a big media splash: "Ol' Blue Eyes Is Back!"  Originally, Sinatra claimed that he would focus on recordings and do a little touring, but it turned out to be just the reverse, with his concerts turning into black-tie events, and his records doing little on the charts.  He still made news, but by 1984's "L.A. Is My Lady," it was clear that Sinatra had given everything he had to give, but fans still weren't ready to let him go.

Ol' Blue Eyes Is Back
Warner Brothers 2155 [CD];
Released September, 1973

1. You Will Be My Music (Raposo) - 3:52
2. You're So Right (For What's Wrong in My... (Joyce/Pike/Randazzo) - 4:03
3. Winners (Raposo) - 2:50
4. Nobody Wins (Kristofferson) - 5:10
5. Send in the Clowns {from A Little Night... (Sondheim) - 4:10
6. Dream Away {from The Man Who Loved Cat... (Williams/Williams) - 4:22
7. Let Me Try Again (Laisse Moi le Temps) (Caravelli/Jourdan) - 3:31
8. There Used to Be a Ballpark (Raposo) - 3:34
9. Noah (Raposo) - 4:22

REVIEW:  Sinatra's big comeback album Ol' Blue Eyes Is Back was a big success on the charts, nearly reaching the top ten, and being certified gold in its first pressing.  But it's not a return to form, and it's not a very good album.  Sinatra's voice had deterioated to the point where he seems barely able to hold onto the pitch, and although he still has his trademark phrasing intact, the songs themselves are so forgettable and weak that there's nothing here for Sinatra to sink his teeth into.  Don Costa again returns as producer, but his touch is definitely lacking - the songs, with arrangements by both Costa and Gordon Jenkins, sound as thin as muzak, with no punch or sparkle.  It doesn't help that a lot of the album is so melancholy; for a triumphant return to performing, the songs here are mostly downers, with "Nobody Wins," "Send In The Clowns," and "There Used To Be A Ballpark" all plowing the same ground as Watertown and September Of My Years, but without the adept touch or cohesiveness that those albums brought to their subject matter.  Some of the songs are just painful: the overwrought sentiments of "Noah" with the badly-misplaced gospel choir in the background; the heavy-handed trumpets on what should be a delicate reading of "Send In The Clowns," and the clumsy sentiment of "There Used To Be A Ballpark Here" all showing that this is not Sinatra at his best, only a faded copy.  He sings with very little dynamics, giving each song a full-throated reading, which only shows how much his voice had lost.  Forgiving fans may point to this album and say: "He's still got it!" but the sad truth is that Sinatra was just barely hanging on.


Some Nice Things I've Missed
WEA International 927215 [CD];
Released July, 1974

1. You Turned My World Around (Carnes/Ellingson/Kaempfert/Rehbein) - 2:50
2. Sweet Caroline (Diamond) - 2:44
3. The Summer Knows (Bergman/Bergman/Legrand) - 2:44
4. I'm Gonna Make It All the Way (Huddleston) - 2:54
5. Tie a Yellow Ribbon 'Round the Ole Oak... (Brown/Levine) - 3:07
6. Satisfy Me One More Time (Huddleston) - 2:22
7. If (Gates) - 3:10
8. You Are the Sunshine of My Life (Wonder) - 2:37
9. What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life (Bergman/Bergman/Legrand) - 4:05
10. Bad, Bad Leroy Brown (Croce) - 2:49

REVIEW: Some Nice Things I've Missed was a completely unnecessary album, which Sinatra covered songs from recent hits from Neil Diamond, Stevie Wonder, Bread, and Jim Croce.  Don Costa again tries to adapt the sound of these songs for a big orchestra with light modern touches thrown in, but all to no avail.  For one thing, no one wants to hear The Chairman Of The Board commit such self-mockery as having to perform Tony Orlando & Dawn's hit "Tie A Yellow Ribbon," or try to mimic some urban attitude on "Bad Bad Leroy Brown."  The songs are in no way compatible with Frank's sensibilities, and he sounds lost trying to sing them.  If anything, his voice sounds less pliable and in control than on Ol' Blue Eyes Is Back, and the subtle delicacy of "If" by David Gates is unreachable for Sinatra at this point.  To hear him try to muscle up to the notes that were originally sung with such lightness and delicacy is simply painful.  Costa would've been much more wise to create a hard-swinging album for Frank this time around, since his voice could've punched out those notes much more convincingly than when he lurches through "What Are You Doing The Rest Of Your Life?" An embarrassing album that could only be treasured by fanatics and apologists.


The Main Event Live: Live From Madison Square Garden
Warner Brothers 2207 [CD];
Released October, 1974

1. Overture: It Was a Very Good Year/All the... (Cahn/Drake/VanHeusen) - 3:00
2. The Lady Is a Tramp (Hart/Rodgers) - 2:45
3. I Get a Kick Out of You (Porter) - 4:00
4. Let Me Try Again (Laisse Moi le Temps) (Caravelli/Jourdan) - 3:10
5. Autumn in New York (Duke) - 2:35
6. I've Got You Under My Skin (Porter) - 4:25
7. Bad, Bad Leroy Brown (Croce) - 2:34
8. Angel Eyes (Brent/Dennis) - 3:38
9. You Are the Sunshine of My Life (Wonder) - 2:40
10. The House I Live In (Lewis/Robinson) - 4:42
11. My Kind of Town (Cahn/VanHeusen) - 2:32
12. My Way (Anka/Francois/Revaux/Thibault) - 4:57

REVIEW:  Whereas some of Sinatra's albums get far too much praise for their worth, The Main Event has been the subject of too much apology where none is needed.  Sinatra was huge in concert during the 1970's.  Attending one of his shows was akin to the Pope visiting America; you just had to be there.  This LP, cobbled together from different shows, reveals Sinatra the Legend in concert, not just Sinatra the Singer.  From the bombastic introduction by annoying sports commentator Howard Cosell, to the greatest hits set list, Sinatra is in full form here, singing with authority, joy, and not a little chutzpah.  Backed by Woody Herman and the Young Thundering Herd, Sinatra and band bounce through the songs with a lightness and fluidity that shows that Frank knew how to wow an audience with the best of them.  Yes, his voice still creaks on the high notes, yes, he sometimes seems to devolve into self-parody with all his vocal tricks and kicks, and yes, he still sings the clunker "Bad, Bad Leroy Brown" - all of which tend to make fans wince and the pundits laugh, but overall this concert is a celebration, with  Sinatra sounding more alive than he has on his last several albums.  This was the Sinatra that could pack them into stadiums and leave everyone feeling like they'd gotten their money's worth the next morning.  A remarkable concert, and a good album to remember it by.

Trilogy: Past, Present, Future
Warner Brothers 2300 [CD];
Released March, 1980

1. The Song Is You (Hammerstein/Kern) - 2:39
2. But Not for Me (Gershwin/Gershwin) - 3:50
3. I Had the Craziest Dream (Gordon/Warren) - 3:13
4. It Had to Be You (Jones/Kahn) - 3:53
5. Let's Face the Music and Dance (Berlin) - 2:50
6. Street of Dreams (Lewis/Young) - 3:32
7. My Shining Hour (Arlen/Mercer) - 3:21
8. All of You (Porter) - 1:42
9. More Than You Know (Eliscu/Rose/Youmans) - 3:22
10. They All Laughed (Gershwin/Gershwin) - 2:49
11. You and Me (We Wanted It All) (Allen/Sager) - 4:07
12. Just the Way You Are (Joel) - 3:26
13. Something (Harrison) - 4:42
14. MacArthur Park (Webb) - 2:45
15. Theme from New York, New York (Ebb/Kander) - 3:26
16. Summer Me, Winter Me (Bergman/Bergman/Legrand) - 4:02
17. Song Sung Blue (Diamond) - 2:47
18. For the Good Times (Kristofferson) - 4:41
19. Love Me Tender (Matson/Presley) - 3:34
20. That's What God Looks Like to Me (Irwin/Okun) - 2:55
21. What Time Does the Next Miracle Leave? (Jenkins) - 10:44
22. World War None! (Jenkins) - 4:27
23. The Future (Jenkins) - 4:05
24. The Future (Continued): I've Been There (Jenkins) - 3:33
25. The Future (Conclusion): Song Without... (Jenkins) - 6:00
26. Before the Music Ends {Finale} (Jenkins) - 9:46

REVIEW:  Sinatra had been out of the studio for the better part of six years, and here, in his sixty-fifth year, he came back with an audacious triple album (now on two-CD's) Trilogy, which showed that although Sinatra had entered his golden years, he still could pull a rabbit or two out of his hat.  I give him a hand for chutzpah.  Trilogy is broken up into three sections (obviously) with Billy May, Don Costa, and Gordon Jenkins pulling duty on The Past, Present, and Future, respectively.  The most obviously successful section is The Past, where Billy May and Sinatra revisit old friends, and although Sinatra doesn't have the singing chops he used to have back in the day, he obviously has the most affinity for this material that lets this material have a glow that the other songs don't have.  The second LP "The Present" is very much the same as Sinatra's other two albums of contemporary material Ol' Blue Eyes Is Back, and Some Nice Things... with Don Costa again providing the varnish to such mediocre material as "Song Sung Blue," "McArthur Park" and "For The Good Times."  Faring better are the Billy Joel cover "Just The Way You Are" which has a punchy, Broadway style to it that's very much suited to Sinatra's voice, and of course the anthemic "New York, New York" which would gain even more power on the concert circuit.  The final LP is a fascinating bomb: Gordon Jenkins was given the commission to write a suite of socially-conscious songs, and he did so with all the subtlety of a three-ring circus.  Hokey "space-age" lyrics along with gasping, earnest choirs send Frank on a trip around the solar system, with Sinatra emoting how the he'll be looking for the "chicks" on Pluto.  (It's far worse than it sounds.)  The melodies, such as they are, are terrible, Frank sings with conviction, but not even that makes this listenable.  The 10-minute-plus opus "What Time Does The Next Miracle Leave" will have fans curious for a few mintues, then quickly shutting down their stereos never listening to "The Future" again.  Trilogy was a gold-certified hit for Sinatra, and it's certainly got it's share of good music, so it's worth a qualified recommendation to the curious.

She Shot Me Down
Warner Brothers 2305 [CD];

Released November, 1981

1. Good Thing Going (Sondheim)
2. Hey Look, No Crying (Birkenhead/Styne)
3. Thanks for the Memory (Rainger/Robin)
4. A Long Night (McGlohon/Wilder)
5. Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down) (Bono)
6. Monday Morning Quarterback (Costa/Phillips Oland)
7. South to a Warmer Place (McGlohon/Wilder)
8. I Loved Her (Jenkins)
9. The Gal That Got Away/It Never Entered My... [medley] (Arlen/Gershwin/Hart/Rodgers)

REVIEW:  Considered to be Sinatra's last great album, She Shot Me Down is a return to the smoky saloon songs that Sinatra used to sing on his greatest albums: In The Wee Small Hours, Only The Lonely, Nobody Cares and Where Are You?  The songs are by contemporary writers, but the mood and the sentiments are the same as those that came before.  Produced by Don Costa and arranged by Gordon Jenkins (probably chosen by Sinatra to redeem himself from the lamentable Trilogy fiasco) the album is low-key, downbeat, and one of Sinatra's best albums of his last years at Reprise.  The album starts with Stephen Sondheim's "Good Thing Going" from the Broadway flop Merrily We Roll Along.  A good sentiment, unfortunately undercut by the light lounge arrangement Jenkins saddles it with.  The title track is one of the best here, with a fairly silly lyric lifted by Sinatra's spot-on reading - never letting the lyric sound anything less than tragic.  Sinatra tackles "Everything Happens To Me" again, with a broken-down desperation that equals his previous attempts at it, and the final medley of "The Gal That Got Away/It Never Entered My Mind" is fantastic - with a slow-burning arrangement worthy of Sinatra's fierce singing.  Sinatra even reshapes funnyman Bob Hope's signature song "Thanks For The Memory" into the bleak, hopeless song it really is - "and now I see, that the laugh's on me..."  Jenkins even manages to write a good song (doubtful after "The Future") in "I Loved Her" with a simple, heartfelt sentiment that ties in autobiographically with Sinatra, and he sings it very well.  A great album - I wish that he had made more using this emotional palette during his last years, but as it happens, this was to be Sinatra's last great album.


L.A. Is My Lady
Warner Brothers 25145 [CD];
Released August, 1984

1. L.A. Is My Lady - 3:12
2. The Best of Everything - 2:45
3. How Do You Keep the Music Playing? - 3:49
4. Teach Me Tonight - 3:44
5. It's All Right With Me - 2:39
6. Mack the Knife - 4:50
7. Until the Real Thing Comes Along - 3:03
8. Stormy Weather - 3:38
9. If I Should Lose You - 2:36
10. A Hundred Years from Today - 3:04
11. After You've Gone - 3:15

REVIEW: L.A. Is My Lady was Sinatra's last studio album with Reprise.  Recorded when he was seventy years old, and reuniting him with Quincy Jones, who had been instrumental during Sinatra's collaborations with Count Basie, Quincy brings a slick synthesized sound to Sinatra's last album.  How does it work?  About like you'd expect: cold, upbeat, a noticeably uncomfortable blend of old school and technology.  The title track is a too-obvious attempt to mimic the success of "Chicago" and "(Theme From) New York, New York" - with annoyingly up-front synthesizers grabbing too much attention on the busy track.  The same holds for the distractingly processed back-up vocals on "Mack The Knife."  Songs like "Until The Real Thing Comes Along" fare much better, showing that Sinatra can still sell a song, and Jones swings along with a traditional orchestra that's tight and simpatico with Frank.  A hot guitar lick bounces along with Frank on the sprightly "After You've Gone," and there's thick slices of trumpet licks on the kicky "A Hundred Years From Today." Frank sounds a little tired on "The Best Of Everything," but otherwise the track is a bright slice of in-the-pocket swing, and there's an interesting scat-percussion effect carrying through "It's All Right With Me" but Sinatra again sounds tired, and as if he's trying to keep up with the clockwork playing of the band - there's no ebb and flow here for Sinatra's phrasing - it just plows through song after song, giving an artificial cheeriness to the album.  It can be a fun listen if you're not listening too closely, but otherwise it's discouraging to hear Frank relegated again to second fiddle to the band, as he was during the first years of singing with Dorsey.  All in all it's a bright, slick, professional album, that's sounds exactly like what it is: a hot young orchestra playing backup to an old singer.

Frank Sinatra ... Vegas [BOX SET]
Reprise Records R2 74075 [CD/DVD];
Release Date: November 7, 2006



Five-Disc Boxed Set Features All Previously Unreleased Live Performances Of Ol' Blue Eyes In Vegas

Definitive Collection Due November 7 Spans Three Decades And Features The Chairman At His Best

For complete track listing click here.

Las Vegas grew up with Frank Sinatra. From it's shady, mob-driven origins, which have been chronicled minutely elsewhere, to it's 1980s transformation into a family-friendly gathering place, Las Vegas has always relied on high-powered entertainment to lure adults into its casinos, and from 1958 to the early 1990s, Frank Sinatra was THE headline act. From The Sands to Caesar's Palace, if Frank was in town, all the marquee had to say is "He's HERE" and everyone would know that Sinatra was gracing the stage that week. This important box set, gathering five dates from a variety of venues, is revealing in a couple of ways, showcasing Frank's early, 1960s Rat-Pack brashness, and chronicling his slow decline in shows from the Eixties, Seventies, and Eighties, and echoing Vegas's own decline from shady get-away, to post-pop respected status.

The five-CD/DVD set is somewhat jarring, with the first two discs presenting Frank at his most daring, with racist, catty remarks punctuating music sets that were filled with some of the most ribald, jazzy singing ever caught on tape. The first show, with the Ray Sinatra Orchestra, dates from 1961, and was for a planned live album release, which was then scrapped after Frank's plans for a world tour. The show is tight and breezy, with Sinatra singing as if he was newly-minted, full of sass and sparkle.

No less ferocious is the second disc, which captures Frank with the Count Basie Orchestra in 1966, joyfully bouncing his way through a set that included a mostly brassy renditions of "Come Fly With Me" and "Get Me To The Church On Time" with moodier showings being rare, but "The September Of My Years" makes a rare, and welcome live appearance, but otherwise, the Vegas sets are high on punchiness, and low on pathos.

Chronologically, the 1978 DVD show is next, and this shows a sea change in the way Sinatra conducted his shows. His shows are softer now, the brass-knuckled glee that electrified his earlier shows are replaced by sparkling showmanship, and the backstage footage shows Frank hobnobbing with guests; getting his picture taken with fans; goosing the standup comic through the curtain, and getting his onstage lubrication ready to his liking. Sinatra in his sixties is mellower onstage, but has the gleam in his eye that comes from his enduring joy of singing. He riffs with the audience, but his voice is less sure, the notes less "on", and the evening has a polish and ease to it that has grown over the previous shotgun abandon which used to surprise his audience. Now, the mostly mature crowd is shouting out for "My Way" and Frank is warbling out somewhat misguided renditions of "Baubles, Bangles and Beads" which the audience nonetheless eats up.

The final two shows, both taken from the 1980s, are notable in that Frank is now "The Chairman of the Board"; "Ol' Blue Eyes," and the master of his domain. This is Sinatra at his most professional, in his element, at his ease - he mixes decades of songs effortlessly, with modern numbers like "You Are The Sunshine Of My Life" and "Somethin' Stupid" rubbing shoulders with "Witchcraft" and "Angel Eyes." Frank's voice is more hit-and-miss on these discs, but his personal charm, undeniable talent, and masterful phrasing, carry the day.

The booklet which accompanies this exhaustive set is thick with praise; no less than six essays are written about Frank's domination of Las Vegas nights, along with sidebars by all three of the Sinatra kids, and others who were on-hand to witness one or more of Frank's now-legendary performances.

In an era when Vegas is luring past-their-prime talent to fill arenas with aging baby-boomers and their hard-earned retirement savings, this box set by Reprise is a good way to remember that Vegas might not have survived at all had it not been for it's hardest-working ambassador.

Sinatra: New York [BOX SET]
Reprise Records R2 520602 [4CD 1DVD];
Released November 3, 2009

New York
The steadfast legacy of Ol' Blue Eyes continues to unfold as Reprise preps Sinatra: New York (4 CD/1 DVD), a five-disc box set of live Frank Sinatra performances due Nov. 3. These previously unreleased recordings are pulled from Sinatra concerts in legendary New York City venues between 1955 and 1990, captured on four CDs and a DVD.

The digital download will cost a whopping $45 less than the feel-it-between-your-palms physical edition, which for $79.99 includes rare photographs and tributes, liner notes and essays by a flurry of friends and admirers: Frank Sinatra Jr., Martin Scorsese, Twyla Tharp, director William Friedkin (The Exorcist), photographer George Kalinsky and Joe and Sal Scognamillo of The Chairman of the Board's favorite, Patsy's Italian Restaurant.

To view the complete track listing click here.

REVIEW:  It's official.  Reprise records and the Sinatra family have officially gone the "Elvis" route of reissuing.  For years, RCA felt the need to re-issue anything Elvis that they could find: alternate takes, live shows, mono and stereo versions, etc. ad-nauseum.  With this release, I can safely say that Sinatra now rates the same slavish collector's mania, and that Reprise is all too willing to satiate his salivating fans appetites.  Patterned exactly after 2006's Vegas box set, New York doesn't quite have the same appeal of the previous set, due to the law of diminishing returns, both in  quantity and quality.  The quantity is less, with some CD's here timing in at under thirty-eight minutes, and the audio quality, especially on the earliest concerts, is shockingly poor.  Taken from radio broadcasts, the 1955 and 1963 concerts are perhaps the worst offenders, but still have interest for fans, since it documents the live reunion of Sinatra with his former boss, big-band leader Tommy Dorsey, and they still banter back and forth with acerbic humor.  The two concerts from 1974 cover much the same ground as The Main Event, with Frank in good voice, but still singing such dreck as "Bad Bad Leroy Brown" (and I, for one, didn't need two more versions of it to grace my collection).  CD four has two short concerts, the first from 1984 and the second from 1990, with Frank still able to command the crowds, but it's disappointing to have such short documents from these later years.  The final disc is a DVD concert filmed at Carnegie Hall, June 25, 1980, and is a great concert, but even this has been edited - not the full concert.  Sinatra was certainly as iconic a figure in New York as he was in Vegas, but this box, despite it's pleasures, feels stretched thin, and not as vital as his previous releases.

Sinatra-Jobim: The Complete Reprise Recordings
Concord Records CRE-32026 [CD];
Released May 4, 2010

1. The Girl From Ipanema [Gârota de Ipanema]
2. Dindi
3. Change Partners
4. Quiet Nights of Quiet Stars [Corcovado]
5. Meditation [Meditacăo]
6. If You Never Come To Me
7. How Insensitive [Insensatez]
8. I Concentrate On You
9. Baubles, Bangles and Beads
10. Once I Loved [O Amoren Paz]
11. The Song Of The Sabia
12. Drinking Water [Aqua de Beber]
13. Someone To Light Up My Life
14. Triste
15. This Happy Madness [Estrada Branca]
16. One Note Samba [Samba de Uma Nota So]
17. Don't Ever Go Away [Por Causas de Voce]
18. Wave
19. Off Key [Desafinado]
20. Bonita

REVIEW: Concord Records has taken the reigns from Warner/Reprise in the reissuing of many of  Frank's later albums; we've had reissues (with bonus tracks) of My Way, Strangers In The Night, and now, a combination of two of Frank's better, though less-appreciated efforts: his teaming with Antonio Carlos Jobim, which resulted in tracks for one-and-a-half albums.  Here, those original tracks are gathered onto one disc, which is a blessing, since we don't have to wade through the less-than-stellar pop tracks found on Sinatra & Co..  I've always considered Sinatra and Jobim's pairing to be a marriage that worked; the soft, easy bossa-nova rhythms that were all the rage in the early 1960s were a surprising match with Frank's softer side.  This particular release has a few rare tracks, the first "Off Key" (Desafinado) is an odd, back and forth duet between Sinatra and Jobim exchanging lover's remarks which doesn't really work, and which previously saw the light of day on The Complete Reprise Studio Recordings box, while "The Song of Sabia" was previously released on the 1977 compilation LP Portrait Of Sinatra on Reprise.  The songs receive a sparkling 24-bit remastering here, but there's a caveat; instead of the final edits used on the original albums, the producers went back to the original tapes, meaning that some mistakes that had been papered over are re-introduced to the listener.  The booklet, featuring new, self-consciously written notes by Stan Cornyn, and quotes from many of the participants, round out the package.  If you've not been a fan of these particular recordings, this new set will do nothing to change your mind, but for those of us who find a bewitching power to Sinatra's & Jobim's pairing, this is an ideal collection.

Sinatra: LONDON
Universal Music Enterprises 602547035684 [3CD+DVD];
Released December 9, 2014

Sinatra: LONDON, a deluxe 3-CD/DVD and digital audio collection presenting the remastered original studio album with a treasure trove of other London highlights from Sinatra's career. The expansive set's more than 50 previously unreleased recordings include session material from the album, a 1962 BBC 'Light Programme' radio special with introductions to each song by Sinatra himself, a 1953 live session for BBC Radio's 'The Show Band Show,' and a Royal Albert Hall concert from 1984. The collection's DVD features a previously unreleased filmed 1962 concert from Royal Festival Hall, plus a 1970 concert appearance from the same venue with a never before released performance of the classic song 'A Foggy Day.'

The sleek book-style set includes a 60-page booklet with a new essay by producer, filmmaker, songwriter, music publisher and author, Ken Barnes, who attended the Great Songs From Great Britain sessions, the album's original liner notes, newly-written track notes, details about Sinatra's many visits to the U.K., and several photos of Sinatra in London: onstage, in the studio, and about town. The new collection also includes two exclusive art print reproductions of original London concert posters, and a unique studio panorama from the 1962 recording sessions for Great Songs From Great Britain.

See complete track listing here.

REVIEW:  Although technically not a Reprise release, the new London box set, released on the Universal Music label follows the same pattern as the previous New York and Vegas box sets, so it seemed appropriate to place it here.  But in one respect, it carves out its own path: rather than simply staking a claim on a locale, LONDON takes as its selling point one of the least-regarded, and least-heard albums from Frank's entire Reprise output - his 1962 Great Songs From Great Britain - the only studio album which Frank recorded outside the United States, and featuring songs, arrangements, and studio players entirely from the other side of the pond.  Being recorded on just three nights, the box set fills out the program with an entire disc of alternate/session material, brief, spoken introductions to each song which originally appeared on the BBC Light Programme, and no less than three subsequent live concerts, with the out-of-sequence Live at Royal Albert Hall (September 21, 1984) taking up the third CD, and two concerts from the Royal Festival Hall, the first from June 1, 1962, and the second from November 16, 1970.

Whether or not buyers will be interested in this box set depends on how rabid a Frankophile you are: Great Songs from Great Britain, remastered here to no great effect, is a pleasant enough listen, and despite what legend has claimed, Frank is, in fact, in fine voice.  The remastering here gives Frank a somewhat warmer tone, but lacks a bit of the spaciousness of previous releases, so you don't need to be swayed by that; also, the album's conceit doesn't really allow Frank the meaty songs he thrives on - not much of human drama or swing here, just pleasant, memorable songs which he interprets masterfully.  The sessions are fun to listen to, but don't cry out for repeated listenings, and the spoken introductions uncomfortably shoehorned onto the end of CD1 are too short and perfunctory to be of any real interest.

Which leaves the live concerts.  For some reason, the 1984 concert is the poorest sounding of the lot, with a thin, tinny ambience and lack of low end.  The DVD however, sounds great, but the video sources (apparently taken from old VHS masters) is jumpy and un-restored.  I hate to accuse Frank's family of cheapness, but there is an undeniable sense that these box sets are not what they could have been with more care and work.  The booklet, stuffed full of photographs and a wonderful essay on the recording session by the unassailable Ken Barnes is wonderful eye-candy, and overall, there's something here which will please most Sinatra fans. 

World On A String
Universal Music Enterprises  [4CD+DVD];
Released October 21, 2016

More than 90 live performances are collected on the collection's four CDs, most of them officially available for the first time, including classics such as 'I've Got You Under My Skin,' 'Strangers In The Night,' 'Moonlight In Vermont,' and 'I've Got The World On A String.' A DVD of entirely unreleased footage features Sinatra on a whirlwind 1962 good-will tour meant to raise money for underprivileged children.

The globe-trotting performances showcase Sinatra in eight different countries (Monaco, Australia, Egypt, Dominican Republic, Japan, Israel, Greece, and Italy), from cozy supper clubs to cavernous stadiums to one of the seven wonders of the world. But a familiar refrain threads through these recordings: the innate warmth and ease with which Sinatra imbued his concerts. As always, his backing musicians were impeccable, and the arrangements by Nelson Riddle, Don Costa, Quincy Jones, Gordon Jenkins, and Billy May, among others simply sumptuous.

For complete track listing: click here.

REVIEW:   OK, so, now the Sinatra estate is digging pretty deep into the barrel in their releases - a series of live concerts from around the globe, touching on the mid-to-late era of Frank's career (1958-1982), some of this material has been bootlegged extensively (note the "officially available" tag promoting the set), but here it's paired with some unreleased performances, as well as a DVD of video clips, including a slew of commercials!  None of this is essential, and some of it is actually pretty dire, with the RAI Radio Club show being of particular note, since most of the audio is in Italian, with just a few songs actually performed by Sinatra.  The concerts are all in fair to good sound - but nothing here is going to blow your socks off - the liner notes don't specify the source of these audio tracks, but some of them sound distinctly like radio broadcast transcripts, and, to be honest, the fidelity is on par with a few of the better sounding bootlegs I've heard.  The set comes bound in a thin paper box, combined with a thick, removable booklet stuffed with photos and slew of essays by Frank Sinatra Jr. (to whose memory this set is dedicated), and former production managers and producers.  To my ears, the twin 1962 sets are the most vital here, with Frank swinging hard in both Australia and Japan (on the DVD), which makes up a bit for the mawkish "Frank Sinatra with All God's Children" special, also filmed that same year.  Given the length of Sinatra's career and his astounding work ethic, I've no doubt that his family can continue to release material ad infinitum, but I'm starting to see the law of diminishing returns in with each new box set. 

Standing Room Only
Universal Music Enterprises  [3CD];
Released May 4, 2018

The most influential singer of the 20th Century returns with the new live collection 'Standing Room Only'. For those not fortunate enough to see Sinatra in performance, this is the closest fans can get to the greatest entertainer the world has ever seen. The 3CD package includes Sinatra's rare and previously unreleased performances at The Sands, Las Vegas (Jan 28, 1966) where Frank has a 14 year residency, his show at The Spectrum, Philadelphia (1974) where Frank performed in-front of a 17,000 strong crowd, and his show over a decade later at Reunion Arena, Dallas (1987).

For complete track listing - click here.

  In their continual mining of Sinatra's concert oeuvre, UME and the Sinatra family have come up with a trio of shows that would probably have never seen the light of day during Frank's lifetime - not because they're bad shows, but because they're a 'warts-and-all' document that perfectionist Frank would never have given the approval of.  It's apparent from the opening line when you hear the slight frog in Frank's throat during a rip-roaring, tear-your-collar off performance of "Come Fly With Me" - he makes a joke of it during the chatter between songs - he then flubs the opening line of "I've Got A Crush On You" and constantly departs from the song to throw out audience ad-lib's and more during even the softest and tenderest part of the song.  This is Sinatra as Vegas showman - disregarding the music and hiding his vocal flaws behind endless chatter.  Fans will love it - it's Sinatra at his most disarming, and most human - but it doesn't hold up to repeated listenings, because it's just too broken up, and too "you had to be there."  The Count Basie Orchestra is top notch too - which makes it a shame that Frank falls back on cursing and racist jokes in his performance.  A shame too, that the family would ever think that Frank would want to be remembered this way.

The second show, from 1974 at the Spectrum in Philadelphia, is also pretty ragged, with the orchestra muffing notes throughout, but Frank in better in voice here than he was in '66.  He's more ragged on the low notes, and his voice sounds higher and a little less flexible, but he can still swing.  He sounds less sure on the ballads, with his voice sometimes desperately grasping at the right notes - again, its a show that Frank would NEVER have allowed during his lifetime, and its only the beginning of the end for Frank.  The show is filled with more anthemic songs - "Let Me Try Again," "What Are You Doing The Rest Of Your Life?" and the omnipresent "My Way."  There are also several of his seventies songs ("If," "Send In The Clowns," "You Are The Sunshine Of My Life") rubbing shoulders uncomfortably with his earlier classics.

The final show, taken from 1987 in Texas, finds Frank again in 'good' voice - sounding much as he did in 1974, both for good and bad, leaning more on his earlier hits, and the orchestra giving Frank a hot cushion on which to sing.  His voice is still strong, if showing the undeniable effects of age, with growled lower notes, and brittle highs.  He's morphed his approach too to audiences - gone is the off-the-cuff comments and little asides - he's the grand statesman now of popular music, unassailable in his command of the stage, and gracious to the appreciative audience.

Will you enjoy it?  If you're reading this review, I have no doubt of it - the sound is brilliant, the concerts are a great deal of fun, if not technically or professionally showing the best side of Sinatra - but he's dead and gone - but the people still want more.  So, here you go.

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