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Saturday, December 12, 2009

SOTD Special: My 10 Favorite Sinatra Recordings

I'm taking a little break from the usual format here at Standard of the Day to honor the 94th anniversary of the birth of Frank Sinatra--in my opinion the finest interpreter of popular song who ever lived. It wasn't easy narrowing it down, but here are ten recordings of pop standards that Frank made which I hold near and dear to my heart:

April in Paris
Recorded 10/9/50
Arranger: Axel Stordahl

Composer: Vernon Duke

Columbia Records

An astonishingly beautiful ballad recording, with Frank's voice at the peak of it's sweetness and mellowness. The tonality he achieves here is jaw-dropping--listen to his singing of the word "reprise" for an example. Simply beautiful.

I've Got the World on a String
Recorded 4/30/53
Arranger: Nelson Riddle

Composers: Harold Arlen & Ted Koehler

Capitol Records

The birth of the legendary Sinatra/Riddle relationship. No one brought out Frank's sound better than Riddle. For me, this recording epitomizes what it means to be alive, and the vibrancy in Sinatra's performance is utterly amazing.

Can't We Be Friends?
Recorded 2/8/55
Arranger: Nelson Riddle

Composers: Kay Swift & Paul James

Album: In the Wee Small Hours
Capitol Records

My personal favorite Sinatra recording of all time. This might be the song that sold me on him completely as a masterful interpreter of song. The way he puts over the lyric here is gorgeous--listen for his delivery of the phrase, "What a bust..."

I've Got You Under My Skin
Recorded: 1/12/56
Arranger: Nelson Riddle

Composer: Cole Porter

Album: Songs for Swingin' Lovers

Capitol Records
This may very well be the most perfect three minutes of popular music ever recorded. It might get a ton of exposure, but that's with good reason. This recording is an absolute gem, with both Frank and his backup musicians at the top of their games. The instrumental break can only be described as an orgasm of sound.

I Guess I'll Have to Change My Plan
Recorded: 11/20/56
Arranger: Nelson Riddle

Composers: Arthur Schwartz & Howard Dietz

Album: A Swingin' Affair

Capitol Records

Sinatra at his swinging best. He does such a great job with this breezy Dietz lyric, and floats over that Schwartz melody with style and grace. Not even Fred Astaire's recording of this one could match Sinatra's bemused interpretation.

There's No You
Recorded: 4/10/57
Arranger: Gordon Jenkins

Composers: Tom Adair, Ian Dye & Hal Hopper

Album: Where Are You?

Capitol Records

Here we have Gordon Jenkins at his schmaltzy best, from Sinatra's first stereo album. The lush strings arrangement here is gorgeous, and Sinatra's voice seems to glide through it like a bird on wing. A breathtaking ballad if ever there was one.

Be Careful, It's My Heart
Recorded: 12/20/60
Arranger: Johnny Mandel

Composer: Irving Berlin
Album: Ring-a-Ding-Ding!

Reprise Records

This comes from Sinatra's first album at his newly created record label, and features a delightful arrangement from cutting edge jazz arranger Mandel. This was the first Sinatra CD I ever bought, and this was the recording that grabbed me the most.

The Moon Was Yellow
Recorded: 11/30/65 Arranger: Nelson Riddle Composers: Fred E. Ahlert & Edgar Leslie Album: Moonlight Sinatra Reprise Records
I adore this recording. Riddle's arrangement complements the exotic composition so well, with subtle woodwinds and an enthralling guitar. Sinatra recorded this at all three of his major labels, but this one was the finest.

Change Partners
Recorded: 1/30/67 Arranger: Claus Ogerman Composer: Irving Berlin Album: Francis Albert Sinatra & Antonio Carlos Jobim Reprise Records
For my money, Sinatra's Jobim collaboration was the last album of his truly great period of recording. Here he takes a Berlin classic and transforms it into a breezy bossa nova. A truly sensitive performances from an entire album of subtle and nuanced songs.

It Never Entered My Mind/The Gal that Got Away
Recorded: 4/8/81
Arranger: Nelson Riddle

Composers: Richard Rodgers & Lorenz Hart/Harold Arlen & Ira Gershwin

Album: She Shot Me Down

Reprise Records

Some call She Shot Me Down, "the last great Sinatra album". This medley, resurrecting Riddle arrangements Frank originally used in the 1950s, is certainly proof of that. Although his voice wasn't what it used to be anymore, I am always in awe at how the 65-year-old Sinatra literally wills his voice back to a glimpse of the greatness of his prime days. Moving stuff.


emma wallace said...

Great post! Marvelous selections. I love "Nice and Easy" and, of course "Fly Me to the Moon!"
I've never heard that Jobim arrangement! Must check it out.


B-Sol said...

Emma, you would LOVE the entire Jobim CD, you really should pick it up.

miriamt said...

I agree...the Jobim & Sinatra duets are awesome...especially "Sabia" But on of my favorites of Frank's is "Let's Fall In Love"..I love it when that on comes on ...and also "I Get a Kick Out of You"...all great!

B-Sol said...

Miriam, "Let's Fall in Love" from the Ring-a-Ding-Ding album is incredible. He literally reinvents that song and makes it his own. Amazing. And of course, "I Get a Kick Out of You", timeless.

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