List item: Listen to the 250 greatest albums
So far in my quest to listen to the 250 most acclaimed albums I have listened to artists that I love. First there was Arcade Fire and their baroque pop sensibilities, then last week I looked at the ever-changing work of PJ Harvey. Therefore this week I will be looking at two of the oldest albums on this list by one of the most famous singers of all time; Frank Sinatra.
I’ll be honest that before this all I knew of Frank Sinatra was his connections to the mob, the fact that he has won an Oscar and could only name two of his songs off the top of my head. No prizes for guessing that I am referring to New York, New York and My Way. However, I am trying to keep my mind open here and seeing how I find these albums.
Needless to say that I was caught completely off guard. I was expecting some crooning that was only a slight improvement on crappy X-Factor contestants, if you haven’t heard of him then I am incredibly jealous, and I’ll put my hands up and admit that I was wrong. I will also admit that I was fending off tears for the majority of the time that I first listened to the album all the way through with some creeping out just as the opening track In ‘The Wee Small Hours Of The Morning’ began to play.
What we have here is an album composed entirely of ballads. Something that you wouldn’t be able to get away with nowadays unless your voice is powerful just like Mariah Carey or Leona Lewis, and even then the critics would still paw merciless at you demanding for something a bit more upbeat (unless it is deemed moody and artistic like White Chalk by PJ Harvey when all bets are apparently off).
With only one type of song present on this album it is a credit to Sinatra that this doesn’t feel at all dull. The saving grace of the album being the sheer emotionality of his voice, there is some warm velvet-like quality that is o-so disarming. When he sings of loneliness and heartache an instant connection appears to form. One that isn’t that disrupted by the annoying adverts that are weaved in by Spotify… not cool. In a way it’s almost like listening to a fluffy pair of slippers if they ever had recourse to sing, warm and cosy. Also, you have just got to love the fifties production style with the heavy strings and the occasional twinkle in the background. There is no doubt as to when this was recorded in that respects.
The first thing that strikes me about Songs for Swingin’ Lovers! is what a difference a year really makes. I mean it was only a year ago, or in this case about a week ago, where Sinatra brought out In The Wee Small Hours a collection of maudlin ballads that greatly reflected his split with actress Ava Gardner.
So here he is with the album that truly established him as the king of swing and boy does he come out swinging *cringe* with the seminal version of You Make Me Feel So Young. This is followed by a steady stream of brilliantly arranged tunes that just warrant multiple listens. Which makes it a little wonder why so many of the tracks off this album have been ingrained into the public consciousness. None more worthy of this accolade is I’ve Got You Under My Skin which is one of those songs that everyone has heard in random films but probably most have probably never actually listened to it.
The fact is that most would be forgiven thinking most of these songs as being written specifically for Sinatra with the way that these are widely regarded as the seminal versions whereas in fact many of these songs were actually over 10 years old. Does this matter? Not one iota. Just thought it’s an interesting thing.
Upon hearing this for the third time I really wonder why acts like Westlife and Robbie Williams even try. Frank Sinatra is the truly undisputed king of swing and the quicker we can accept it the quicker we can move on to doing something original. Why have second-rate imitations when we have the master.
Next Week: I feel like I want to remain in the early parts of the album format for next week. Which albums I will be doing are yet to be determined.