Tag Archives: frank sinatra

1001 Songs – 1969: Part One

List Item:  Listen to the 1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die

My Way – Frank Sinatra

For many legendary artists there are songs that come to define them. Aretha has ‘Respect‘, ABBA has ‘Dancing Queen’, Nirvana has ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit‘ and Frank Sinatra has ‘My Way’.

This is very much US crooning through the lens of the French chanson. Few American male singers of note have had the voice and range to do justice to this song about looking back on a life lived. It’s not about necessarily having a good life, but about having a life on your own terms. It’s a defiant and somewhat remorseful song that should only be attempted by singers in the final or penultimate act of their life.

When I hear Sinatra sing it I imagine an abusive father being kicked out of the house and trying to show some semblance of pride. I can imaging the Denzel Washington character in Fences being a huge fan of this song.

I guess what I am trying to say is… if this was sung by someone who was less of a piece of work than Frank Sinatra I might be more on board with this despite the fact that the production is so overblown. But I’m not.

The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face – Roberta Flack

So this was recorded and first released by Roberta Flack in 1969 and ended up winning her Grammys in 1972. It’s weird how the Grammys work. Then again – Lemonade.

As is obvious from the title, this is a love song. Interestingly it is a song written by Ewan MacColl for the woman he would later marry… who would also be his third and final wife. So that’s kinda sweet.

Roberta Flack clearly has a big set of pipes, but manages to show remarkable restraint when delivering the song. It comes out every now and then, but she keeps a lid on it for over five minutes. Not going to say that I didn’t get a bit bored during this though. It could have been cut for time.

I’m Just a Prisoner (of Your Good Lovin’) – Candi Staton

Probably better known for the immortal singles ‘You Got the Love’ and ‘Young Hearts, Run Free’ we are at the first of Candi Staton’s three entries on this list. All three songs are incredibly different with ‘I’m Just A Prisoner’ being an example of soul done well.

There’s a rasp to her voice that gives her that extra bit of personality compared to other singers of this era – although we won’t see that rasp in full force until her later songs. I look forward to reaching 1976.

She Moves Through the Fair – Fairport Convention

Here we are back in blighty and we have an early example of electric folk. This particular song is a rather traditional Irish folk song that is beautifully sung by lead vocalist Sandy Denny.

It’s an understated affair that brings in influences like Van Morrison and Simon and Garfunkel to update traditional songs to present day using contemporary instruments and arrangements. As music goes it isn’t exactly revolutionary, but it shows just how these influences can separate off.

Many Rivers to Cross – Jimmy Cliff

Okay this selection of songs is a rather downplayed bunch. We’re crossing many genre borders and that’s not something that could have been done when starting off on this list.

According to Wikipedia this is a reggae/gospel ballad – more emphasis on the gospel thanks to that electric organ in the background. For some reason I am getting a massive hint of ‘A Whiter Shade of Pale’ which would place this song more into the soul category… which makes a lot more sense than reggae.

I guess that thanks to all these different genres sprouting the ability to section them off really is starting to get harder. Although, I would be hard-pressed to call this reggae.

In the Ghetto – Elvis Presley

Thank you South Park for ruining this song. I listen to this and all I can think of is Eric Cartman singing this about Kenny’s family.

Then again, this is an incredibly overdone song with it’s ghostly backing vocals and Elvis’s affected emotion. The lyrics are fascinating to listen to and, honestly, I wish this had retained the original title of ‘The Vicious Circle’. It’s all about the vicious cycle of poverty and how there are many that cannot escape it. All a bit rich when sung by Elvis Presley who didn’t want to do a political song.

It’s also worth noting that in 2007 Lisa-Marie Presley did this song as a posthumous duet with her father…

Oh Well, Parts 1 & 2 – Fleetwood Mac

So this is the first song in a good while that’s mostly instrumental. Part 1 (which is the first 2 minutes of this 9 minute song) features vocials and is more inkeeping with the rock music of the time, but the rest is more classical.

You have to hand it to Fleetwood Mac for trying to have a 7 minute instrumental track inspired by Spanish guitar as a single. The use of the first two minutes as the A-side was against the songwriter’s wishes with it being a throwaway piece for the B-side. Somewhere along the way the tracks got swapped and it is those first two minutes that went on to be a hit.

Despite being a throwaway ‘Oh Well, Part 1’ went on to be an influential song because of how it fused harder rock with blues rock. As a single it showcases two very different sides of the same songwriter – so I’m glad that I got to hear both parts,

The Real Thing – Russell Morris

Oh psychedelia. We are seeing you on your way out by now in most markets and being replaced with harder rock or a revival of folk… so of course we see a bit example of Australian psychedelia. Without the instant sharing of musical influences things would have trickled around the world so much slower.

It’s not your regular psychedelic rock song. This had the whole music producer toolkit behind it which lead to a lot of interesting effects being used that make this song rather unique and mindbending. The ending alone where it appears that another song is trying to intrude on ‘The Real Thing’ is remarkably odd.

At the time this was the most expensive song in Australian history, coming in at about the same cost as an average album.

Progress: 276/1021

1001 Songs – 1967: Part One

List Item:  Listen to the 1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die

1967. For many appreciators of rock music this was a banner year. It saw the release of Sgt. Pepper, The Velvet Underground & Nico, two Jimi Hendrix albums and Forever Changes to name but a few.

Psychadelic rock was reaching the top of its game and I think this will end up being shown in the three song posts where I go through the 30 songs on the 1001 list that came out in 1967.

The End – The Doors

We start the year with one of the longer songs on the entire list, as well as being a song from I covered not too long ago.

When I looked at The Doors’ eponymous album the 12 minute closing track ‘The End’ didn’t exactly feature on my radar. Instead I preferred tracks like ‘End of the Night’ and ‘Break On Through’.

As a piece of work it’s impressive that this is meant to be one continuous take. However, I know the edited version used in Apocalypse Now and the context that cast it in probably stopped this song from connecting with me. It feels just so pleased with itself and that just turned me off.

Electricity – Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band

I maintain that this is one of the best names ever for a band. They are epitome of what happens when you take the conceit of psychedelic rock that bit too far and then add a hit of peyote.

It’s definitely more entertaining than the 12 minutes of The Doors I just listened too. Even more so when you read the story of when Captain Beefheart himself stopped a performance of the song because he saw a girl in the crowd turn into a goldfish.

Also, I need to talk about the use of a theremin. It’s hilarious and I don’t think it was meant to be.

Corcovado – Frank Sinatra & Antonio Carlos Jobim

Meanwhile down the Brazilian way and in the smoke-filled nightclubs we still had the bossa nova music playing. In 1967 Frank Sinatra released a Grammy Award-nominated album with Antônio Carlos Jobim, one of those at the forefront of bossa nova, and this is one of the songs that came from such a partnership.

Sinatra’s smooth voice works perfectly with the smooth beats of bossa nova. We are so used to him delivering songs with a big band, but honestly this is one of the best recordings I have heard from him. It’s a nice palate-cleanser between all this psychedelic rock.

Heroin – The Velvet Underground

This is the first of two songs from The Velvet Underground & Nico. Whilst this is not one of my favourite two songs, it certainly one of the most notable.

Firstly, we have the title of the song: heroin. No album had featured a song with such a blatant title. You have the lyrical content of the song which neither condemns nor condones the use of heroin. It just talks about the use of heroin and the dependency.

The big thing of interest is the structure. The song is intended to mimic the initial rush (the increased tempo) which is then broken by the comedown (the screeching viola). It’s just a really clever song that’s also very interesting to listen to.

Chelsea Girls – Nico

Oh the flute. That infernal flute. Poor Nico was right about the flute and the strings. She wanted more guitar and some drums, which would have totally helped this song.

Okay so Nico doesn’t have a voice that you can get into straight away. It works with the instruments you hear on ‘All Tomorrow’s Parties’, just not with this wistfully awful production.

Poor poor Nico.

For What It’s Worth – Buffalo Springfield

The moment that the chorus started with “Stop, hey, what’s that sound?” I knew that I knew this song. I don’t know where from, probably from The Muppet Show if I know my own frames of reference.

A song like this gives an interesting insight into what the world was like in 1967. Just as you listen to it off the cuff you quickly realise this is a protest song.

What was it protesting? A curfew that was put in place on the Sunset Strip that young people felt was specifically targeting them. This lead to rioting by the young people of Hollywood and so this song was born.

The Look of Love – Dusty Springfield

The second of three Dusty Springfield songs on this list, and one of the select few that were nominated for an Academy Award.

This song started out as an instrumental piece for the James Bond film Casino Royale (the spoof 1967 version, not the serious 2006 version) with lyrics being added in later.

Whilst the smooth bossa nova beats would have worked as intended in the film, the addition of lyrics sung by the wonderful Dusty Springfield just elevates this song and, as is the tradition of James Bond, makes it sexy.

I’d Rather Go Blind – Etta James

It feels like it has been a long time since we last had a soul song and we get two in a row. I know that with it being a song about a woman who would rather go blind than see her lover leave her.

It’s a sad premise, don’t get me wrong, but I didn’t find this delivery as effecting as I could have. Oh well.

(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher & Higher – Jackie Wilson

This is one of those songs everyone probably knows from an advert on the TV or because it’s regularly used as a piece of background music in tv programmes and films set in the late 1960s.

It’s a song that was originally intended to be a ballad, but the producer thought it would better as a more upbeat song. He wasn’t wrong. It just worked this way because it is a happy song and that would have been lost if it had been crooned.

Strawberry Fields Forever – The Beatles

This will have to rank as one of the more unusual singles ever released by the Beatles. It’s a song of nostalgia about the fields John Lennon used to play in as a child and it is weird.

It’s hard to put a finger on this song. At all. It’s just this weird melange of tempo, instrumentation and John Lennon murmuring ‘cranberry sauce’ in the background.

I can see why reviewers at the time might have been slightly perplexed by this song. I cannot, however, see how this song was able to contribute towards the downward spiral of Brian Wilson.

I still prefer ‘Eleanor Rigby’ and I don’t think I am alone there.

Progress: 228/1021

1001 Songs – 1958

List Item:  Listen to the 1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die

3 months of real time since last doing this. Man, these wrist injuries have really done a number on me. Anyway here goes:

It’s Only Make Believe – Conway Twitty

Conway Twitty means two things to me: a brilliantly done running joke in a Family Guy episode and a game of Trivial Pursuit being played by the stranded cast of One Foot In The Grave.

These thoughts clouded my first listen of the song. So I listened to a Fiona Apple cover of it to clear my head. By this time it is amazing to think how many people came out of the woodword with similar voices to Elvis Presley. I prefer the Fiona version (and she needs to release it), but maybe that’s just me.

Johnny B. Goode – Chuck Berry

Marty McFly ❤ How can anyone hear this without thinking of Back to the Future? This song symbolises to me that moment that rock and roll really got its wings and began to fly. A lot of the elements come together here so much more effectively than in the songs that lead up to it.

That guitar riff is just immortal nowadays and the whole thing just makes you want to get up and dance… oh God I’ve seen what’s next.

Move It! – Cliff Richard & The Drifters

It’s better than any of his Christmas songs I’ll have to give him that.

Cliff Richard was always meant to be Britain’s answer to Elvis Presley (a terrifying idea). When you hear this song directly after ‘Johnny B. Goode’ he is just outclassed. It is interesting, however, to see what music was doing on this side of the pond though. Next!

La Bamba – Ritchie Valens

First thing to note is how much slower this song is compared to some of the covers that came later. What this and Cliff have gone to show is how that sweet rock and roll song was just starting to permeate between borders and find live everywhere.

‘La Bamba’ straddles that line between rock and roll and tejano with a really interesting result. Ritchie Valens released this just 5 months before the famous plane crash where he died alongside Buddy Holly. Only 17. Jesus.

Yakety Yak – The Coasters

Oh my god, I just one of those moments where I completely forgot I knew this song. Now that I listen to it ‘Yakety Yak’ is a funny song of a teenager getting annoyed at having to do all the household chores.

I have no idea where I’ll know this song from, probably an advert of some sort. This is just another example of how rock and roll was branching out – this time with a bit more doo-wop thrown in.

At the Hop – Danny & The Juniors

I want something other than rock and roll! Jesus other than the Conway Twitty song this is just a unbroken run of rock and roll songs.

We are still in doo-wop territory with that piano in the background, but this time this is a song about a place where teenagers would go to dance. That’s it. I mean sure sometimes kids would take their shoes off for a ‘sock hop’, but that’s it. Imagine going to a club and being okay enough with the state of the floors to be dancing around in your socks. Simpler times.

Stagger Lee – Lloyd Price

Here we have a song with a bit more substance. Based on a folk song about a man murdering his friend. The lyrics are dark with a man begging to have his life spared for the sake of his sick wife. The description of the bullet breaking his bones as if they were glass… just wow I was expecting it to be a bit more sanitized.

I’m enjoying the repeated refrain of ‘Oh Stagger Lee’ in the background. This song might go down as the happiest suprise of this year.

Summertime Blues – Eddie Cochran

Still rocky, but this feels a bit more country. Like old style rockabilly Elvis. Where ‘Yakkity Yak’ is about a teenager pouting at chores and ‘At The Hop’ is about teenagers dancing with their socks off (still weird), ‘Summertime Blues’ is very much in that ‘Rebel Without A Cause’ vein.

He’s seen as protopunk and, considering the times, I can see how ‘Summertime Blues’ can be seen that way. He died only two years later in a car crash at the age of 21. His last action? Shielding his girlfriend from the crash. Who knows what more Eddie Cochran could have achieved.

What’s with all these young dead singers!?

Dans mon île – Henry Salvador

‘Dans mon île’ is dreamy. It’s like the ultimate antidote to all the rock and roll songs. It feels like a song you would have in a dream sequence of a stuffy office worker imagining themselves on their own private island.

This song is not quite chanson, it’s close though. It’s actually proto-bossa nova. You can hear shades of ‘Girl of Ipanema’ and the future work of the Gilberto family in ‘Dans mon île’.

Lonesome Town – Ricky Nelson

You might know this song from Pulp Fiction, it’s not one of the more explicit cuts from that film’s soundtrack but it is there.

He’s a good looking man and I just want to take him away from the Lonesome Town if you know what I mean. If you look at the album cover you’ll see what I mean.

This is rockish, but it’s more Chet Baker style vocals in tone.

Fever – Peggy Lee

Edna Krabappel bursting a balloon suit with a lit cigarette. Enough said.

Okay maybe not. ‘Fever’ was not a new song, but Peggy Lee made it what it was. It’s an incredibly sexy lounge song with new lyrics and arrangement by Peggy Lee herself (and with no credit given… damn patriarchy) that have since become the standard.

She is this song. That sultry voice, those finger clicks, that sexual charisma. Weird to think that three years earlier she wrote and sung most of the songs in Disney’s Lady and the Tramp. What a woman!

One for My Baby (and One More for the Road) – Frank Sinatra

This is one where myself and hub disagree on (then again it’s more his sort of music). I wasn’t exactly moved by this song. It was okay and it’s interesting at how this song meanders around in a torch song fashion.

Maybe I’ve missed the point?

Le poinconneur des Lilas – Serge Gainsbourg

A nice bit of chanson here combined with jazz. So different to anything we have heard so far in this batch of 1958 songs. It’s a song about a ticket punch at Lilas station (the percussion giving us the illusion of the trains).

I really enjoyed this song and the chorus where the phrase ‘des petit trous’ or ‘little holes’ is repeated. It’s a fun song and one of two songs he has on the 1001 song list (you can guess the other). This is a lot of fun!

Nel blu dipinto di blu- Domenico Modugno

This song is better known as ‘Volare’ and was actually the Italian entry at the Eurovision Song Contest back in 1958 where it came third.

Where we have had songs that are almost chanson ‘Volare’ is absolutely a chanson song, it’s just delivered in Italian instead of the more typical French.

This song is massive. Not only did it sell 20+ million copies worldwide, but it was the first winner of Record of the Year and Song of the Year at the inaugaural Grammy awards. Not bad for third place at Eurovision.

All I Have to Do Is Dream – The Everly Brothers

Another one of those “oh my God” moments where I finally have a title of a song. I know it’s uncool, but I really do feel happy whenever a song by The Everly Brothers is featured in a TV show or film.

Finally we have a song where I can start to see the elements of pop start to take shape. Sure it’s a long way before we go from ‘All I Have To Do Is Dream’ to some of the trash on the radio… but it will take us via The Beach Boys and The Mamas and the Papas. That’s a journey worth taking.

To Know Him Is to Love Him – The Teddy Bears

Wall of Sound? Is that you I can hear in this Phil Spector produced song? I know he’s turned out to be modern day Phil Spector, but you have to just listen to some of that swelling production in the background and know that he is coming. It’s subtler than what you have later in his career, but it’s exciting to know this is where it starts.

Progress: 105/1021

1001 Songs – 1956: Part One

List Item:  Listen to the 1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die

Blue Monday – Fats Domino

Rhythm and blues with some rock and roll influences here. The music showing how these genres can mash up to produce something that was, for the time, new and exciting. The first of two Fats Domino tracks of 1956 and this is not the star of the show; that honour goes to Blueberry Hill.

Burundanga – Celia Cruz

A deliciously festive salsa track that ended up lending its name to a drug used by rapists. Clearly this knowledge clouds a lot of the positive feeling I have towards this song. Not the songs fault… but wow.

Let’s Do It (Let’s Fall in Love) – Ella Fitzgerald

Oh hello Ella. She really was the voice you wanted when translating the Great American Songbook to vinyl. One of the true greats of this era. The fact that such a normal and unassuming woman is on here singing about sex with an audible gleam in her eye… well it’s a delight.

I’ve Got You Under My Skin – Frank Sinatra

 

Sintra’s warm tones and a rather intrusive saxophone make for one of the classic recordings. It takes a lot for someone to take a 20 year old Oscar nominated song and make it their standard. This song is forever linked with Frank Sinatra and don’t you just know it as the big band explodes into view.

Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye – Ella Fitzgerald

Third song in a row penned by Cole Porter. I don’t think we’ll see something like that again in this song list. Elegant is the only word that really springs to mind. The woodwind and string sections get a good workout in this more positive rendition of a song about saying goodbye to a loved one.

Be-Bop-A-Lula – Gene Vincent & His Blue Caps

Ah rockabilly. It didn’t take long for rock and roll for it to receive it’s first offbranching genre. Be-Bop-A-Lula makes heavy use of steel guitars in this early marriage of rock and roll, rhythym and blues and, most importantly, country music. It’s one of those tracks that screams Elvis Presley… and talk of the devil.

Heartbreak Hotel – Elvis Presley

Another song making heavy use of those steel guitars. Listening to Elvis in the context of Ella Fitzgerald and Frank Sinatra really helps to understand how Elvis stood out so much. In this more bluesy take on rockabilly Elvis is really slurring his words to the point where you find yourself leaning in… in a good way. Dark subject content too.

Blueberry Hill – Fats Domino

I have always loved this song. I even had this album for a while. It’s a smooth track that was apparently spliced together after they lost the sheet music and Fats couldn’t remember the song well enough to sing one clean take. Thumbs up to the editors there.

Hound Dog – Elvis Presley

A song about a woman throwing out her no good man as sung by Elvis Presley? I love it! This is one of those songs that twirling poodle skirts was made for. It’s one of those where both his cover and the original (an electric and attitude filled turn by Big Mama Thornton) satisify different needs. In her hands it’s a fuck you and get lost, in his hands it’s a fuck this and let’s dance.

Progress: 74/1021

1001 Songs – 1954 – 1955

List Item:  Listen to the 1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die

Riot in Cell Block No. 9 – The Robins (1954)

Okay, so the subject matter is pretty self-explanatory. There’s a riot in the prison and things escalate pretty damned quickly. Thing is, no matter how bleak this riot became I kept expecting a shirtless man to appear drinking Diet Coke and for Etta James to chime in about how she wants to be made love to. I might have missed the point with this one…

Love for Sale – Billie Holiday (1954)

Another song from Billie Holiday, her voice has clearly started to deterioate by this 1954 recording. The song, told from the point of view of a prostitute, hits close when you know that Holiday herself was forced into prostuition when she was in her early teen. There are few artists out there who able to trump Holiday on demonstrating the sadder side of life.

The Wind – Nolan Strong & The Diablos (1954)

Listen to this and you will wonder how a man can have such a voice of Nolan Strong. He sounds like a woman, possibly even higher a contralto. This is in stark comparison to the deep voices of the Diablos who have the deep bullfrog style voices. There is something rather creepy and disconcerting about this recording, mainly due to the otherwordlyness of Strong’s voice and the large about of vibrations generated by the lower tones.

My Funny Valentine – Chet Baker (1954)

What lets this song down for me is the fact that it is so deeply embedded in pop culture that I have probably heard it a lot of times, such as during a montage scene in The Vicar of Dibley. As such I am unable to take this as seriously as I could. It is interesting to me that this is considered the standard of the song considering that Chet Baker’s voice is not as powerful as other singers who later attempted this song. He is able, therefore, to cut to the tender heart of this song much more easily than others who have turned it into a powerballad.

Shake, Rattle and Roll – Big Joe Turner & His Blues Kings (1954)

This year is considered by many as the one where rock and roll music was truly born. The next song on the list will attest to that. ‘Shake, Rattle and Roll’ also fits the bill as being one of the early rock and roll tracks, although this leans a lot more heavily on the traditional rhytym and blues.

(We’re Gonna) Rock Around the Clock – Bill Haley & His Comets (1954)

And so rock and roll entered the public consciousness. I don’t think there are a lot people who have not heard this standard. Even if you are passing a 50’s style diner, it is likely that you will hear this song. Seeing how we are nearly 60 songs in, I can see how this was not the first rock and roll song, but this the song where the final shoe dropped. The line has been crossed and this is now a new genre.

I Get Along Without You Very Well – Chet Baker (1954)

Effortless is the word that comes to mind with Chet Baker. He doesn’t seem to try when he is singing, it is cool and it is relaxed. This song did not exactly hit me to be honest.

In the We Small Hours of the Morning – Frank Sinatra (1955)

If I am being completely honest, I am looking forward to the time where we are going to get to something a bit more punchy and a bit less croony. It’s coming, but I am not sure how many years away this is going to be. Don’t get me wrong, Sinatra has a remarkably smooth voice and, as traditional pop goes, this is a nice song. But that’s it. Unlike Chet Baker’s two offerings this feels toothless and without any real emotion attached (and then there is the whole other league of Billie Holiday, but let’s not go there).

Tutti Frutti – Little Richard (1955)

Ever noticed how repetitive this song is? When someone mentioned this to me it is all I can think of when I hear this song. It’s a brilliant example of rock and roll and one of the many directions it was going to take. Also, what a single to announce your solo career to the world with. You can’t not smile when this song is on. Side note: this may be the first singer who we have encountered that is still alive.

Only You (and You Alone) – The Platters (1955)

This is a really well executed song of it’s genre. It’s something I can imagine Elvis later covering and changing the instruments to make it sound a bit more rock and roll. The problem is, doo wop music has become outdated (in 2016) and, considering the songs picked for 1955, looks like it was on its way out even then.

Cry Me a River – Julie London (1955)

Ah, a classic torch song. There is something comforting about something that is skirting the line of sentimentality. Interesting how this was one of those songs that was passed between artists before being given to Julie London. She gives a smooth and restrained version with an undercurrent of anger, something that a lot of other artists might have missed. This is not a song to be overdone.

Sixteen Tons – Tennessee Ernie Ford (1955)

I only know this song thanks to The Simpsons and South Park. It has become one of those in pop culture that is associated with back-breaking labour for no reward (usually to a comic effect). Like with ‘My Funny Valentine’ it is not a song I can take seriously because of how it has been used comedically. Then again, I am not sure we are entirely meant to take it at face value.

I’m a Man – Bo Diddly (1955)

Again I am waiting for Etta James to step in and sing about how she wants to be made love to. Makes for a nice piece of symmetry I guess. Listening to this and Riot in Cell Block No. 9 so close together really does show up how a lot of rhythm and blues music of this era sounded similar. I think I am beginning to understand what people mean when they say everything on the charts sounds the same.

Progress: 65/1021

Music Monday: A Night With Ol’ Blue Eyes

List item: Listen to the 250 greatest albums
Progress: 4/250

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.

intheweesmallhoursTitle: In The Wee Small Hours
Artist: Frank Sinatra
Year: 1955
Position: #275 (Previously: #247)

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.

SongsforswinginloversTitle: Songs For Swingin’ Lovers
Artist: Frank Sinatra
Year: 1956
Position: #291 (Previously: #246)

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.