Tuesday, November 20, 2007

My Way: The Best Of Frank Sinatra

This two-CD Reprise "Import" collection includes among its 46 selections many of the very best recordings Frank Sinatra ever made. Count this reviewer among those who believe FS produced his very best performances during the first years of his own record label in the early Sixties---and not during "The Capitol Years" in the Fifties (please see my review for "The Very Best of Frank Sinatra"). The simple fact is Sinatra didn't reach the peak of his vocal powers until 1963---three years after the first Reprise recordings represented here.

It's now fully 40 years since two of these selections, "Bewitched" and "America the Beautiful," were recorded for what the singer himself considered his crowning achievement (in the bel canto, operatic style) --- "The Concert Sinatra" album. Almost 30 years elapsed before "America the Beautiful" finally was released on the 4-CD Reprise box set. For "The Concert Sinatra" arranger/conductor Nelson Riddle assembled, on the singer's orders, his largest-ever symphony orchestra, recorded on a huge sound stage at the MGM film studios. Riddle claimed near the end of his life, that he never saw the singer better prepared or more focussed for a recording session.

Among other highlights of this splendid 2-CD collection are:

- The opening track from the June 1962 "Great Songs from Great Britain" album---the Ray Noble classic "The Very Thought of You" arranged/conducted by Robert Farnon.
- Three from the 1961, Don Costa arranged "Sinatra and Strings" album, which many consider the singer's best `ballads' from the Reprise years: "Come Rain or Come Shine," "Night and Day" and "All or Nothing at All."
- Sinatra's best version (with Nelson Riddle) of the Glen Miller/Mitch Parish classic "Moonlight Serenade" from the "Moonlight Sinatra" album; also, what many fans consider the singer's very best `swinger'---arranged by Riddle in the early 60s---the Kern & Fields Oscar winner "Just the Way You Look Tonight."
- Great tunes from his earliest Reprise (1960) recordings for the classic "Ring-a-Ding Ding!" album---the only one arranged by composer ("Shadow of Your Smile") Johnny Mandel. Among those: Berlin's "Let's Face the Music and Dance."
- Definitive re-recordings of Capitol-era classics such as "I Get a Kick Out of You" (arranged by Neal Hefti) and "In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning" which finds the singer in perfect voice, and with a revised (even better?) Riddle arrangement. Also worth noting: markedly improved sound quality achieved at Reprise (compared to the Capitol Years) by the best engineers in the best Hollywood recording studios.

This collection provides (arguably) the best overall mixture of `old and new' Sinatra, ever assembled on two CDs. The 46 tracks here include all-time best sellers---disdained perhaps by some as `weak tea' compared to the strong meat of the Great American Songbook, otherwise well represented in this collection. Yet those same commercial hits struck a chord with `baby boomers' that was key to re-establishing Sinatra's career in the Beatles' era----and beyond to a fifth, then a sixth decade of public performances. To borrow a phrase from song titles here, it's from these songs that the "best" (really was) "yet to come" at Reprise Records---as well the (very) "bad, bad." Whatever your tastes, be certain at least 40 of these tunes you'll love and never tire of playing. Could we name other great singers whose "best of" compilations could meet those criteria? By Mark Blackburn


1. My Way
2. Strangers In The Night
3. Theme From New York New York
4. I Get A Kick Out Of You
5. Somethin' Stupid
6. Moon River
7. What Now My Love
8. Summer Wind
9. For Once In My Life
10. Love And Marriage
11. They Can't Take That Away From Me
12. My Kind Of Town
13. Fly Me To The Moon
14. I've Got You Under My Skin
15. The Best Is Yet To Come
16. It Was A Very Good Year
17. Come Fly With Me
18. That's Life
19. The Girl From Ipanema
20. The Lady Is A Tramp
21. Bad, Bad Leroy Brown
22. Mack The Knife
23. Love's Been Good To Me
24. L.A. Is My Lady
1. Let's Face The Music & Dance
2. Come Rain Or Come Shine
3. Night And Day
4. The Very Thought Of You
5. Pennies From Heaven
6. Bewitched
7. America The Beautiful
8. All The Way
9. In The Wee Small Hours Of The Morning
10. The Way You Look Tonight
11. Three Coins In The Fountain
12. Softly As I Leave You
13. All Or Nothing At All
14. Yesterday
15. Moonlight Serenade
16. Somewhere My Love
17. Mrs. Robinson
18. Something
19. You Are The Sunshine Of My Life
20. Send In The Clowns
21. It Had To Be You
22. The Best Of Everything

Torrent: here

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