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Frank Sinatra’s “My Way” Reviewed

Frank Sinatra Goes French

The huge success of Frank’s Paul Anka meets the French brigade Claude François, Jacques Revaux and Gilles Thibaul’s “My Way,” gave Frank another country to sing to a standstill: France. Paul Anka became, much to his surprise, a junior member of the Rat Pack and a Sinatra favorite. In 1968 Anka got a call from Frank who told him to hop a plane and meet him in Miami, they had dinner along with Frank’s woman, the exceptionally youthful Mia Farrow. “I’m retiring,” Frank announced, “And I want you to write me one final song.” “But I’ve already written ‘Puppy Love…’” Anka responded, and as the laughter quietened down added, “You’re laughing now…”

Listening to Claude Francois sing the original “Comme d’habitude” -which means “Like Everyday” -a losing love lyric, the music is set in place but the lyric is weak and Francois’s singing isn’t justified, it is the lyric that turned it into Sinatra’s anthem: a how to song about how to live. Though only in his mid-50s (I know, the older you get the more things are youthful), it was Sinatra’s retirement last word. His explanation for men as to how to be yourself, it is the greatest karaoke moment and for Western style culture and society, it is both a song of white privilege and a connect the dots victory lap.

Central to his 47th album is a strength he hadn’t had on his previous album, Cycles (my review here) it is like a dip into the great French songbook: “Watch What Happens” was co-written by the legendary Jacques Demy and comes from his 1964 musical “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg,” and a terrific take on Jacques Brel’s “If You Go Away” (with Rod McKuen’s lyric, it would lead to Sinatra’s final album of the 1960s) makes the trio a huge save here. While the three are by definition Middle Of The Road pop songs, they are tailor made to be unsentimental and discipline covers, the Frnech songs are uniformly oversung and Frank maintains complete control of the mood; if Frank had followed through with an album of French covers, My Way would be remembered more fondly.

Instead, we get Frank singing modern standard “Yesterday,” the Cahn and Van Heusen’s “All My Tomorrows” which first saw the light of day during the opening credits of Frank’s wonderful movie “A Hole In The Head,” the Brazilian “A Day In The Life Of A Fool”. The only representative from the Great American Songbook was the Motown hit “Once In My Life” (you probably remember Stevie Wonder’s version), a towering album highlight version of Ray Charles “Hallelujah, I Love Her So,” and a stupendously terrible “Mrs. Robinson” as a jazz swinger with awful new lyrics:

“The PTA, Mrs. Robinson
Won’t OK the way you do your thing
Ding, ding, ding

And you’ll get yours, Mrs. Robinson
Foolin’ with that young stuff like you do
Boo, hoo, hoo, woo, woo, woo

It is not one of Frank’s greatest moments, not even close…

However, the album, Don Costa’s arrangements, are all of a piece, it works well together, and it moves forward with missteps beng the sort of missteps that happen recording yet another album. Sinatra himself brings his “B+” game, he doesn’t drive albums the way he did in the 1950s, instead he is patient with his revelations and they come together as a minor self-portrait on its way to an upcoming artistic breakthrough in the early 1970s.

Grade: B+

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