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Frank Sinatra’s “Sinatra And Swingin’ Brass” Reviewed

So here we are at album # 22 in 1962, the Beatles were in Hamburg, JFK was in the White House, Frank Sinatra was 46 years of age but so what? In 1961 he released five albums and this was his third in 1962. If the album isn’t a slapdash here is the fast one, hang around for the slow one, Sinatra at Reprise how its done, the two days that it took to record on April 10th and April 11th, 1962, in Hollywood suggests otherwise. I read where Frank had a cold during the recording, maybe that’s why Frank is simply not deeply committed to this set. Re-recording songs off his Capital catalog (in order to get them on his own label for sure) , “”They Can’t Take That Away from Me” and “I Get a Kick Out of You” from Songs for Young Lovers, “You Brought a New Kind of Love to Me” from  Songs for Swingin’ Lovers, and “At Long Last Love” off  A Swingin’ Affair, are retreads. All well and good, and Reprise would give the likes of Dean Martin control of his 1960s releases from the heavy hand of the big record companies, so why shouldn’t Frank do it himself?

Of course Sinatra should and did but not these takes, these versions aren’t as good as as the original versions. Now, if his urge was more brass than swing than conductor and arranger Neal Hefti was a smart choice. The man began his career playing trumpet for Woody Herman and absolutely his brass here jumps off the record, they are myriad and powerful and swing and swing nonstop, fine  on “At Long Last Live,” less so on “They Can’t Take That Away From Me”. Too often they get in the way, this is Sinatra so they aren’t overwhelming him at all but the sound is too harsh. Even so, it isn’t the lack of Nelson Riddle where question marks arrive. It’s Sinatra.

With still 35 years till his death, with his voice intact, as the poet laureate of JFK’s Camelot, a succesful movie career and his own label, Sinatra’s career is going fine but his performance lacks pure genius,. In the 1950s, when Sinatra sung a song it was sung, everyone else was simply pretenders to Sinatra’s blueprint and apparently that includes Frank himself. “Goody Goody” can’t compare to Frankie Lymon’s 1958 take. Lymon was fifteen years of age in 1958 and he was all over the nursery rhyme taunt revenge song, Frankie swings it fine but no more than that (Armstrong would do it better). The “They Can’t Take That Away” is way too swinging, it needs to flow, and Sinatra knows this but he is obsessed with the brass concept and what makes it worse is you just know if he returned to the song a couple of times he would have found the middle ground. “At Long Last Love” is terrific because he understands the comparisons so well he lets rides the flow not the swing. Both “Don’cha go Away Mad” (the poster child for how women’s roles in life and romance have changed), is real good, it isn’t much of a song though Sinatra performs it with a wink and a smile. “Tangerine” and “Serenade In Blue”… well how obscure can Jerome Kern be? Even so, this isn’t “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes”.

The problem is the ones that deserve to be thought through a little further, the problem is the songs where Sinatra isn’t pushing his skill set, I’d say six of these songs are not good enough, they don’t deserve to replace anyone, and especially not himself. He should have done something to make this a bigger album and not just the swing side of his swing-ballad axis, but a pacing less strenuous and more fulfilling.I might add that Michael Buble would sell his mother to ISIS for an album half this good. .


Grade: B+





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