Though it may pain us to say it, Frank SInatra’s 1960s and his 1970s would not be his 1950s and 1940s, it isn’t that the times had entirely passed him buy but the teen pop bobby soxers sure haad, and his mainstream hausfrau soft rockisms, not coming from L.A> but closer to the middle of the road blandness that infected popular music. I liked John Denver, sure, but he wasn’t the Gerhswins.
The year is 1971 and Frank is not close to the chart success he wasn’t was. His last album was Watertown (here) where The Four Seasons’ songwriter Bob Gaudio composed the soft rock opera as a sort of artistic statement meets chart move that didn’t (#101 on the Billboard 200). Sinatra & Company began life as a sequel to 1964’s Francis Albert Sinatra & Antônio Carlos Jobim -a big hit, it was to be called Sinatra–Jobim and ten songs were recorded and even released on 8 track only to be recalled as Sinatra considered the charts, cut the Jobim songs to seven and added seven tracks of soft rock to the B side, with an uncomfortable mixture that doesn’t really make sense. The difference between cool and sweet Bossanova and bland arrangements of mostly iffy songs didn’t quite function correctly.
The Jobim A Side is the equal of their first collaboration, seven songs worth of cool and sexiness and Sinatra’s voice (in his mid-50s) has survived without any major mishaps (except for that time he lost it in 1950 because of vocal-chord hemorrhaging, only to return with the best voice of his career) and the Jobim tracks are given a superb right on the beat performance, all seven songs are huge and all through them Sinatra has the skill of a rapper on the rim of the bars and floating right through.
But the second side is more subdued, less beat oriented, and Sinatra with Don Costa leans into orchestrated takes on mediocre tracks. In the mid-1940s and 1950s, whenever Frank took on the great American songbook, the song suddenly belonged to him, and on this album, he can’t even wrestle “Leaving On A Jet Plan” from Peter, Paul And Mary. The other big song here is the Bacharach and David “(They Long To Be) Close To You” and while Sinatra’s take is pleasant and playful, compared to Karen Carpenter it disappears in the mists of time. “Lady Day” -an outtake from Watertown is better though it is more Baroque than Renaissance , and “Sunrise In The Morning” is the best song on the side with horns and strings carrying him upwards like the sunrise he is singing bout.
I have been receiving quite a bit of hate mail when I’ve written a less than glowing review of a Frank long player -my Softly As I Leave (here) really got up Sinatra fans noses- yet the truth is more important, and anyway, if you are reviewing 50 albums and all of them are masterpieces, the chances are you’re very biased…
Side A – A
Side B – B
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