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Frank Sinatra’s “Sinatra Sings Great Songs From Great Britain” Reviewed

In 1962, Frank SInatra was touring and recording all the time. Although the height of the second part of his career was over, he was ten years away from his initial retirement, and if his voice was a little weaker, his charm was on full blast. Generations had been raised on his voice and rock and roll had not dented his popularity, indeed, rock had come to pay fealty to Frank, not the other way round.

But it might not have felt that way to Frank, recording for the first and only time outside the US, he was so displeased with Sinatra Sings Great Songs From Great Britain he refused to release his 25th album in the States.For certain, Sinatra was not pushing his voice, he was nearing the tail of a world tour in support for children living in poverty and he was tired. But Sinatra loved performing in the UK, in 1950 he headlined the Palladium, a big deal indeed. And the UK always had a soft spot for American icons, Presley, Armstrong, and Sinatra himself were worshipped there.

With two big names, arranging was Canadian Robert Farnon and producing Eric Tomlinson (he would go on to “Oliver!” and the original Star Wars trilogy), and a sound seeped in old school even for 1962, second world war sounding strings, Frank was perfectly at home in the glow of nostalgia: this was 1940s while the Beatles were playing at the Tavern, Sinatra harked back to Vera Lynne, to the sound of Blitzkrieg, still ringing in Londoners ear less than twenty years later, Sinatra returned to songs he had, for the most part, never performed. Recorded between June 12th and June 14th, 1962, in Bayswater Stduio in London, it was the sound of time lost to the scandal scarred Paradise postponed of early 1960s England, where socialism and capitalism battled it our, and the old class castes were being dissembled , Frank sounded like another time and place stepping back for all of England, one final time.

“We’ll Gather Lilacs In The Spring,” “Roses Of Picardy” (not on the original album), “A Nightingale Sang In Piccadilly,” as well as crossover hits “The Very Thought Of You” and “We’ll Meet gain” are indelible parts of the past, of the mid-40s, before England won the war and lost the peace. To hear Sinatra, however wearily, turn to these songs, is a gift to the Churchillian’s in all of us. As a boy in England, there was a sort of shine to England that worked despite the constant rain. Queen Victoria hadn’t been put to rest, Dad’s Army hadn’t reached closing time. As a teenager I would sometimes sit and ralk to some of the greatest generation, not that old though the change from the 40s to the 60s so huge, the change from war to peace so monumental, it feel so much further away.

If Farnon’s arrangement and conducting could have used a touch of swing, he was being true to its progenitors, and while Frank seemed a little subdued, well he was tired and he wasn’t entirely at home with the material. he still should have released it everywhere, as he moved away from the Sinatra songbook and still managed to perform superb selections from a past so far gone from the here and now it might as well have been Queen Victoria. It is a future England got the opportunity to glance back at before the world around it tumbled apart and away.

Grade: B+


1 Comment

  1. Timctnc on October 10, 2021 at 2:18 am

    Sinatra may have been tired, however, I’m just really great full he did this album. Recorded over three nights. Anybody who was any body was there, Benny Green who wrote for the observer ,Tony Hatch,Nelson Riddle made an appearance.
    There was a guy called Mr Strickland who owned a record shop just over the road from the studio who by coincidence had a display of Sinatra’s records in the window.Sinatra seen this as he was walking past, went into the shop and invited Mr Strickland to the recording session .
    Listen to the 2014 box set outtakes to really get a glimpse into how the album was made and hear Sinatra pay homage to the British.
    I think some of the rehearses were done on the dance floor at the Savoy,
    When the orchestra rehearsed the song A Garden In The Rain ,Sinatra laughed in appreciation at Robert Farnon’s orchestration ,as he had made the Strings sound like cascading water.
    The album is full of charm and an absolute masterpiece. The album is as British as British can be. This is definitely an album to love and cherish.

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