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Frank Sinatra’s “The Main Event – Live” Reviewed

The liner notes:

Frank Sinatra
The Main Event – Live

Reprise Records
FS 2207

From the original vinyl LP

“Live” From Madison Square Garden
Featuring Woody Herman and The Young Thundering Herd Orchestra
Conducted by Bill Miller
Produced by Don Costa

Side One:

Main Event Tribute by Howard Cosell

1. Overture (3:00)

It Was A Very Good Year 
(Ervin Drake)
Delfi Music, Inc. (ASCAP)

All The Way
Maraville Music Corp., (ASCAP)

My Kind Of Town
Sergeant Music Co./Glorste Music, Inc
Van Heusen Music Corp., (ASCAP)

2. The Lady Is A Tramp (2:45)
(Richard Rodgers/Lorenz Hart)
Chappell & Co., Inc. (ASCAP)

3. I Get A Kick Out Of You (4:00
(Cole Porter)
Harms, Inc. (ASCAP)

4. Let Me Try Again (Laisse Moi Le Temps) (3:10)
(Music by Caravelli, French Lyric by Michel Jordan, English Lyric by Paul Anka & Sammy Cahn)

5. Autumn In New York (2:35)
(Vernon Duke)
Harms, Inc., (ASCAP)

6. I’ve Got You Under My Skin (3:25)
(Cole Porter) Chappell & Co., Inc. (ASCAP)

Side Two:

1. Big, Bad Leroy Brown
(Jim Croce)
Blendingwell Music, Inc.,/American Broadcasting Music, Inc. (ASCAP)

2. Angel Eyes (3:38)
Beechwood Music Corp., (BMI)

3. You Are The Sunshine Of My Life (2:40)
(Stevie Wonder) 
Stein & Van Stock/Black Bull Music (ASCAP)

4. The House I Live In (4:42)
(Earl Robinson/Lewis Allan)
Chappell & Co., Inc. (ASCAP)

5. My Kind Of Town (2:32)
Sergeant Music, Co./Glorste Music, Inc./Von Heusen Music Corp. (ASCAP)

6. My Way (4:57)
Spanko Music Corp., (BMI)/S.D.R.M.

Screams in the night. Then …
“Where does it hurt you, baby?”
Sinatra during “I’ve Got You Under My Skin.”

There have been other singers,
but not as many men.
He is an audience singer. It is there he achieves fulfillment.
At that, he is world champ.
“The Main Event,” a televised
concert from Madison Square Garden, packs together the
Essential Sinatra.

A singer born in a time when
singers were performers first,
recording artists incidentally.

It’s been too long for an album of
Sinatra that captures him as
performer. This is Sinatra at 
his best.

There’s no Sinatra better than
the Sinatra in tuxedo.
The Sinatra before thousands,
without stopwatch or control
The Sinatra with hand mike,
whipping the cord and the
Thundering Herd. 
It’s that Sinatra, singing his
unavoidable songs, prime

Recording facilities by Record Plant, New York
Engineered by Ed Greene
Cover Photo of Mr. Sinatra by Ed Thrasher
Executive Producer for Concerts and Television – Jerry Weintraub

Woody Herman appears courtesy of Fantasy Records

Even for a live album, The Main Event – the renamed Ol’ Blue Eyes in the October of his years at Madison Square Garden, in October, two dates October 12th and October 13th, might have been a little better, but the television show we got from it is a statically filmed bore even while being an electrifying performance and the album is too short to make a dent, so sort of a 58 minute concert which hits me as being at least half an hour too short.

An event of sorts, sure,and when your celebrity row includes Carol Channing and Rex Harrison, not bad and just a coupla names that caught Howard Cosell’s introducing Sinatra’s attention. Maybe more than that, in July of that year 53rd album, Some Nice Things I’ve Missed (here) stiffed, and since he was still returning from his retirement and return a couple of years earlier, he needed to, well, return. And so he did.

The 1974 The Main Event tour was a quickie, six cities, seven nights, stadiums, with a full orchestra and a set list settled on his greatest hits plus a couple of ringers, Sinatra’s performance was full on niy mpy enough of it, his jokes were flat and his ad libs wanting, but his joy for the evening(s -see above) was palpable. “I have never seen so much love in one room in my life” he claimed and that is a whole lotta love for sure. While the TV film was iffy in many ways, in enhances already pretty darn good performances. We expect Sinatra to command the stage but what he does (something I’ve seen Springsteen do) is turn the experience until it becomes personal: until he performs to all at once and each one separately. It is one of Sinatra’s great gifts, the loud (or swing!) and quiet (ballads) like proto-grunge, the intimacy can explode at any moment. In 1974, Sinatra’s voice was as robust as ever and the voice of the Wee Small man could whisper or intimidate with what felt with an ease beyond style the same speaking is without style. The only man I’ve heard with the same control is Tony Bennett.

The first side of the album is exquisite, two Cole Porter sure shots, a good Paul Anka – Sammy Cahn song, and nothing that doesn’t fit, because, really if you wanna see Frank Sinatra why wouldn’t you want to see him kick in with “The Lady Is A Tramp” as you wait patiently for “she’s broke but it’s oak…” and soon after, Sinatra’s single most Sinatra moment “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” with that magical Nelson Riddle arrangement.

But it doesn’t save the album, the first side is masterful with even his conversation and ad libs fabulous, a sweet natured “Where do you think Gene Kelly learnt to dance? From me…” and flirty “Where does it hurt you, baby…?” Even his comments about the start career stay this side of asinine. Side two isn’t as lucky although it begins with a brisk “Bad Bad Leroy Brown” it has an extended comic riff after a heartbreaking saloon singer style “Angel Eyes” that is not funny: “I’m so proud of what is happening here tonight I am going to give myself a little reward and this is it… it is really geritol… not really, it’s plain tea with a little honey in it. It really is. And if you believe that I want to sell you 400,000 acres of swampland in Jersey just across the river…And then you’ve got it made.” Although “The House I Live In” is not the jingoism you might expect it to be, Sinatra’s claim that he wanted a fair shake for everybody and then some is at odds with his support of Reagan six years later, and while the song is a dog with fleas the sentiments, by avowed communist Earl Robinson, are a good liberalism for the folks. The closing is preposterous, penultimate song “My Kind Of Town” is a Chicago song recorded during the Boston stop of the Main Event tour is a bit of a slap and if this is the apex of a year that found him fighting in Australia in July (“Ol’ Big Mouth is back” he jokes) with Sinatra getting on stage at Melbourne’s Festival Hall and describing Australia’s female journalists as buck-and-a-half hookers… I know we shouldn’t but so funny. After that there was a Carnegie Hall gig and a residency at Caesar’s Palace and some of him must have wondered why he didn’t remain retired. The evening ends with a business as usual (“our national anthem but don’t stand up”) “My Way”.

Sinatra’s last act setlist wasn’t in place, twenty years later there would be “Summer Wind” and “I’ve Got The World On A String” and “The Best Is Yet To Come” and more. Here, he hasn’t quite perfected the setlist. Those final years were a blueprint for his greatness and this isn’t it.

Grade: B

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