Sinatra 100th: The Best Performances – 70-68
Here at TCOTS, we’re celebrating Frank Sinatra’s 100th Birthday by counting down what I think are his 100 best performances on Vinyl and CD. All of the songs on the List have been released on either one or both mediums. Interspersed with the countdown will be Honorable Mentions that didn’t make the List and a countdown of what I think are his best albums.
Francis Albert will be your pilot and Bobby Bell your navigator.
So sit back easy in your easy chair, fasten your seatbelts, and let’s take-off in the blue…
70 — It’s Always You
Music & Lyrics: Jimmy Van Heusen, Johnny Burke
Recorded: 03 May 1961
From the album I Remember Tommy
Everytime I’ve fallen in love [most especially the last time] this is exactly the state I was found myself in [‘I’m just-a walkin’ on air’]. Which leads to my response to the question, ‘What is it about Frank Sinatra that makes him so appealing?’ — it’s simple: Frank understands. And, man, does he here.
THE CLAM [ie: mistake in the performance/recording]: From Nick From Philly, a regular contributor to the Sinatra Family Forum:
…how I adore listening to “It’s Always You,” on this album. When Sinatra’s vocal reprises the line, and reaches, “If a breeze caresses me, it’s really you strolling by,” (for the second time), listen closely to “caresses me.” It’s right here that the bass player, Joe Comfort, dropped his instrument. It can clearly be heard on the original LP, and (I believe), on re-issues on CD. The bass hits the floor exactly on the beat.
Not sure if it was Sonny Burke, or Jimmy Bowen, perhaps, who said to Frank, “Do we do it again? Once more?” Frank says, “Let’s hear the playback.” After playback, Frank decided that, since the instrument fell “right on the beat,” it stayed in, intact, exactly as it was recorded. Don’t know how many people know about this, but when you listen to that track again, you’ll enjoy it even more.
Indeed. I always listen for it now.
69 — My Kind Of Town
Music & Lyrics: Sammy Cahn, Jimmy Van Heusen
Recorded: 08 April 1964
From the albums Robin and the 7 Hoods Soundtrack, A Man And His Music, Sinatra ’65
Pundette lists this performance as one of her ‘also-rans’:
My test of a “favorite” song is the urge to listen to it over and over. I’ve never felt that urge with this one….
Though it pains me to state it: the Lady is wrong [but, hey, she’s still a ‘tramp’, so Jill is a-ok in my book].
Unlike so many others who attempt it, when Frank sings about a town, he captures it’s rhythm and feel [LA Is My Lady, notwithstanding – well…no one is perfect]. With the right ration of braggadocio and pride and swing, the Chairman paints an accurate portrait of that toddlin’ town.
68 — Night And Day
Music & Lyrics: Cole Porter
Recorded: 26 November 1956
From the album A Swingin’ Affair
Night and day; this is the one
So many versions there are under the sun
Whether slow, mid-tempo, or fast
Frank kept on recording them
With a disco version as his last
So we think of him…day and night…
This is the song Francis Albert recorded more times than any other — by my count, six recordings were made with six different arrangements. As Mark Steyn wrote in his wonderful essay in his Sinatra Song Of The Century series:
…In 1942, it was one of the songs he sang on his first ever session as a solo singer (along with “The Song Is You”). He recorded it again eight months later for the film Reveille With Beverly. Certain Sinatra amendments were already in place – extending the lyric to “way down inside of me” and stepping up the scale on the extra words – and those Frankisms would stay with him into the disco era. For much of the 1940s it was the intro theme on his radio show, Old Gold Presents Songs By Sinatra. Throughout this period he used essentially the original 1942 arrangement by Axel Stordahl, although the sweetly innocent legato vocal evolved. Most people think of the Stordahl arrangement as a “ballad” and the 1956 Nelson Riddle version as a “swinger”, but in terms of overall speed there’s less difference than you might think. The real ballad treatment, with the verse at crawl tempo, had to wait till Don Costa’s chart for the 1961 Sinatra & Strings – but I think I prefer the stripped-down version, with just Frank and guitarist Al Viola, from his 1962 world tour.
As for the 1977 disco version …oh, dear….
This version from the Swingin’ Affair album [#4] is the best, in my opinion, because Frank swings it lightly, giving Cole Porter’s lyrics just the right amount of gravitas without losing any of the playfulness infused in them, even though Mr. Porter wrote the song about an obsession — that may have been his intent, but the words just don’t work as well that way [although, as you see above, Mr. Steyn disagrees]. No matter: it’s a true classic.
BONUS — Night And Day [Live]
Recorded: 07 June 1962
From the album Live In Paris
Here’s Mark Steyn’s favorite version…
See you next Friday as we head-off again to Bobsville.
Don’t forget to also keep checking out
Pundette’s Sinatra 100 countdown,
Ms Evi’s Sinatra Celebration,
& Mark Steyn’s Sinatra Songs Of The Century.
It’s a swingin’ world.
If you’re having trouble tracking down any of the performances on this List, contact me at Robert[dot]Belvedere[at]gmail[dot]com and I might be able to help you.