Sinatra 100th: The Best Performances – 22-20
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…
22 — Nice ‘N’ Easy
Music & Lyrics: Lew Spence, Marilyn and Alan Bergman
Recorded: 13 April 1960
From the album Nice ‘N’ Easy
Like The Best Is Yet To Come, which will be a part of the best yet to come, this performance is sizzling with the of promise of sensuality. Of course, we learn from this recording that Frank likes to hold his horses because he’s such an upstanding citizen, don’t ya know.
21 — I’m A Fool To Want You 
Music & Lyrics: Jack Wolf, Joel. S. Herron, Frank Sinatra
Recorded: 27 March 1951
Released as a Single; included in the compilation albums The Columbia Years 1943-1952: The Complete Recordings, The Best Of The Columbia Years 1943-1952 [4-CD], Sinatra Sings His Greatest Hits CD.
If you want to try to begin to understand what Frank’s relationship with Ava Gardner was like, this first recording of this song is the place to begin [Nelson Riddle: ‘It was Ava who taught him how to sing a torch song. That’s how he learned. She was the greatest love of his life and he lost her.’].
I rate it higher than the version he did on Where Are You?, because, despite the lush and fitting string arrangement there, Frank is just raw and bleeding inside here. As Mark Steyn so brilliantly describes it: it ‘was one of the bleakest, most harrowing, most exposed performances in the Sinatra oeuvre’.
The Song Is You 
Music & Lyrics: Oscar Hammerstein II, Jerome Kern
Recorded: 09 December 1958
From the album Come Dance With Me
This ain’t the more grand, the more lush version Frank recorded in 1947 [#59]. This is the version you swing and dance to at a happenin’ party.
If someone ever asks you what Sinatra means when he describes something as ‘mothery’, play them this recording.
Let us turn again to some dead-on insight from Mark Steyn:
Which is the real Sinatra “Song Is You”? The tender, vulnerable, delicate Axel Stordahl arrangement? Or the ring-a-ding-dingin’ Billy May? Answer: Both. Two sides of the same man – and the same song. And, in fact, those two arrangements define what a standard is: You can do it soft and legato, or brassy and jumpin’. There’s no correct way, other than what the performer hears in it: in that sense, the song is you. But it’s worth listening to those two takes side by side. Sometimes there’s a definitive ballad treatment of a standard, and sometimes there’s a definitive up-tempo treatment of a standard, and sometimes they’re by the same guy: Frank Sinatra, a man who did more than anyone to establish the very concept of the standard song.
That’s why he is the only Chairman Of The Board.
Don’t Worry ‘Bout Me
Music & Lyrics: Ted Koehler, Rube Bloom
Recorded: 30 April 1953
Released as a Single; included in the compilation albums This Is Sinatra, This Is Sinatra 1953-1957 [UK CD], and The Complete Capitol Singles; also as a bonus track on a Where Are You CD.
From the same recording session that brought us I’ve Got The World On A String, this performance follows on the other [more on that one in a few weeks] in announcing that Francis Albert has risen from the rubble and is ready to swing the world.
Classic Blues, Classic Sinatra — what a combo…
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.