Sinatra 100th: The Best Performances – 10-06
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.
You know, it may seem quite bizarre to think that here we are two posts away from the end of this list of Best Performances and it’s only September In The Rain.
However, after the top five are displayed for a waiting World next week, seven days following, I shall begin counting down the Top Ten Sinatra Albums, because the man was all about the long-playing wax. So have no fear, and be of good cheer, for this here plane is gonna keep flying where the air is rarefied, and, as always…
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 with the first servings of the Top Ten Best Performances…
The toughest part of counting down this List is when you get to this point because how can you not use and reuse certain words, like ‘great’ and ‘wonderful’ and ‘classic’ and ‘superb’, to describe the Best of The Best of Frank Sinatra’s recordings? Also: why all of these songs deserve to be in any Top Ten Sinatra List is evident just by listening to them.
So…You may find my commentary from here on to be somewhat shorter than the norm…
10 — Let’s Get Away From It All
Music & Lyrics: Matt Dennis, Tom Adair
Recorded: 01 October 1957
From the album Come Fly With Me
If the song Come Fly With Me consists of the take-off and jetting to exotic and faraway places, this is the prologue, when the idea for taking off in the blue is first broached, when it’s suggested to ‘leave our hut dear, get out of our rut dear’.
The gal, being an adventurous dame, is all for Frank’s proposal…and who could blame her?
09 — One For My Baby (And One More For The Road)
Music & Lyrics: Harold Arlen, Johnny Mercer
Recorded: 24 June 1958
Unreleased alternate version from the Only The Lonely sessions; finally released on CD as a track on The Capital Years [3-CD] and Capital Collectors Series compilations.
While the version on the Only The Lonely album is marvelous, this one, recorded prior to it, with Frank just accompanied by his long-time associate and piano player, Bill Miller, is, I think, the most hearfelt, the one that best captures the despair of the man who relates his tale of romantic woe.
…In the latter [One For My Baby], it’s quarter to three and there’s no one in the place except him and the bartender; in the former [Angel Eyes, the room is still full of drinks and laughs and happy people. But both songs are conversational vignettes in which most of the specifics are left unsaid. The storytelling is all mood, and Sinatra was a master of that, able to walk out on stage in the biggest soulless cavernous rock arena on the edge of town and shrink it to the kind of decrepit joint where guys drowning their sorrows over “Angel Eyes” are to be found.
More so than Angel Eyes, One For My Baby is the definition and sound of a heart breaking.
Sadly, I have been unable to find this version on YouTube, but this performance from Frank’s late 1950’s TV Show is damn close:
08 — I’ve Got The World On A String
Music & Lyrics: Harold Arlen, Ted Koehler
Recorded: 30 April 1953
Released as a Single; included in the compilations The Capital Years 3-CD, This Is Frank Sinatra 1953-1957 [UK CD], Sinatra 80th: All The Best, and Capital Collectors Series compilations.
This is Francis Albert announcing to the world that he’s back for his Second Act and he’s taking no prisoners. A joyous and eternally upbeat song, if it doesn’t lift your spirits then, man, get to the Doc’s right away — there’s something cloggin’ your noggin’.
What a world…man, this is the life
Hey now…I’m in loooove!
The Lady Is A Tramp
Music & Lyrics: Lorenz Hart, Richard Rodgers
Recorded: 26 November 1956
Released as a Single; included in the compilation albums The Frank Sinatra Collection [1987 UK CD – the best mastering], The Capital Years [3-CD], A Swingin’ Affair [1991 CD], and the Pal Joey Soundtrack.
Francis Albert defines once and for all what a Real Broad is.
No need to expand on it or clarify: this is what the Best Gals are made of.
The Lady Is A Tramp (Film Version)
Music & Lyrics: Lorenz Hart, Richard Rodgers
Recorded: 23 May 1957
From the film Pal Joey
From the special compilation box Sinatra In Hollywood.
This gem is only available in straight audio on a marvelous box set issued a decade or so ago, Sinatra In Hollywood [let us hope the great Charles Granata is able to get it re-issued], which contains music from Frank’s movies from his first all the way to the mid-1960’s. You can hear it if you watch the film, but it’s nice to be able to add it to a music playlist. I would highly recommend purchasing this compilation, which is available used on them there Innertubes for anywhere from seventy to two-hundred denarii.
This performance is a more intimate version, befitting the niteclub setting in which it’s sung during the movie. The wording’s slight differently [no ‘broads’ here], but’s just as swingin’ and a-charmin’ as the released version.
I love ’em both equally…and I think you will too.
06 — The Way You Look Tonight
Music & Lyrics: Jerome Kern, Dorothy Fields
Recorded: 27 January 1964
From the album Academy Award Winners and the compilation The Reprise Years [4-CD].
This is, perhaps, the recording that best captures Romance among mature adults. As Mark Steyn remarked:
…It comes in as naturally as walking and says it all:
When I’m awf’lly low
When the world is cold
I will feel a glow just thinking of you
And The Way You Look Tonight…
For a song that makes so many people sigh with contentment, that’s quite a bleak opening. As my old National Post colleague Robert Cushman wrote, it “jumps into sadness”, which if anything understates the situation: “the world is cold.” It’s a song that accepts the inevitable – there will be days when you’re “awf’lly low” – but there are no consolations to compare to the enduring “glow” of the way you look tonight. It acknowledges impermanence even as it celebrates forever.
Mark also provides a quote from Frank with some sage advice on Love:
Most of all, I believe a simple ‘I love you’ means more than money. Tell her, ‘I will feel a glow just thinking of you’…’your smile so warm and your cheeks so soft,’ ‘that laugh that wrinkles your nose,’ your ‘breathless charm,’ ‘…never, ever change.’ ‘I love you…just the way you look tonight.
Mrs. B. and I always dance to this recording when it’s played at weddings — it’s one of Our Songs.
Next week: The Top Five Best Sinatra Performances.
See you next Weekend 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.