Sinatra 100th: Ten Best Albums – No. 06
Since way back in January, we here at TCOTS have been celebrating Frank Sinatra’s 100th Birthday and, man, it’s been a swingin’ affair so far. We started by ticking off the 100 Best Performances of The Chairman Of The Board on CD and digital download, and now we’re ready for another supersonic flight where the air is so rarified: counting down the Top Ten Best Albums of Mr. Sinatra, because, above everything else, ol’ Francis Albert was about da albums for a good part of his career [we’ll be featuring one album per week and this will take us right-up to the big day: 12 December].
While he may not have invented the Concept Album [and that is a matter of some dispute], Frank certainly defined and brought the genre to near-Perfection, turning out a series of them that still move the Heart and thrill the Soul.
While time will not permit me to post audio for all the tracks, I’ll try to provide a nice sampler of the tunes I enjoy the most.
So…put your seat belts on and get ready for a real mothery time [and indulge in a little ‘Hey-Hey’, if you feel the urge].
Captain Frank will be your pilot and Bobby Bell your navigator.
Let’s get this bird soaring…
06 — Ring-A-Ding-Ding
[favorite Performances in black]:
- “Ring-a-Ding Ding!” (Jimmy Van Heusen, Sammy Cahn) – 2:44
- “Let’s Fall in Love” (Harold Arlen, Ted Koehler) – 2:11
- “Be Careful, It’s My Heart” (Irving Berlin) – 2:04
- “A Foggy Day (In London Town)” (George Gershwin, Ira Gershwin) – 2:17
- “A Fine Romance” (Jerome Kern, Dorothy Fields) – 2:11
- “In the Still of the Night” (Cole Porter) – 3:25
- “The Coffee Song (They’ve Got an Awful Lot of Coffee in Brazil)” (Bob Hilliard, Dick Miles) – 2:51
- “When I Take My Sugar to Tea” (Irving Kahal, Sammy Fain, Pierre Norman) – 2:05
- “Let’s Face the Music and Dance” (Berlin) – 2:58
- “You’d Be So Easy to Love” (Porter) – 2:24
- “You and the Night and the Music” (Arthur Schwartz, Howard Dietz) – 2:36
- “I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm” (Berlin) – 2:52
Bonus tracks on the 2011 Concord Mastering:
13. “Zing! Went the Strings of My Heart” [Take #4] (James F. Hanley) – 3:00
14. “Have You Met Miss Jones?” [Previously Unreleased Outtake] (Richard Rodgers, Lorenz Hart) – 10:18
Get ready for one mothery time, boys and girls.
Ring-A-Ding-Ding is the living end, a hap-hap-happy affair that swings and sways your troubles away — a pure pleasure.
In fact, if the title used hadn’t been available, they could have called it: ‘Get Happy’ or ‘Life Is Swell’.
As reviewer Tony Sachs wrote:
…Ring-A-Ding Ding! is a really, really good record. Sinatra was at cruising altitude at this point in his career, and he had a lot invested, both emotionally and financially, in making this album a winner. Arranger Johnny Mandel, working with Sinatra for the only time in their long careers, turns in some bold, witty and swinging charts, and The Voice sings the hell out of ’em. There’s not a dud in the bunch….
For many years, I had a hard time getting to like this record because all the masterings I heard were pretty awful — too much reverb, a combination of muddy and harsh / brittle sonics, etc. Fortunately for those of us who admire and respect Francis Albert Sinatra, the powers that be let Larry Walsh master it pretty damn correctly in 2011 [often Mr. Walsh has been under too much control by the mucky-mucks so he’s only been able to do the best he can under unfavorable circumstances] and now we have a mastering that, while not perfect, does Sinatra, the Musicians, arranger Johnny Mandel, and the Composers justice.
The Concord release is really the only one to get if you, like me, only buy CD’s or Digital Downloads [people I respect tell me there is a Mono version (or versions) out there that are the bees knees, but there has been no Mono release on CD or via Digital Download (see the next paragraph for an example of what the Mono version could sound like)]. The performances no longer sound like Frank and company are performing down at the other end of the VFW Hall.
Let us turn to Mr. Sachs again:
Serious Sinatraphiles need to buy Ring-A-Ding Ding! again, no matter how many times they’ve bought it before. Why? A 50-year-old screwup that’s dogged every release of the album, from first-pressing vinyl to umpteenth CD reissue, has finally been fixed. When Sinatra left Capitol Records to strike out on his own with Reprise, he left a team of people who knew how to make a record sound great, from the engineers in the recording studio to the folks who pressed the vinyl. Compare Ring-A-Ding Ding!, recorded in December 1960, to Sinatra’s Swingin’ Session, recorded for Capitol a few months earlier, and there’s no comparison. Swingin’ Session sounds crisp, punchy, vibrant. Ring sounds blurred, echoey, muddy.
As it turns out, the original tapes sound gorgeous — bootleg buyers found this out several years ago, when unedited session material made the rounds. So we can deduce that, back in 1960, someone involved in mixing down the original three-track tapes did something wrong. Weirdly enough, the problem wasn’t addressed at the time. And weirder still, it was never addressed for the next nine presidential administrations. But for the first time ever, you can hear Ring-A-Ding Ding! as it should have been heard all along, in a clean, dry mix that sounds a million times better than every previous version. Now, it’s like Frankie’s crooning while standing right next to you instead of a football field away….
This version is a gas. And it contains two bonus tracks that, each in their own way, make this package top-notch.
Zing! Went The Strings Of My Heart is a performance that, until the early 1990’s, was unavailable, though possibly lost. A version of Take #1 was found and included on the 4-CD The Reprise Collection, but it lacked some Zing!. The Concord Mastering offers-up Take #4 and it is superb — so good that you wonder why the Hell Frank shelved it. When I put together a mix of this album, I substitute this version for In The Still Of The Night, which is the one performance on this album I do not like [although, most fans of the record think it one of The Chairman’s best recordings]. This performance is in Mono and sounds great.
Have You Met Miss Jones is a tune Sinatra and Company attempted several times to get down, but which he ultimately rejected pursuing because, as he put it when listening to the intro: ‘This sounds like a different album’. Yeah, it doesn’t fit in with high-energy of the other tunes, but it would have made a nice album closer, especially after I’ve Got My Love To Keep Me Warm. But The Chairman made a command decision and no final take exists. What we have left are the rehearsals and they’ve been edited into a marvelous ten minute track that gives us an insightful glimpse into Sinatra at work in the studio…and a taste of what might have been [the different arrangement Frank record a short while later for his Swing Along With Me album can be found here].
I’ve gone on long enough: let’s get us some Happy — tonight is for Happy…
-Life is swell…
-But I adore you…
-I still recall the thrill, I guess that I always will…
-Why, they put coffee in the coffee in Brazil…
-Every Sunday afternoon, we forget about our cares…
-There may be trouble ahead…
-What do I care how much it may storm…
See you next Weekend as we head-off again to Bobsville…and tell us your favorite albums in the Comments, Clyde.
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 ring-a-ding world.
If you’re having trouble tracking down any of the masterings on this List, contact me at Robert[dot]Belvedere[at]gmail[dot]com and I might be able to help you.
*The links I’m providing for the best CD/Digital
masterings are not meant to be an endorsement of
the site linked to. I receive no enumeration or any
kind of considerations from them. They are linked
for informational purposes only.