On the back cover of this 1966 album prolific sleeve note writer Stan Cornyn writes some terrific nonsense ("Sinatra, when he sings at you, doesn't look at you. He looks about six inches behind your eyes"). But to be frank Sinatra's final album with long-time collaborator Nelson Riddle - except on Ernie Freeman's Grammy-winning title track arrangement - isn't their finest effort together.
Though Strangers In The Night is subtitled "Sings For Moderns" it strikes an uneasy balance between looking back to the past and reluctantly engaging with the shifting musical climate of the mid-1960s. The album includes 3 Walter Donaldson numbers from Sinatra's youth: 1925's 'Yes Sir, That's My Baby'; 1928's 'My Baby Cares for Me', and 1930's 'You're Driving Me Crazy'. The singer sounds genuinely engaged as he gives these songs from yesteryear the cavalier, swaggering Vegas treatment. Arranger Nelson Riddle infuses several of the more contemporary tracks - 'Call Me', 'Downtown', and 'On A Clear Day (You Can See Forever)' - with an affable Hammond organ bounce and lively horns. But despite Riddle's best endeavours, the Chairman Of The Board sounds bored. On the showy 'Downtown', in particular, he sneers like a punk rocker as he adds embellishments at the end of phrases ("ugh" and "eww") which make a joke of the track; Petula Clark's hit version is better. Only on Johnny Mercer's wistful but self-assured 'Summer Wind' - which was used on several television commercials in the noughties - does the partnership approach the heights it had scaled in the 1950s with the likes of 'I've Got You Under My Skin' and 'Night And Day'. Although he later claimed he disliked the gloopily sentimental title track in the strongest of terms, with its stirring bank of strings and famous scat ("doo-be-doo-be-doo"), it topped the US and UK charts and the impact it has here as the opening track is undeniable.
Despite occasional bright spots this very short LP - it clocks in at just 27 minutes - seems a cynical effort. Needless to say on the back of 'Strangers in the Night' it sold over one million copies in the US alone anyway.
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