81 of 85 people found the following review helpful
This review is from: Songs For Swingin' Lovers (Audio CD)
Unlike some of his contemporaries at the time, such as Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong and other celebrated jazz vocalists, Sinatra's art was in the concealment of his technique. Upon first listen, this album sounds like Frank is just serenading his lover, or singing to himself. But the music feels strangely satisfying and euphoric and just makes you want to dance and click your fingers. This is due, to the many subtleties in Sinatra's voice. As opposed to Ella, who's inventive scat lines keep you constantly interested in her delightful voice, or Louis, who's warm character and humour just shines through the speakers, Sinatra possesses, I believe, an equal measure of talent, but in a different way.
Sinatra excels in three directions: Rhythm, expression and control. Sometimes, Frank chomps down hard on the beat, fitting into the groove, like on "Anything Goes". Here, the syllables "in-ol-den-days-a-glimpse..." are right on the beat. He then jumps right off the beat, with "stock" in "stocking". This is just one example of Frank's extraordinary understanding of the jazz idiom. Sometimes, his democratic timing spreads the notes equally out. Such as in "I've Got You Under My Skin". Porter writes that the word "skin" ends up at the beginning of the third bar, with a long gap till the next phrase. Sinatra spreads out the phrase, so "skin" ends up halfway through the bar, then, starts the next phrase early. This incredibly romantic style is always appropriately used, and never more so than on this album, which, is all about romanticism.
Expression wise, aside from the elongated phrases which just glide over the music, as better illustrated in other albums at this time (Wee Small Hours), Frank possesses a natural gift for dynamics and diction. Even though, at this time, and for the rest of his life, Sinatra spoke in a heavy New Jersey accent, he sings like a poet. His wonderful, conversational expressiveness that made him the pin-up of every teenage girl in the 40's still remains. He can insinuate such complex feelings, such as in "I Thought About You" where he thinks about his loved one, as his train speeds away, and you can hear him smiling as he says the line "I like New York in June", reverting for a moment to a faint New Jersey accent. In a way, Sinatra's wide range of expressiveness on this album shows his understading of the complexities of love.
Frank's voice in this era has taken on a lovely colour. While retaining the boyish charisma of his Columbia era, his voice has deepened, acquiring a beautifully deep viola timbre. Although Frank was only a light baritone, his deep timbre implies that, should he choose to do so, he could go much lower. Even on the high notes, his voice resonates with warmth, with no nasal tones. When he wanted, he could even use the shortcomings of his voice to his advantage. Not so much on this album, but on other Capitol albums of the time, he could exploit the area of his voice that was above middle C, which was hard to control. He would sing in this area on ballads or torch songs, and his voice would sound weak or maybe might crack. Just one example of Frank's dark art, as it were.
You might wonder what the difference or advantage of these hidden talents are. Whereas any woman who hears Ella or any man who hears Mel Torme, maybe, thinks, I could never do that. Those singers take you out of yourself and in again. Singers like Billie Holiday and Sinatra take you in yourself and out again. A young man hearing Frank on this album thinks, "I can do that", but in fact, Frank sings better than anyone else thinks they can.
There are other great components of this album, aside from the marvellous singing. Nelson Riddle's arrangements are simply "Too Marvellous For Words". Unlike some of his contemporaries of the time such as Buddy Bregman, or Paul Weston, Riddle doesn't write standard block Jazz arrangements. Aside from the sheer masterpiece that is "I've Got You Under My Skin", arrangments such as "You Make Me Feel So Young" burst with life and zest. Riddle was imaginative in his use of strings. He uses them like a jazz instrument, like in "It Happened in Monterey" where the strings flutter and twirl with life and colour. Riddle also uses marimbas, bass trombone and flutes for different touches of colour.
The production, is maybe the least best element of the album, but it is only contrained by recording limitations: The trombones and trumpets are right at the back, and the sound is often dull and grey. But Voyle Gilmore has stuck Frank right in the middle of the band, right in amongst the musicians, as opposed to someone like Norman Granz, who liked Ella to be on top of the music, seperated from it, aurally. Maybe it's just that Sinatra had a brilliant big band voice, but he sounds like he could be standing in the trombone section.
And finally the material. The two Cole Porter songs "Under My Skin" and "Anything Goes" are two of the many high points of the album. Most lyrics, if not the titles, contain the word "you" in them, which is appropriate to the vision of Sinatra crooning to his swingin' lover.
The album may have one or two minor discrepencies, such as the flatness in sound that occurs (fiddle with the treble and bass on the stereo, and you will eliminate this problem - the recording will sound crystalline, and you will forget about the sound) and the dated sound that the celesta some times brings to the music, but this is an epitomic album of the peak of Sinatra's entire career.
In short, if you are a Frank fan, i can't think of any reason why you haven't bought this album yet, and if you aren't a Frank fan, then this album will blow you away.