Frank Sinatra

The V-Discs: Columbia Years: 1943-45

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When Frank Sinatra left Tommy Dorsey's band and signed his first solo contract with Columbia Records in 1943, it should have been one of the biggest musical events of the year -- Sinatra had been wowing audiences since 1940 as a singer in Dorsey's band, and had developed a huge following, especially among younger women; in the space of just two years, he'd established himself as the only serious rival to the most popular singer of the period, Bing Crosby, and now he was to be working full-time as a solo act in his own right. The only problem was that Sinatra's contract was signed right in the middle of an extended recording ban -- in effect, a strike against the record companies -- by the Musicians Union; unthinkable as it might be today, with a few narrowly construed exceptions, there was virtually no commercial music recording going on in the United States for the second half of 1942, all of 1943, and much of 1944. One of those exceptions, which Sinatra also took advantage of, was that the ban only applied to instrumental musicians -- vocal-only recordings were permitted, and he did records with specially devised arrangements on which his only accompaniment was a vocal ensemble, which allowed him to get some very good (and very interesting) records out, even if they didn't necessarily represent the sound that he or his producers would have chosen. But another -- and very major -- exception that the union was willing to make was for the recording and release of V-Discs, recordings intended solely and exclusively for free distribution to soldiers, sailors, marines, airmen, and coast guardsmen serving in the war. It was through these sides, often derived from radio airchecks and rehearsals, that Sinatra got to see his work with an orchestral accompaniment released commercially (as well as preserved) during the two years of the recording ban. Additionally, contained on this set are numerous songs that -- because of that same recording ban -- Sinatra never did get around to recording commercially. And that's what's on this magnificent set of 53 songs on two CDs, the best and rarest of Sinatra's V-Disc sides, none of which are represented on the otherwise complete and comprehensive 12-CD The Columbia Years (1943-1952): The Complete Recordings. The emphasis, as was the case with most of Sinatra's commercial recordings of the period, is on ballads -- the exceptions are a few patriotic numbers such as "(There'll Be A) Hot Time in the Town of Berlin." But the singing -- the quiet power of that voice (actually, The Voice) and this intonation -- is so overpowering, and the content so distinctive, especially on Disc one (which covers the time of the recording ban), that this is essential listening. That is true not just for Sinatra fans but also for more generalized pop music buffs and those with memories or strong associations with the early 40s period represented -- Sinatra and company didn't skimp on the production or care that went into these recordings, and they're heart-stoppingly beautiful on that level as well. The production is superb, the clean-up job on these five-decade-old recordings having achieved gorgeous results, and the annotation by George Simon, Roy Hemming, and Will Friedwald is thorough and extremely detailed.

Track Listing - Disc 1

Title/Composer Performer Time
1 3:57
2 2:41
3 2:27
4 2:58
5 2:59
6 2:40
7 1:39
8 2:31
9 3:09
10 2:13
11 2:20
12 3:12
13 2:25
14 2:44
15 2:36
16 2:01
17 1:30
18 3:04
19 2:51
20 1:41
21 3:38
22 3:42
23 2:38
24 2:47
25 2:37
26 2:42
27 2:07

Track Listing - Disc 2

Title/Composer Performer Time
1 2:42
2 1:38
3 3:45
4 3:26
5 2:36
6 2:39
7 3:27
8 4:10
9 3:13
10 2:11
11 2:08
12 1:36
13 3:25
14 2:19
15 3:01
16 2:27
17 2:56
18 3:16
19 3:09
20 3:13
21 3:34
22 1:47
23 2:37
24 2:53
25 2:27
26 3:51
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