Expanding on the concept of Songs for Young Lovers!, In the Wee Small Hours was a collection of ballads arranged by Nelson Riddle. The first 12" album recorded by Sinatra, Wee Small Hours was more focused and concentrated than his two earlier concept records. It's a blue, melancholy album, built around a spare rhythm section featuring a rhythm guitar, celesta, and Bill Miller's piano, with gently aching strings added every once and a while. Within that melancholy mood is one of Sinatra's most jazz-oriented performances -- he restructures the melody and Miller's playing is bold throughout the record. Where Songs for Young Lovers! emphasized the romantic aspects of the songs, Sinatra sounds like a lonely, broken man on In the Wee Small Hours. Beginning with the newly written title song, the singer goes through a series of standards that are lonely and desolate. In many ways, the album is a personal reflection of the heartbreak of his doomed love affair with actress Ava Gardner, and the standards that he sings form their own story when collected together. Sinatra's voice had deepened and worn to the point where his delivery seems ravished and heartfelt, as if he were living the songs.
In the Wee Small Hours Review
by Stephen Thomas Erlewine