Frank Sinatra

Portrait of Sinatra: Columbia Classics

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The beauty of any Frank Sinatra collection is that, depending upon how it is put together by the producers for whatever purpose they have in mind, each one allows the listener to focus on a different aspect of the singer's work and pick out new and varied details. On one level, this double-CD set is a good compromise for listeners who aren't prepared to spring for the four-CD Best of the Columbia Years: 1943-1952 set (or the 12-CD Columbia Years (1943-1952): The Complete Recordings), but want something that goes a little deeper into his output than any of the single-CD compilations of Sinatra's Columbia sides. The 36 songs, part of the early-'90s restoration of Sinatra's early catalog, include three previously unissued alternate takes, of "Nancy (With the Laughing Face)," "Night and Day," and "These Foolish Things (Remind Me of You)," plus outtakes of "Body and Soul," "Don't Cry Joe," "Why Was I Born," "Almost Like Being In Love," and "Sweet Lorraine" that are new to CD -- as noted elsewhere in reissues of the Sinatra catalog, his early- and mid-'40s work has yielded more alternate takes than his late-'40s and early-'50s sides, precisely because they were recorded on lacquer masters; sadly, once recording tape came in, the policy was to wipe any unused takes. In any case, the outtake of "Sweet Lorraine" here is a treat, crisp-sounding and with, as expected, a jaunty swing to it; and the version of "Night and Day" featured here is as fine as the one that did become a hit, just nuanced ever so slightly differently. The "portrait" constituted by this release may also perhaps be a little confusing -- for those expecting a step-by-step account of the man's music -- due to the fact that it doesn't follow anything resembling strict chronological order; just two songs past "All or Nothing at All" (done with the Harry James band), we're into "Sweet Lorraine" from a half-decade later, and "The House I Live In" -- which is buried pretty deeply on most hits compilations -- is given almost a place-of-honor here as the seventh song on Disc One, well ahead of "All of Me" and more familiar fare. And this order works, stirring up the pot of Sinatra's most familiar fare of the era into new shapes and juxtapositions, so what we end up with is an engaging and informative slightly abstract "portrait" of the singer, in all of his different manifestations and settings -- big band, small group etc. As with most Sinatra Columbia collections, the emphasis is on ballads, though even here he surprises us with some of the entries in the latter category -- the way Sinatra sings it, the normally jaunty entertainment anthem "There's No Business Like Show Business" comes off like a ballad, at least in its first half, and with his voice it does work that way. And with the remastering at such a high level of quality, the presence of The Voice -- but also the band, of whatever size -- is close and bracing. The annotation, featuring an essay by pop music maven Will Friedwald, is thorough, informative, and highly entertaining.

Track Listing - Disc 1

Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
1 2:57 Spotify
2 3:03
3 3:18 Spotify
4 3:13
5 3:23 Spotify
6 3:11 Spotify
7 3:20 Spotify
8 2:28 Spotify
9 3:25 Spotify
10 2:53 Spotify
11 4:13 Spotify
12 2:40 Spotify
13 3:07
14
feat: Arthur Baker
2:43 Spotify
15 3:13 Spotify
16 3:18
17 3:06 Spotify
18 2:44 Spotify

Track Listing - Disc 2

Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
1 3:18 Spotify
2 2:45 Spotify
3 2:59 Spotify
4 3:14 Spotify
5 3:02 Spotify
6 2:42 Spotify
7 3:15
8 3:16 Spotify
9 3:13 Spotify
10 2:40 Spotify
11 3:05 Spotify
12 3:33 Spotify
13 3:10 Spotify
14 3:15 Spotify
15 3:18 Spotify
16 2:43 Spotify
17 2:31 Spotify
18 2:55 Spotify
blue highlight denotes track pick