Frank Sinatra & Friends

Robin and the 7 Hoods

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Robin and the 7 Hoods is one of the more obscure releases from Reprise Records to be associated with Frank Sinatra and a major project, in this case a movie from the tail-end of the Rat Pack era. It also isn't nearly as successful an album as its all-star lineup of talent would lead one to hope. Not that there aren't some worthwhile moments here -- it's just that between Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Dean Martin, and Sammy Davis, Jr., one might have expected two, or maybe three, great songs, instead of the good and fair moments spread across this album. It is true that the recordings, like the production of the movie, bridged a difficult time in the lives of everyone -- the Rat Pack itself was starting to fall apart; and Reprise Records, Sinatra's new business venture, with which he started the decade, was pretty much hemorrhaging money, except for his own recordings; and in the midst of the movie's production came the assassination of President Kennedy. So in retrospect, if everyone involved was a little off their game, it was understandable. Following the breezy, brassy overture, which already sounds a bit dated for 1964, we get the highlight of the original record, Sinatra's rendition of "My Kind of Town." With Nelson Riddle's arrangement and conducting, this is the kind of number that Sinatra's fans just devoured, and it's the reason a lot of people actually bought this album -- his intonation is fine, his cocky manner fits the lyric, and the music works (and it works even better when seen as a performance in the movie). Then we jump to the other extreme on the record, Peter Falk's version of "All for One and One for All" -- Falk at this point was not yet a star, but his was the kind of talent that endeared him to many a director and producer, and it's pretty plain that he must've done the same to Sinatra to get his spot on this album, raspy voice and all. Bing Crosby's contribution is confined to two songs, "Don't Be a Do-Badder" and "Mister Booze," neither representing the best that he was capable of, even at this late date in his career, though neither is a complete waste of time, either -- the influence of the earlier Sammy Cahn/Jimmy Van Heusen song "High Hopes" can certainly be heard woven through "Do-Badder." "Style" is a joint contribution of Sinatra, Crosby, and Dean Martin that is cute but hardly worthy of the three voices. "I Like to Lead When I Dance" allows Sinatra to range across his vocal persona, from his introspective side, recalling his then-recent work on Point of No Return, to his more extrovert voice. It's not his best work, but it would have made a good track on any of his albums from this period. And Sammy Davis, Jr.'s major contribution is "Bang! Bang!," which is a delightful romp. The 2000 reissue through DCC as a gold audiophile CD (produced by Steve Hoffmann) includes bonus tracks of studio chatter and an alternate, more lyrical, moody, and pensive (and much more interesting) rendition of "My Kind of Town."

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