Sing and Dance with Sinatra (as it was originally called) was an incredibly important album by the singer on several counts. The original release was the singing legend's first original LP, but not his debut album -- that honor belongs to The Voice of Frank Sinatra, issued in 1945 as a set of 78-rpm LPs in a genuine "album" format (like a photo album), but Sing and Dance with Sinatra marked his first opportunity to work in the 33 1/3-rpm medium, in modern high-fidelity, and cut an entire body of work in a then-new format that he would later thoroughly dominate. Additionally, the original eight songs on this album marked a serious change of pace for Sinatra who, across most of his history at Columbia and the first decade of his career, focused almost entirely on ballads. Instead, on Sing and Dance with Sinatra, he's doing what were then called "rhythm numbers": beat-driven, swinging tracks (hence the change in title of the album upon its reissue). Indeed, according to producer Mitch Miller in the annotation for the CD reissue of the album, this was the record where Sinatra -- then thoroughly identified as a romantic balladeer -- proved he could swing. That's the big surprise that awaits fans who may approach this title a little warily -- they get a good deal more than a glimpse of the Sinatra who came to redefine and dominate the popular music field in the '50s. The actual circumstances of the recording were unique, however -- according to Miller, the singer's voice had begun to break down during the initial recording sessions in April of 1950, and in order to salvage something from their work, the orchestral accompaniment -- arranged by George Siravo -- was recorded alone, and five months later the singer put down his vocals, in what was not only a first (and very rare) instance of Sinatra not working live in the studio with the orchestra, but also a highly irregular and downright out-of-bounds procedure under existing union rules. This was also a record that was cut during a seeming low point in the singer's career -- his sales were declining and he had begun losing a big chunk of the "bobby-soxer" audience whose wild enthusiasm had propelled his wartime and immediate postwar momentum -- and it all coincided with a period in which his film career, after a promising start at mid-decade, and despite the classic On the Town the previous year, had begun to sputter. So when it appeared in late 1950, Sing and Dance with Sinatra was timed badly enough and was also just different enough from what he was known for that it was ignored and overlooked even by the vast majority of fans -- who had turned his prior album into a chart-topper in 1945 -- and went on to become one of the singer's rarest and most obscure LPs. The album was generated from three sessions in April and September of 1950, and they show off Sinatra working in a somewhat harder, more rhythmically bracing mode than he was known for at the time -- in many ways, in sound and style, it anticipates the work on his Capitol albums of the mid-'50s, not only in Sinatra's singing but also in Siravo's arrangements, which are a significant departure from the lush sound that Axel Stordahl aimed for in most of his work with Sinatra at Columbia. The emphasis was on standards, including "My Blue Heaven," "It's Only a Paper Moon," and "When You're Smiling," and though no one could have known it in 1950 -- when it seemed like a trip down a commercial blind alley -- the album did offer a glimpse of Sinatra's future sound and probably could have found an audience if it had been re-marketed. And Columbia would subsequently try to link it to his later work a little more firmly in the purchasing public's mind with his later Capitol sides by reissuing and expanding Sing and Dance with Frank Sinatra on 12" LP as Swing and Dance with Frank Sinatra. The original is still special to hear today -- the content is so unusual in relation to the music for which he was known -- and the quality so high, and it's also a great showcase for the work of the much-underrated and unjustly overlooked George Siravo.
AllMusic Review by Bruce Eder
feat: The Pastels