Frank Sinatra

The Capitol Years [21-CD]

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While Capitol Records issued upgraded, 20-bit remastered editions of eight of Sinatra's key albums in the U.S. in 1998, EMI-U.K. put together this 21-CD box, containing every song that Sinatra authorized for release between 1953 and 1961, remastered in state-of-the-art 20-bit digital audio. Each CD contains an individual Sinatra Capitol LP (including singles compilations), but the bonus tracks from the American versions appear on a separate CD here (The Rare Sinatra), which means that some of these discs run only 30 minutes or so. What will really confuse dedicated fans is that the sound on this box is superior to the American remasters. On Songs for Young Lovers, for example, Sinatra simply sounds much closer than he does on the Capitol CD, and Swing Easy is even better. In the Wee Small Hours is very slightly more uneven, at least the title track, but everything else is superior. Songs for Swingin' Lovers is where the box really departs from the 1998 American remasters -- Sinatra sounds about twice as close, and the sound is significantly richer. A Swingin' Affair blows its American equivalent out of the water. Only the Lonely sets new heights for intimate and vivid sound, which Come Dance With Me matches -- and the U.K. box has the right version of "Day In -- Day Out," in contrast to the American disc. The enveloping, sumptuous texture of Nice 'n' Easy sets the bar still higher, and Come Swing With Me matches that standard. Sinatra's Capitol library will likely never sound better, and the only complaint lies with the packaging -- the booklet, which came with an earlier LP version of this material, is meaningless; still, it's hard to argue with anything that sounds this good.

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