More of a singles collection than a proper album, The World We Knew illustrates how heavily Frank Sinatra courted the pop charts in the late '60s. Much of this has a rock-oriented pop production, complete with fuzz guitars, reverb, folky acoustic guitars, wailing harmonicas, drum kits, organs, and brass and string charts that punctuate the songs rather than provide the driving force. Many of the songs recall the music Nancy Sinatra was making at the time, a comparison brought into sharp relief by the father-daughter duet "Somethin' Stupid," yet the songs Sinatra tackles with a variety of arrangers -- including Nancy's hitmaker Lee Hazlewood, Billy Strange, Ernie Freeman, Don Costa, and Gordon Jenkins -- are more ambitious than most middle-of-the-road, adult-oriented soft rock of the late '60s. "The World We Knew" has an odd, winding melody supported by the toughest approximated rock arrangement Sinatra ever used, while "This Town"'s pounding brass and harmonica are quite bluesy. Even the lesser pop tunes are well-crafted and produced; "Don't Sleep in the Subway" sounds as convincing as the Petula Clark original. Sinatra doesn't always sound engaged by the material -- he tosses off "Some Enchanted Evening," getting buried in H.B. Barnum's ridiculously bombastic arrangement -- but he generally turns in fine performances throughout the record, capped off by an exceptional, nuanced version of Johnny Mercer's ballad "Drinking Again" that ranks among the best songs Sinatra cut during the '60s.
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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