Frank Sinatra

V Disc: A Musical Contribution by America's Best for Our Armed Forces

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In 1994, Columbia/Legacy released the two-CD, nearly two-and-a-half-hour box set, The V-Discs: The Columbia Years, which contained a sleeve note claiming that its 53 selections constituted "all of the performances Sinatra recorded for V-Discs ...." Three years later, we have this four-CD, four-plus-hour set distributed by Collector's Choice, containing 85 tracks. Which one is really complete? Um, neither of them. How so? A variety of performances Sinatra gave between 1941 and 1948 were issued on non-commercial V-Discs for the armed forces. Some were recorded specifically for that purpose, some were airchecks, and some were studio recordings commercially released by RCA Victor or Columbia, but also sent out on V-Discs. The main difference between the Columbia/Legacy set and the Collector's Choice one is that the earlier set includes only recordings not commercially released by Columbia at the time, which means it contains all Sinatra's V-Discs in chronological order from 1943 (when he joined Columbia after leaving Tommy Dorsey's band and RCA) to the fall of 1944 (when Columbia settled with the musicians union, ending the strike that had begun in 1942 and kept musicians out of official recording sessions), plus some airchecks and rehearsal recordings up to 1947. The Collector's Choice set, in random order, ranges back as far as 1941, to a few of the recordings made under Dorsey, duplicates most of the contents of the Columbia/Legacy box, and also contains lots of recordings available on other Columbia collections (notably the 12-CD set The Columbia Years, 1943-1952: The Complete Recordings). Beneath this overview, however, it should be noted that the Columbia/Legacy set includes eight recordings not found on the Collector's Choice set (five of which were made for, but never actually released on, V-Disc), while the Collector's Choice set contains several miscellaneous recordings, among them four instrumental pieces written by Alec Wilder and conducted by Sinatra, two Christmas songs, and a couple of other unreleased V-Discs not included on the Columbia/Legacy set. (Then, too, there are still some unreleased V-Disc recordings that remain unreleased.) Also note that, unlike the Columbia/Legacy set, the Collector's Choice set has no annotations, and the sound, not subject to any sonic cleansing, often contains distractingly loud surface noise. Nevertheless, this album presents the most comprehensive release of Sinatra's V-Discs yet, and thus contains a large chunk of his greatest early work.