Frank Sinatra’s “Frankly Sentimental” Reviewed
Frank Sinatra’s fourth album, 1949’s Frankly Sentimental, is more of the same at first glance. Same arranged and conducted by Axel Stordahl and his orchestra, same mainstream pop covers, same initially released as four 78 inchers. What is different is that Sinatra chose eight songs from eight different sessions recorded in LA and New York between 1946 and 1947 (which makes them two to four year years old). The question is, why? And the answer is that these songs are threadbare but still connectected. This isn’t big band, it isn’t loud, it isn’t upbeat: the songs are quiet meditations on the travails of love. In other words, they are a dry run for his Nelson Riddle arranged masterpiece, 1955’s In The Wee Small Hours Of The Morning.
Of his first four albums this is the best and not really because of the strength of the songs, though by the time you reach the devastating conclusion and conclusive Rodgers-Hart “It Never Entered My Mind” also covered on In The Wee Small Hours Of The Morning, there is an undeniable sense of a trip concluded. The first two albums are almost random, and the third a seasonal, this is the birth of the album properly; Sinatra is deep into his melancholia and yet also there is something very masculine and muscular in its weakness, he pushes himself from drear footnote verses to a heaved sigh of a chorus and then back down.
Frank Sinatra was already one of the biggest stars when he released Frankly Sentimental, but this is the first album where his great artistry is evident, where he stops being a grown but a little callow teen idol and becomes a person that was quite possibly the greatest singer of his generation. Sure, the great songs here, the “Body And Soul” and “Fools Rush In” are great, so are the less great songs (if you can call “Laura” less great songs), but the mood is what made it. When Sinatra came to record In The Wee Small Hours Of The Morning, he chose this one as an absolute blueprint, the difference is that Wee Small is Gothic in its sentimentality on some songs, it builds and doesn’t ebb, but on the quieter tracks he performed them quite as well here.
At the time it was seen as another album but it was more than that, Sinatra reached for his first conceptual peak and it provided him with his first great album.