Frank Sinatra’s “Songs By” Reviewed
The biggest difference between Frank Sinatra’s debut album, 1946’s The Voice Of, and its follow-up 1947’s Songs By, is that the debut was recorded in two, , the sophomore release in six studio sessions, some dating back as early as 1944, musically it is a continuation . Both were initially released as four two sided 78 rpm singles, and rereleased in 1950 as two single 33 1/3 RPM albums, beckoning on to a still unimaginable.
Otherwise, Frank the dance master vocalist for Tommy Dorsey is not on view, both releases are Frank as crooner, the child of Bing Crosby, and neither needs any excuse from here. Arranged and conducted by Axel Stordahl again, it is easy to see why, after years of, if you’ll excuse the meddled metaphor, playing second fiddle to big, dance oriented, orchestras, Sinatra embraced Stordahl’s sympathetic, voice attuned orchestration. On “How Deep Is The Ocean,” the orchestra is subsumed by his lead vocal in the first verse, and while it gets to swing in the second, it mutes itself for Sinatra soon enough and only swells up when Frank does.
It makes perfect sense, Sinatra was a superstar at the time and people were paying to hear him and not the band; with a self-confidence after years and years of performance, Sinatra really needed to add very little to secure his reputation, though that didn’t stop him from gilding the lily: The Gershwins, Irving Berlin, Kern-Hammerstein, Mercer and Allen, and even when I didn’t recognize a song, “I Concentrate On You,” it turned out to be Cole Porter, are all represented.
Recorded a year after Voice Of, Songs By is the same Sinatra, not where he was going and absolutely where he should be, it is a lovely, short (24 minutes in length) series of jolts to the Bobby Soxers. The only mistake is the “Over The Rainbow,” not that there is anything wrong with it as such but thematically (deep, pure loves for the besotted), it doesn’t fit in and the back-up singers? Stordahl undercuts his musically precise concept.
Otherwise, Sinatra the God of Time’s Square was nearing the first height of his career.