Frank “Sinatra’s Swingin’ Session!!!” Reviewed
On to Frank Sinatra’s 20th album, and the one thing we feel above all is that the Capitol years are closing, there will be two more albums, and less than a year, and it will be over; sixteen albums in eight years. In 1962, Frank will be recording for his own label, Reprise records, which will only occasionally, and debatably, reach the heights of his Capitol recordings. A case could be made for his Capitol recordings being surpassed only by the Beatles British releases a decade later (12 studio albums, 13 extended plays (EPs) and 22 singles). I myself would include Kanye West’s eight solo albums, there have been other runs (Stevie Wonder, maybe) but, really, in a business the size of the music business Frank Sinatra Capitol albums is rare artistry indeed, it is the stuff of legend.
Recorded between August 22 and September 1, in 1960, at Capitol Studio A, Hollywood, Sinatra’s Swingin’ Session!!! is a hard swinging, fast, long player. 12 songs in 26 minutes (take that Minutemen), with a big, extremely great, orchestra knowing this was final exams time and Nelson Riddle testing Frank’s vocal mettle; a man half of Sinatra’s 46 years of age would have a heart attack keeping up with this band and yet there he was. Nelson seems to be in the game to wear Frank out, but try as you might, wait to hear him out of breath, grasp, slip a second, cheat a bar, play catch up. He is ridiculous fit, whether beating out the beat, lagging a step behind, chomping on it, Sinatra is superb. Listen to his singing 90 seconds into “When You’re Smiling (The Whole World Smiles With You”, he should be worn out but HE PICKS UP THE SPEED AND ROARS TO THE CLOSE. The second song, “Blue Moon” reclaims it from Elvis Presley’s slack with heat and sensuality take, I prefer Presley but I’ll take Sinatra, The one two of “It All depends On You” followed by “It’s Only A Paper Moon” is the album highlight, Sinatra’s “Paper Moon” is the best I’ve ever heard. Recorded in 1960, more than a quarter century after it first appeared in Broadway Musical that flopped called The Great Magoo, set in Coney Island, the echo of the Great Depression is in its make up, and Sinatra blasts through it, he just swings for the fences and changes the gloom to all opportunity. Try the ending of “My Blue Heaven,” so sweet and strong, once, twice, three times and boom… It’s not that these versions lack nuance, it is that Sinatra changes the nuance from where it was to where he wants it.
This is the end of the 1950s, life would never be this simple again (with the usual caveat: it would never be this simple for straight, rich, white, American men) and Sinatra exudes so much self confidence: Camelot was in DC featuring Sinatra’s close friend JFK, America ruled the word, what was there to worry about? There was nothing to worry about, everything was great, things could never go wrong and there was Sinatra singing with such vigor, sexuality, strength, surreal timing, gorgeous and yet not slightly bloated voice, making the impossible seem like child’s play. Life was a blue heaven, and life was also phony as it could be.