This is not Sinatra in his prime, the too-perfect demigod who ruled the roost of American popular music for roughly a decade and a half beginning in the early ‘50s and ending sometime after the ascent of the Beatles. This is the young Sinatra, the jazz singer who fought his way up from obscurity singing with Harry James and Tommy Dorsey’s wartime big hands, who broke out of the established mode of mannered slow dance music to create for himself an improbable career as a universal heartthrob and slightly dangerous talent as a brash interpreter of popular song. The four discs presented here arrange Sinatra’s career in a roughly thematic arc, beginning with the most indicative material of the Big Band years before segueing into his mushrooming solo career and the creative adventurousness that defined the era immediately preceding his mid-’50s breakout period. Not exactly chronological, it still does a good job of presenting exactly how Sinatra’s music evolved during the period in question, taking him from a precocious youth in giant suits (strikingly distinctive fashion choices which dimly anticipate David Byrne in Stop Making Sense), facing off against crowds of rapturous bobbysoxers, up to the point where he became something more: an artist of lasting import and impeccable taste.
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