Reviews

'Frank Sinatra: Concert Collection' The Master at Work, Captured Here

These live performances demonstrate Frank Sinatra's constant transformation; from the Jersey wiseguy monologues to singing that lays bare his soul, as though he’s shining a spotlight down a well.


Frank Sinatra

Frank Sinatra: Concert Collection

Label: Shout Factory!
US Release Date: 2010-11-02
UK Release Date: 2010-11-02
Artist website
Amazon
iTunes

You can probably guess what you’re getting with Frank Sinatra's Concert Collection. Imagine a seven-disc, $80 box set of Frank Sinatra’s TV concerts from 1965 on, and what comes to mind? The shows drip with lavish quantities of glitz and hokum and tuxedos. Sinatra’s masterpieces for Capitol Records -- “The Lady Is a Tramp”, “I’ve Got You Under My Skin”, “I Get a Kick Out of You” -- appear so often, you’ll find yourself fighting vainly the old ennui. The jokes are terrible, and the between-song patter is forced when it isn’t crass. Nearly every show is derailed by a ballad as boring as it is long; more than once that ballad is “The House I Live In”. (“A certain word: DEM-OC-RA-CY!”)

But then... in the middle of the previously unreleased Concert for the Americas (1982), Sinatra sits down with guitarist Tony Mottola to sing “Send in the Clowns” and 5,000 people hang on every note, apparently forgetting to breathe. During Sinatra and Friends (1977), also new to DVD, he shares a delightful “Oldest Established Floating Crap Game” with Dean Martin and baritone Robert Merrill. Elsewhere he does a thrilling “Pennies from Heaven” with Count Basie; his “Tramp” with Ella Fitzgerald swings magnificently.

In A Man and His Music (1965), the camera pulls in close for “Nancy”, an ode to his daughter, and you simply watch the master at work -- seemingly without effort, Sinatra exhales each line perfectly and turns the underwritten song into a universal drama of affection tinged with regret. To reassure everyone she’s OK, Nancy herself pops up in the 1966 Man and His Music, prancing through “Yes Sir, That’s My Baby” with her old man. Such are the vagaries of the showbiz heart.

Every Sinatra concert runs this gamut from sublime to ridiculous, though there’s more sublime stuff here than not. The most consistent program isn’t a concert at all; it’s a 2003 PBS compilation called Vintage Sinatra, a series of black and white clips from his ‘50s resurgence, on DVD for the first time. As in his TV specials, Sinatra sings straight to the camera, giving these clips the feel of early music videos. Wiggling, smoking, and smirking, he turns in a terifffffffffffically sexy “Kick Out of You”.

“One for My Baby” comes next, and Sinatra’s stark rendition -- also with smoldering cigarette -- reminds you that the guy was a recent Oscar-winner. Of course, if it’s garish Sinatra you crave, there’s no show more garish than Sinatra: The Main Event (1973). Sinatra plays Madison Square Garden from a boxing ring, Howard Cosell announces, and audience members dance to “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown” while Walter Cronkite glares at them. Sinatra seems most at home in this setting; his jokes are still tasteless, but the hometown audience laps everything up and the singer has a ball. (“Especially THE PEOPLE -- that’s America to me!”)

In Visions of Jazz, critic Gary Giddins writes, “[Sinatra’s] voice is transformed [in song], its extraordinary clarity and directness sharpened for expressive purpose, so that even the residual Hoboken inflections achieve eloquence.” These live performances demonstrate that transformation over and over, as the Jersey wiseguy monologues give way to singing that lays bare Sinatra’s soul, as though he’s shining a spotlight down a well. No other singer has so effectively split the difference between expressive artistry and unmannered clarity. When he sings with the operatic Merrill in Sinatra and Friends, Sinatra comes off as plainspoken, a regular joe without affect. When, during the same program, he duets with twangy John Denver, Sinatra might as well be Robert Merrill. His delivery hasn’t changed, but the contrast shows how he prized such classical virtues as vowel shaping, breath control, and subtly-deployed vibrato.

As he performs, Sinatra introduces each of his songs with the methodical pleasure of a child showing off his toys to company -- he names not just the composers but the arrangers, delighting in his unequaled collection of Riddles, Costas, and Joneses. You can tell when he latches onto a song, because he tells you, and then it never escapes his grasp. “My Kind of Town” is the most performed song here, but “Come Rain or Come Shine” is his favorite, and George Harrison’s “Something” is “the greatest love song of the last 50 or 100 years”. (Too bad you can’t say the same for its Nelson Riddle arrangement.)

Amid these stalwarts, there are less-performed, unexpected pleasures: the Mangione-smooth “L.A. Is My Lady”, the underrated folk-philosophy-with-cigarette “Cycles”, the towering torch inferno “Angel Eyes”. When you see Sinatra create, you peer through a window into what makes songs -- and art, and literature, and mature adult psyches -- tick.

8

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less
Theatre

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less
10

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less
7

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image