Reviews

The Frank Sinatra Show: High Hopes - With Dean Martin and Bing Crosby [DVD]

Roger Holland

In the words of his own director, Jack Donahue: 'There are quite a few performers who have no business on television each week, and Sinatra is one of them.'"


Frank Sinatra

The Frank Sinatra Show: High Hopes - With Dean Martin and Bing Crosby [DVD]

Label: LABEL
US Release Date: 2005-10-25
UK Release Date: 2005-06-27
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Frank Sinatra never made his mark on television. He tended to blame the medium and "those guys in grey flannel suits", the network executives: "My blood boils when I see the mediocrities sitting on top of the TV networks." But the networks and the critics blamed the tuxedoed Sinatra, and even his own director Jack Donahue concurred: "There are quite a few performers who have no business on television each week, and Sinatra is one of them."

In 1952, Sinatra signed the biggest deal in television history with CBS, and his show was cancelled after a year with snake belly ratings. Nonetheless in 1957, with his records selling in the millions and his movies doing great business at the box office, Sinatra signed another record-setting TV deal, this time with the ABC network: a three year contract for 36 half-hour filmed (as opposed to live) shows. ABC got the biggest name in entertainment, Sinatra got three million upfront in cash plus a 60% share in the profits and residuals. Surprising no-one except ABC, the new Frank Sinatra Show was cancelled after 26 weeks, and in an attempt to recoup their investment, the network ran four one-hour specials the following year sponsored by Timex.

High Hopes is remastered from the archive tape of the Timex special that was originally recorded on October 19, 1958. For a show that brought together three of the biggest names of any era, it disappoints hugely and offers little more than curiosity value.

Watch Sinatra and Martin sleepwalk their way through an hour of missed lines and self-indulgence. Watch Dino upstage Frank with his dance steps. Watch Dino plug his own restaurant with a message scrawled on the sole of his shoe. Watch Bing Crosby shrug off the embarrassment and show the younger men how a professional works -- although he alone is denied a solo spot.

Watch, and wonder how on earth Frank Sinatra could go from movies as strong as The Man With The Golden Arm (1955), High Society (1956) and Some Came Running (1958) to something quite this disturbingly bad. Listen, and wonder how the man who made Songs For Swinging Lovers (1957) and Come Fly With Me (1958) could perform this poorly.

The original Timex Promotional Segments that are included on High Hopes would probably qualify as the most entertaining thing on this DVD, if it wasn't for Dean Martin's Jimmy Durante impersonation and a cameo performance from Durante himself. It's only when Sinatra takes the microphone at the head of a Nelson Riddle band that we get anything approaching the real deal. "It Was Just One Of These Things", "Angel Eyes" and "The Lady Is A Tramp" are still second-rate and perfunctory, but at least they hint at Sinatra's greatness. Everything else on High Hopes merely underlines his lack of respect for television and his audience.

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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

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Electronic music is one of the broadest-reaching genres by design, and 2017 highlights that as well as any other year on record. These are the 20 best albums.


20. Vitalic - Voyager (Citizen)

Pascal Arbez-Nicolas (a.k.a. Vitalic) made waves in the French Touch electro-house scene with his 2005 debut, OK Cowboy, which had a hard-hitting maximalist sound, but several albums later, Voyager finds him launching into realms beyond at his own speed. The quirky, wallflower vocals and guitar snippets employed throughout Voyager drop a funk that brings to mind WhoMadeWho or Matthew Dear if they had disco-pop injected between their toes. "Levitation" is as pure a slice of dance floor motivation as theoretically possible, a sci-fi gunfight with a cracking house beat sure to please his oldest fans, yet the album-as-form is equally effective in its more contemplative moments, like when Miss Kitten's vocals bring an ethereal dispassion to "Hans Is Driving" to balance out its somber vocoder or the heartfelt cover of "Don't Leave Me Now" by Supertramp. Voyager may infect you with a futuristic form of Saturday Night Fever, but afterwards, it gives you a hearty dose of aural acetaminophen to break it. - Alan Ranta



19. Antwood: Sponsored Content (Planet Mu)

Sponsored Content is a noisy, chaotic, occasionally beautiful work with a dark sense of humor that's frequently deployed to get Antwood's point across. For instance, throughout the aforementioned "Disable Ad Blocker", which sounds mostly like the creepy side of Tangerine Dream's early '80s experimental output, distorted slogans and recognizable themes worm their way into the mix. "I'm Loving It", we hear at one point, the Sony PlayStation startup music at another. And then there's a ten-second clip of what sounds like someone getting killed in a horror movie. What is there to make of the coexistence of those sorts of samples? Probably nothing explicit, just the uneasiness of benign and instantly-recognizable brand content in the midst of harsh, difficult art. Perhaps quality must to some extent be tied to sponsorship. That Antwood can make this point amidst blasts and washes of experimental electronic mayhem is quite the achievement. - Mike Schiller



18. Bonobo - Migration (Ninja Tune)

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17. Kiasmos - Blurred EP (Erased Tapes)

The Icelandic duo of Olafur Arnalds and Janus Rasmussen, aka Kiasmos, is a perfect example of a pair of artists coming from two very different musical backgrounds, finding an unmistakable common ground to create something genuinely distinctive. Arnalds, more known for his minimal piano and string work, and Rasmussen, approaching from a more electropop direction, have successfully explored the middle ground between their different musical approaches and in doing so crafted affecting minimalist electronic music. Blurred is one of the most emotionally engaging electronic releases of the year. The duo is working from a refined and bright sonic palette as they consummately layer fine, measured sounds together. It is an intricate yet unforced and natural sounding set of songs with every song allowed room to bloom gradually. - Paul Carr



16. Ellen Allien - Nost (BPitch Control)

BPitch boss and longtime lynchpin of the DJ scene in Berlin, Ellen Allien's seven full-length releases show an artist constantly reinventing herself. Case in point, her 2013 offering, LISm, was a largely beat-less ambient work designed to accompany an artsy dance piece, while its follow-up, 2017's Nost, is a hardcore techno journey, spiritually born in the nightclubs and warehouses of the early '90s. It boasts nine straight techno bangers, beautifully minimalist arrangements with haunting vocals snippets and ever propulsive beats, all of which harken back to a hallowed, golden, mostly-imagined age when electronic music was still very much underground, and seemingly anything was possible. - Alan Ranta

It's just past noon on a Tuesday, somewhere in Massachusetts and Eric Earley sounds tired.

Since 2003, Earley's band, Blitzen Trapper, have combined folk, rock and whatever else is lying around to create music that manages to be both enigmatic and accessible. Since their breakthrough album Furr released in 2008 on Sub Pop, the band has achieved critical acclaim and moderate success, but they're still some distance away from enjoying the champagne lifestyle.

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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.

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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."

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