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on June 27, 2003
Frank Sinatra's solo career can easily be divided into four major periods, each covered by one or two definitive box sets: the Columbia Years, the Capitol years, and the Reprise years. Of the three, the Columbia recordings, his earliest solo recordings, always struck me as the least interesting period. As a result, this was the last of his "complete" box sets that I picked up. Until now, I had settled for the four-CD abreviated set, The Best of the Columbia Years. Being the shameless completist I am, however, I finally closed my eyes, gritted my teeth, and forked over the 200 bucks for this box set. Was it worth it? Absolutely!
The packaging of this set is wonderful, easily the surpassing that of the Concepts and Complete Reprise Studio Recordings sets. Since this box was released in the early '90s, we have the music packaged in 12 jewel cases (say what you will about today's extravagant packaging, the immortal jewel case is still the most practical packaging method) and is accompanied by a hardcover book which gives wonderfully detailed session information. This alone would make this box set a treasure chest for the Sinatra collector. It also boasts wonderfully remastered sound, not noticeably improved by subsequent late-90s remasterings of some of this material. The sound here is about as good as it gets. Now to the music itself....
I must stand by my prevoius opinion of Sinatra's Columbia recordings. They are definitely the most dated and least interesting of his career. That doesn't mean they're bad, though. The Voice is there. Like another teen idol who would rise to superstardom in the 1950s, Frank can take even the worst dreck (ie. "Mam'selle", "The Tennessee Newsboy") soar with his incredible singing. And this is where the main problem lies. Under the mismanagement of Columbia uberproducer Mitch Miller, Sinatra was subjected to some of the worse material written in the 1940s and early 1950s. And it's all hear in its bleeding eardrum glory. Of course, there are also many, many great songs with great performances. Two versions of the immortal "Nancy (with the Smiling Face)", the stunning patriotic recitation "The House I Live In", and the early swinger "Saturday Night (is the Loneliest Night of the Week)" just to name a few.
Other notable performances are a strong early recording of "Soliloquy" (re-recorded by Sinatra in 1963) and a surprisingly strong "The Birth of the Blues" from one of his last Columbia sessions.
Do not expect to hear the classic swinging Sinatra of the '50s and '60s in this collection. The vast majority of these recordings are standard 1940's-era big band balladry which serve to date this box set much more than other Sinatra collections. It's not until discs 11 and 12 where we start to hear what Sinatra will give the world during the Capitol years of the 1950s.
This is definitely NOT a set for someone just getting into Sinatra. Newcomers to his Columbia music will be better served by either the 4-CD Best of the Columbia Years or the new "remastered" (but doncha believe it) single-disc Essential Frank Sinatra (The Columbia Years).
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on June 7, 2001
Since Sinatra's death I have really grown to appreciate his music and started collecting everything I could..first the Capitol Concept albums(what a struggle trying to find "Close To You!"),then the Reprise 20 CD set,then the James,Dorsey sets,the V Discs,the Capitol Singles collection and the 4 disc "Best of the Columbia Years"I wasn't terribly familiar with a lot of the Columbia stuff and the more I listened to the set,the more I appeciated the music,,the Stordohl arrangements, the purity of the voice and the overall sound. I knew would have to bite the bullet and spring for the 12 cd Complete recordings. It's the best move I made.The packaging is superb and that book that accompanies the set is oustanding. The information about the recording sessions is invaluable. I have the 20 CD Reprise set and that book is totally inferior to the Columbia product. It sure would have been nice to have information on allthe recordings he made for Reprise.If you are a lover of popular music and Sinatra, I can't recommend this set too highly.Sure there are a few clunkers in there,notably the Mitch Miller stuff, but that voice overpowers the material.I m very happy I sprung for this handsome collection. If you are a fan, you'll have to have this. Sinatras singing and phrasing was never sweeter.
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on July 1, 2009
OK...better late than never. I really was not much of a Sinatra fan perhaps due to the rather arrogant persona I had witnessed when he was on talk shows during my teenaged years. Then I discoverd some reissues of his "concept" albums for Capitol Records and changed my mind. A few years ago I bought the Rhino set of Sinatra's Hollywood soundtracks- love it. After buying a few re-releases of Columbia CDs I realized that I was gong to have to buy the whole shebang. And a few days ago I finally purchased it. I don't know what else to say but wow, what a voice. Now I understand what all the fuss was about. No need to go over all the songs here as they are listed. And yes, there are a few awful recordings here thanks to Mitch Miller who also tortured Rosemary Clooney with his crapola. But for the most part, this is an amazing collection of songs where the artists- the singer, arrangers, conductors, musicians, techies, and everyone else involved, were creating art. My set arrived last night and after doing some chores I just sat down and read the extensive notes on the recording dates as I listened to one of the sweetest voices imaginable. If you think you want this set and perhaps are thinking of buying the smaller 4 CD set as an audition then do yourself a favor: don't wait until it's too late. Buy it! It's truly stunning.
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on January 30, 1999
One of the few indulgences in life with no regrets later is buying this lush box set. Twelve CDs with all the studio recordings FS made with Columbia. Included are dozens of tracks not available since their original issue in the Forties. Each jewel case duplicates the original cover art and each disc is well over the 60 minute mark. With glorious remastered sound, this is the most honest and accurate way to discover what the bobbysaxers knew that no one else could figure out.
Frank's voice is strong, but tender, even high pitched. His deeper, more mature delivery was jst around the corner. On these recordings we find a young man with a lovely regard for love and a smooth, caressing voice that keeps singer and listener enchanted. Axel Stordahl's lush string orchestrations are the perfect complement to Frank's voice. Most of the songs are strong, but there are a few recordings on the last discs that reveal why Frank wisely left the label once Mitch Miller took over A&R.
Go ahead, spend the money, enjoy life. Frank did.
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on November 23, 2010
285 songs here for almost exactly 45 dollars. That works out to less than 16 cents per song. Amazing. Another way to look at it -- this is 12 cds worth of music at a price of less than four dollars per disc.

Brief warning: if you are new to Sinatra, perhaps you might not want to start here. Having said that -- THIS IS GREAT MUSIC; the music that made Frank Sinatra famous. Yes, he would make even better music later, in the 1950s (which is the place for newcomers to start) but that would have been impossible if he had not made this music first. This collection is a bargain at twice this price, which is the minimum you would pay for the same music on factory discs in jewel cases and a collectible box on the world's largest auction web site (you know what I'm referring to).

The question is: do you want to get all Sinatra's earliest recording here as an mp3 download? Or do you want the full 12 disc set for more than twice this price? Or do you want something smaller and more digestible?

If you really don't want to wade through 285 mp3 songs, then I suggest starting with Portrait Of Sinatra: Columbia Classics, a two disc set which really does hit the high points of this important and formative phase of Sinatra's career. It is a five star set, which can be had used for less than 20 dollars (and is also available at many public libraries). For many people that is all they will ever want from this phase of Sinatra's career. If you want it all, however, this is a fabulous way to get it cheap. You can make your own discs for pennies and then sequence the discs any way you want.

You make the choice, but anyone who loves Sinatra's music shouldn't ignore this era. It is mellower and less emotional than his later material. That's not a bad thing. Yes, it does take a little adjustment to your ears because recording techniques and musical tastes have changed so much since this material was recorded 60 some odd years ago, and recording technology even more so. Still, eventually devoted Sinatra fans end up loving this music.
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on April 12, 2011
This is it. Surprised that Columbia actually released a box set of this magnitude, but happy that they did it. All of Frank's early Hits, as well as Misses, and rare issues are included, which is the right way. The bad part is the overall Expense, but you're getting alot of music. With this set, you can trace the early bobby-soxer's favorites, right up to the time when those fans abandoned him. (He jumped ship and went to Capitol records, made a comeback and redefined Pop vocal music.) Now you've started it, Columbia, will you finish? So where's the Complete Doris Day? Where's the Complete Tony Bennett? Where's the Complete Dinah Shore? Where's the Complete Pearl Bailey? Where's the Complete Frankie Laine? Where's the Complete Guy Mitchell? Where's the Complete Jo Stafford? Barbra Streisand? Johnny Cash? Ray Price? Marty Robbins? Bob Dylan? Harry James? Etc, etc,.....
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on March 8, 1999
This is it! The very best music made this century. Sinatra at his peak. He sings superbly in this collection. His voice was at his absolute best! Listen to 1945's "I Fall in Love Too Easily", there has NEVER been a more hearfelt and touching ballad. All the well known standards are there of course, but you will fine many obscure gems too! Listen to "Every Man Should Marry", "Somewhere in the Night", "You'll Know When It Happens", "The Girl That I Marry", "Laura", for instance. These are every bit as good as the better known ballads and most of them only available here in this collection. So save up your pennies and get this 12 CD box set, it is the finest musical investment you'll ever make.
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on December 26, 2010
If you love the popular American songbook then you owe to yourself to buy this boxed set - all of it. Yes there are some dogs among the diamonds - but for the most part, this is as good as it got - this is the best American songbook ever. Owning this set means that you will get the chance to discover classics that have been overlooked for more than fifty years. Here are a few - just listen to even a sample and you will hear what I mean - Accidents Will Happen, Azure-Te, The Brooklyn Bridge, Deep Night, God's Country, I Guess I'll Have to Dream the Rest, If I ever Love Again, It's The Same Old Dream, Let's Take an Old Fashioned Walk, Mighty Lak a Rose,The Music Stopped, Nevertheless, Poinciana, Remember Me in Your Dreams, Spring is Here, The Song is You, There's No You, These Foolish Things, We KIss in a Shadow, When the Sun Goes Down, You're MY Girl - look, just listen and you'll see why this is THE indispensable boxed set. As somebody said, when you buy Sinatra, you're buying furniture.
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on September 2, 2012
This set is priceless, and most definitely worth its price, as it yields infinite hours of immeasurable enjoyment.

The most beautiful, tastefully and expertly put together package of Frank Sinatra music out there, it's lovely to look at, delightful to get to know, and heaven to listen to. The sound quality is excellent, bringing to renewed life the irresistible sound of youthful Sinatra.

Hundreds of jewels, semiprecious stones, and forgotten gems of songs, nestled in the sweet orchestral settings of Axel Stordahl, virtually spill out of this box.
The overwhelming majority of the songs are standards or at least memorable, proving that Sinatra's taste was impeccable from the beginning.

If you haven't yet discovered the early Sinatra, be prepared for the voice of an angel, sincere, pure and soft, with a surprisingly wide range. He is well on his way to the mastery of phrasing he would attain in the Capitol years, and already past master of breath control and dynamics, bending notes and investing the precise shade of emotion appropriate to the lyric.

If you can get the original blue-stained hardwood box, do so- it's sheer pleasure to own and handle it, as well as the individual disc cases and excellent book. I call it the Big Beautiful Blue Box. However, even without the trappings, the music itself is heavenly.

You will be starting on a voyage of endless discovery. And you just might get lost in it, as I did.
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on April 3, 2013
Sinatra sits atop the pantheon of popular artists who have transcended time and space with a gift that is both pure and timeless. There are precious few who can even approach the man as a singer, for me, and I wish there was a Sinatra/ Ella Fitzgerald album. So, yes, I am a big Sinatra fan.
Most fans really prize his Capitol years concept albums and feel that was the apogee of his career. While I love the Sinatra with swagger and power I really secretly value these recordings the most. Why? For me these present the man as he was, not as someone who has to live up to his persona, which limits your expression of who you are. Proof?
Listen, on the first CD to the lullaby "Cradle Song." Even the instrumental accompaniment is spare and Sinatra is singing his heart out with tenderness and a timeless, warm beauty that captures that feeling that all new parents have for their newborn when they bring them home. I simply cannot imagine a more beautiful, yet simple, reading of this.
Yes, there are some novelty clinkers, like "Mama will bark." (Hope she had her shots) While Sinatra was "Hot" in his early years he was decidedly cooler to the public in the late forties and early 50's. The fact that the complete "Columbia" recordings, except for duets and such includes them is just part of having "Complete" in the name.
Really, it is about what touches you the most, is it not?
There is plenty of meat here and Sinatra has a more innocent and upbeat sound then he often had in later years.
Some of the recordings are almost operatic in their scope.
So, you've got the "Voice," and then there is the "Sound." Rich, warm and clear. It is truly amazing to think the recordings were literally taken from the metal "78" masters. There were riches there and they brought them out for us all to enjoy. Columbia realized they had treasures here and did an incredible job. Bravo!
So, are these worth the time and money to acquire them.
Yes, yes, and yes. I suggest if you are a casual fan, get the MP3 version, but for those of us who are Sinatraphiles the CDs are the way to go. There is much to celebrate in these recordings.
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