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Slight but nice at the price.
on November 30, 2003
Another packaging of Sinatra's 1950's television footage, once again by Hart Sharp Video, the producers who earlier this year brought us "Sinatra: The Classic Duets." Again, the show itself is under 30 minutes with the remaining 60 minutes allocated to interviews with Nancy, Tina, and other friends and associates familiar with the circumstances of the original show.
As usual, the producers are particularly unhelpful about providing documentation, but by perusing the video contents, it can be determined that the show is from 1957, which should have been "a very good year" for Old Blue. Unfortunately, this is definitely not a performance for making the case that Sinatra was the "Entertainer of the Century." He looks rather tired and stiff, and the voice, at least by Sinatra standards, sounds rough, lifeless and "played out." By contrast, Bing lights up the screen, radiating warmth, looking far more composed than the host, and singing flawlessly.
At these prices (under the cost of many CD's), this is a worthwhile pick-up for the Sinatra-Crosby collector. In fact, it rates above the earlier "Classic Duets" release because of print quality (a stunning clarity, even if the colors are often "wrong"), the extended sequencing (as opposed to stitching together bits and pieces from different Sinatra shows), and the extemporaneous, often surprising, remarks of the Sinatra daughters at a Q&A event following the initial screening of this restored footage. (At one point, in explaining Frank's troubles with TV ratings, Nancy says, "Dad didn't do well on television." Tina responds, "He had to fail somewhere.")
Bottom line: Don't even consider this if you don't already have "The Sinatra Christmas Album" or "A Jolly Christmas." And if it's Sinatra television footage you crave, be sure to pick up first the 1967 special with Frank, Ella, and Jobim. As for the Sinatra family members who, I understand, are largely responsible for this release: how do you explain going to such lengths to restore and mass-market this sort of footage while letting a Sinatra "concept" album like "All Alone," a project worthy of Sinatra's name in every respect, fall into oblivion?