The Very Best of Frank Sinatra
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A great, comprehensive collection of Sinatra's most popular Reprise tracks, and worth having for any number of reasons, Very Best Of features tons of familiar hits--but requires a caveat for casual Sinatra fans. When Sinatra formed Reprise, he began to re-record many of the sides he'd released on Capitol, in an attempt to transfer his catalog to the new label. It was a smooth move, but his re-recorded versions seldom replaced the originals in the way he'd hoped. And many of the familiar songs here are Capitol remakes. It'd be a task to compare the track listing here with that of the Capitol Years set, but if you want to get serious about your Sinatra, that's the way to go. If you're just a music fan, this is a gem. --Gavin McNett
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For one, he determines upon news of Mr. Sinatra's death that he'd better become acquainted with this matter. Secondly, he buys a used copy of the VERY BEST OF FRANK SINATRA from an Amazon book-dealer, then listens to it over and over and over again.
*Now* he begins to understand what the old fogies were talking about. Good grief, can this man *sing*!
But it's a different kind of singing than the varieties I have known. It is smooth, not technically impressive, but somehow a matter of timing and feeling so preternaturally well-synchronized that they leave one *feeling* things. Deep things, things that Sinatra declaims with silky knowledge and an occasional wink when he sees that you get it.
The Sinatra Machine, both authorized and otherwise, has spun off gazillions of versions of Sinatra tunes that you simply must know. You could begin with one of them.
But trust me, this stuff is so good that you might as well dive into the deep end right at the outset and purchase this two-disk anthology. Then you'll understand.
It was remastered right around the turn of the millenium and sounds great - both in terms of engineering and basic material. The songs are easily accessible to modern listeners, popped into a car or home stereo. Sound great ripped to an iPod too.
I think to get the best introductory "Sinatra experience," if you are new to this great singer, Classic Sinatra is the place to start, NOT this album, The Very Best of Frank Sinatra (the Reprise collection). The songs on the Capitol-era CD are a lot more accessible, imho, to modern listeners than either the pre-'50's "bobby soxer" songs that preceded the Capitol CD (and the sound recording technology is a lot better too) OR the post-1960 Reprise "re-recordings" of his classic earlier material.
The only thing Classic Sinatra lacks is the "feel" of the original "concept" albums that Sinatra created while at Capitol. Sinatra grew up when 78's - not even 45's - were how music was sold - a 78 rpm vinyl disc with an "A" side and "B" side. The only real alternatives to singles were radio and actual live concerts. Radio generally only played "A" sides of singles and only when the "A" side was at the top of the charts. Concerts weren't recorded or, to my knowledge, broadcast - at least widely.
When technology advanced and gave us two big improvements - "high fidelity" AND "long play" - both in the form of the classic 33 1/3 album, which still sets the format for "CD's," Sinatra didn't just load up his new long play albums with random songs. He tried to link them together by mood, mix them together, essentially give a "concert" feel to the recording. That's why it's easy to listen to his albums in their original format so many years after they were compiled, but with many of his contemporaries you want to go straight the "best of" compilations. I still find it worthwhile to have Sinatra on my iPod in BOTH their original albums AND in certain compilations (this compilation being the best!). The "feel" is a little different when the songs come in the original "album" order.
So for your SECOND Sinatra experience, I highly recommend this "double album" concept CD:
Songs for Young Lovers/Swing Easy
Songs for Young Lovers and Swing Easy were originally released separately on 10" long plays, but then combined into a single 12" 33 1/3 album. This album is terrific! And it essentially includes not just one, but two, early "concept" albums.
Finally, it's worth thinking of "modern Sinatra" (Sinatra as a soloist backed by a band or orchestra, as opposed to big band music - Harry James and Tommy Dorsey - in which Sinatra is more of an "accompanist") in terms of eras as defined by his recording companies:
Or basically 40's, 50's, and 60's.
While Capitol represents the classic Sinatra I like best, Columbia showcases his transition from big band "support" singer to true soloist/balladeer. While Capitol represents the Sinatra I like best, many of us grew up during the Reprise years - when Sinatra was truly "middle aged" and doing novelty songs, trying rock and roll (and even disco!), doing collaborations with the "Girl from Ipanema" composer, etc, and recycling his earlier songs with a "modern" beat. Those years were hit and miss - some songs that have now become classics, many are forgettable. The Reprise years were the era when Sinatra went back to some of his best Capitol and Columbia songs, offering up new interpretations. That is probably where I take issue with this The Very Best of Frank Sinatra album - it messes with my favorites songs! What's funny about my attitude is that I have no problem with multiple versions of modern pop songs - some are better than the original, some aren't, but they are all "fun" to hear, at least once. And that's how I feel about this Reprise-era album. It is essential for even a modest Sinatra collection. It is fun to listen to. BUT in 9 songs out of 10, I prefer the Capitol original. Maybe in that sense it makes me appreciate the original more.
It's a tougher call judging the re-recordings of the Columbia era songs. Those weren't very high fidelity, they sound definitely old-fashioned even to my baby boomer ears, and the Reprise re-do's probably make them more accessible. Also I like Sinatra's old-man voice in these tracks over the bobby-soxer voice in the original Columbia songs. Well that's in a casual listening mode. If you really want to appreciate the richness and depth of this fine artist, you've got to have a sampling from all three eras.
The reinterpretations are what I take issue with. As a completist, or fan, you've got to have them. But I don't think they represent the best place to start. Of all the Reprise material, THIS album is the place to start, due to the quality of its compilation. Regrettably, it seems to have gone out of print so you will need to buy a used CD, fortunately not that hard to find here.
So here is what I would recommend for any beginner (which includes me, too!) wanting to start a solid, but not too expensive, Sinatra collection:
Songs for Young Lovers/Swing Easy
Complete Capitol Singles Collection
THIS ALBUM, The Very Best of Frank Sinatra (the Reprise years)
The Essential Frank Sinatra
The Essential Frank Sinatra with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra (2CD)
Whether you're a latter day "ratpacker" or a newbie just coming under the Sinatra spell, this is the one to buy.
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