Album: Songs by Sinatra
Artist: Frank Sinatra
Genre: Traditional Pop
The Frank Sinatra story is best told from the beginning. But for the purposes of this article, we’ll skip forward just a bit to his second studio album, Songs by Sinatra. Mind you, this was still early in Sinatra’s career — before Capitol Records, before Nelson Riddle and before From Here to Eternity. This was the era of Columbia, Axel Stordahl and Anchors Aweigh.
For starters, let’s talk about Columbia Records. The company executives originally marketed Sinatra’s music toward teenagers, which helped make him the biggest music star in the Western world. Sinatramania was in full swing and, as a result, Songs by Sinatra features tender love song after tender love song after tender love song.
Luckily, arranger/conductor Axel Stordahl props up these popular standards with lively sophistication. Having gained fame and experience working with Tommy Dorsey, Stordahl emphasizes Sinatra’s voice above all else, making sure that the orchestral embellishments and swirling strings never overshadow the main attraction.
And the main attraction, of course, is Frank Sinatra. Even at this young stage, his voice carries a confidence and control that is wise beyond its years. Sure, we’ve already heard “How Deep Is the Ocean?” and “Embraceable You” countless times, but we’ve never heard them sung like this. These age-old standards are completely reimagined in his image — Songs by Sinatra indeed.
Nevertheless, the decision to include the Ken Lane Singers on two of the album’s eight songs (“Over the Rainbow” and “All the Things You Are”) is an unforgivable one, plain and simple. The Singers’ contributions are as outdated as Anchors Aweigh and take valuable time away from Sinatra, which is a mistake that Capitol Records would never make. Fortunately, Sinatra comes to the rescue with extra-powerful vocals, including an intense apogee at the end of “All the Things You Are.”
With six-and-a-half good tunes, Songs by Sinatra is an inessential yet entertaining footnote in the singer’s storied career. Listen to it a couple times, then move on to bigger and better things.