Getting back to Frank Sinatra: The Concert Collection…
The ‘Primetime’ volume is unique in that it displays three different types of formats used for Sinatra specials, along with a healthy dose of Don Costa conducting and arranging.
“Francis Albert Sinatra Does His Thing”, from 1968, has a thematic nod to the current times, including the great line “Now, nobody would really explain to me exactly what my thing is supposed to be… but it can’t be all bad, baby, ‘cause they’re lettin’ me do it on television.”
The show starts with new arrangements of “Hello Young Lovers”, “Baubles, Bangles and Beads”, and the current recording “Cycles”. While I was never a fan of the ‘hip chorus’ backing Sinatra vocals on records, it’s tolerable here and one gets to see The Man run over to hug what appears to be a surprised Costa, while spotting Conte Candoli on trumpet and Ray Brown on bass.
As a tribute to the Civil Rights Movement, the medley with Diahann Carroll is interesting, but other than “The Lonesome Road”, it’s always seemed a bit forced to me.
On the other hand, Sinatra singing with The Fifth Dimension on Laura Nyro’s “Sweet Blindness” has always been playful, including when he sings ‘sweet-eyed business’ by mistake.
The Saloon Medley is given a fresh approach with the handling of “Glad To Be Unhappy”, “Here’s That Rainy Day”, “It Never Entered My Mind” and “Gone With The Wind”. Sinatra, the actor, is emphasized reflecting and then leaving a motel room by car.
This is also the show where love beads are worn for a medley of “Nice ‘n’ Easy” and “How Little We Know” but then it’s back to formal wear for a concert performance of “Lost In The Stars”.
1969’s “Sinatra” not only gives him an Executive Producer credit, but returns to the one-man show format. “For Once In My Life” provides a strong opening and “My Way” is still a new song. While the film clip self-deprecating segment is tedious, it’s a treat to hear new takes on “All The Way” and “The Tender Trap”.
The contemporary sounds of Sinatra are shown to good advantage with “Little Green Apples”, “A Man Alone”, “Didn’t We” and “Love’s Been Good To Me”.
This show ends with a new arrangement of “My Kind Of Town”, but a humorous reprise is attempted for the closing credits, which then brings everything to an awkward fade, mostly due to all of the sound effects.
Nelson Riddle returns to conducting the orchestra for “Sinatra And Friends”. The concept of this 1977 special was to give many guests an opportunity to do a solo number, and be paired with Sinatra for a duet. The opening “Where Or When” features everyone and then Sinatra solos on “I’ve Got You Under My Skin”.
For the most part, the guest solos seem dated now, which leaves the duets as the reason to watch this show. Natalie Cole is a great complement on “I Get A Kick Out Of You”, Dean Martin makes a token appearance to join Sinatra and Robert Merrill on “The Oldest Established”, Tony Bennett partners on “My Kind Of Town” and Leslie Uggams is featured on “The Lady Is A Tramp”.
Unfortunately, Loretta Lynn struggles on the disco arrangement of “All Or Nothing At All” (nuff said), and while “September Song” ultimately works with Sinatra and John Denver, it’s still a tough moment since Denver’s singing style is so literal to the music (which comes off a bit stiff).
Sinatra closes the show with the disco arrangement of “Night and Day” (a bit more tolerable), Paul Anka’s “Everybody Ought To Be In Love”, and “Put Your Dreams Away”.
While The Voice is showing a bit of wear on this last number, it’s still a testament to how long it’s been his signature theme.
“Concert For The Americas”, taped for Showtime in 1982, is the fourth volume of the set and simply a stellar and exciting performance from start to finish.
This show finally makes its official US video debut as part of this box set, but is also available individually.
Vinnie Falcone takes the baton through most of what would become the staples of the latter Sinatra In Concert repertoire.
Throughout, there is give and take with the audience, as well as with the orchestra. And yes, after the end of “Strangers In The Night”, if you turn the volume up a bit, you’ll be able to hear Sinatra say to the orchestra, “That’s the worst f—ing song I ever heard !”.
Buddy Rich is featured on the opening “Prologue” and closing “Something’s Coming” sections from his classic “West Side Story Medley”.
As a side note, when the show was syndicated by Paramount (if memory serves) for a two-hour time slot, with commercials, an additional Buddy Rich number was included to fill the time needed.
Tony Mottola is given the spotlight to accompany Sinatra on “Send In The Clowns” and “Quiet Nights Of Quiet Stars”. Even at this stage of his career, Ol’ Blue Eyes could still hold an audience spellbound with just voice and guitar.
The finale is the unique version of “Theme From New York, New York” that includes a few lines from the ‘On The Town’ “New York, New York” as an introduction, before the fireworks display over the closing credits brings the official close to this box set.
The Bonus Disc is especially great for anyone who doesn’t already have “Happy Holidays With Bing and Frank”. From 1958, it’s packed with great Christmas music, plus a duet on “White Christmas”. And we all can guess why the valet’s name is Leon…
“Vintage Sinatra” is also featured and was created for PBS in 2003, and shows great performance footage from Sinatra on television in the 1950’s. Unfortunately, the ten bonus clips included have not been remastered, so it’s a bit jarring after watching the care put into the ones preserved for the special.
The quality of this particular bonus material varies from an almost pristine “Our Love Is Here To Stay”, to a wonderful performance of “Bewitched” that is marred by a competitive and overwhelming amount of hiss.
“Moonlight In Vermont” is in a setting that complements the performance, and the absolute standouts are watching Sinatra practically right in the orchestra for “The Road To Mandalay” and “We’ll Be Together Again”. These last two clips alone make this set worth owning.
All in all, including the bonus material, the entire box gives us Sinatra performing on television over four decades, and that’s quite a feat unto itself…More On Frank Sinatra: The Concert Collection