Monday, May 28, 2012

Top 50 Albums of All Time, #29 - Songs for Swingin' Lovers

It was sometime during the summer of 1980, a time that I was listening to new albums by The Clash, Warren Zevon, The English Beat, Peter Gabriel, and a newish band called Robin Lane and the Chartbusters. It was a review in Rolling Stone - a review of a Sinatra concert written by Tom Carson, a writer who usually wrote about artists like Lou Reed and The Ramones.  It was called "The Majestic Artistry of Frank Sinatra," and I remember wondering what was up, why RS would suddenly embrace Sinatra as if he were somehow Elvis, Dylan and Springsteen rolled into one.

It was still a couple of years before I would buy my first Sinatra album, but with that review, the hook was sunk.  The first album I bought was "Where Are You?," mostly on the basis of Stephen Holden's recommendation in the second edition of The Rolling Stone Record Guide.  Of the album, Holden wrote:

"On Where Are You, their one perfect collaboration ("their" referring to Sinatra and arranger/conductor Gordon Jenkins), Sinatra's singing exuded a towering angst that bordered on the sepulchral."

It's a great album, but it doesn't quite approach the level of Sinatra's work with Nelson Riddle; even Holden calls their collaboration "the summit of his [Sinatra's] recording career."  Songs for Swingin' Lovers may be Sinatra's most famous album, and it is definitely a landmark in one of the great recording careers of the 20th Century.   On the album, Sinatra's singing exudes a confidence that allows him to achieve something that many artists strive for but fail to achieve: he makes it sound easy.

These are uptempo tunes, but they're hardly soft - Sinatra was a genius, but Nelson Riddle wasn't far behind, and the band consistently and brilliantly carries each tune to a new level, challenging Sinatra to reach new heights.  The pinnacle, and one of the greatest songs ever recorded in any genre, is reached with "I've Got You Under My Skin," the classic Cole Porter tune.  But that's hardly the only highlight; the list of classics includes "You Make Me Feel So Young," "It Happened in Monterey," "Too Marvelous for Words," "I Thought About You," and "How About You?".

It's a great, great record, and it's almost 60 years old.  I'm sure it will sound just as good when it approaches its own century mark.

Songs for Swingin' Lovers, Frank Sinatra
Orchestra arranged and conducted by Nelson Riddle

You Make Me Feel So Young/It Happened in Monterey/You're Getting to be a Habit With Me/You Brought a New Kind of Love to Me/Too Marvelous for Words/Old Devil Moon/Pennies from Heaven/Love is Here to Stay/I've Got You Under My Skin/I Thought About You/We'll Be Together Again/Makin' Whoopee/Swingin' Down the Lane/Anything Goes/How About You?

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