Wednesday, February 10, 2016

"Where Are You?," Frank Sinatra (1958)

This was the first Frank Sinatra album I bought, sometime in the late summer of 1983.  I’d spent a good part of that summer reading the second edition of “The Rolling Stone Record Guide” (one of the Dave Marsh-edited versions, when you could still read a negative review every now and then), and as soon as I read Stephen Holden’s essay on the work of Sinatra, I knew it was only a matter of time before I picked up one of his records.

This was the best of Sinatra’s “dark night of the soul” albums, arranged and conducted by the great Gordon Jenkins.  Holden called it “their one perfect collaboration,” and wrote “Sinatra’s singing exuded a towering angst that bordered on the sepulchral.”  And yes, I do believe I did have to look that last word up.

With the songs, it’s hard to know where to start.  “Where Are You?,” “I Cover the Waterfront,” “Laura,” “Autumn Leaves,” “I’m a Fool to Want You” and “Baby Won’t You Please Come Home” are all classics, but the best of them all is “The Night We Call It a Day.”  At the end of the song, Sinatra does something with his voice that I’ve never heard on any other of his tunes, and it is a thrilling moment.  Not to mention a moment of absolute brilliance.

In the period beginning in the mid-1950s through the mid-Sixties, Sinatra was at the absolute pinnacle of his powers.  Of all his great work, he may never have sung as well as he did on “Where Are You?”

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