Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Marcello Carlin's new blog examines, with his typical daft scrupulousness, every number one album on the UK chart. I pick up on his distillation of the appeal of Frank Sinatra's Songs For Swingin' Lovers!, one of the man's many triumphs but still, to my ears, his most poised and insouciant recording. Writing about the interplay between arranger Nelson Riddle and Sinatra, Marcello writes:
Riddle's triumph lies in the fact that his arrangements and orchestra speak to and with Sinatra, answer him back, such that there is the feeling of an ongoing conversation - barroom or otherwise - seldom found in pop at the time. The opening "You Make Me Feel So Young" very properly sounds like a shiny, yellow herald of a new and better world; Harry "Sweets" Edison acts as Sinatra's unspoken conscience almost throughout, adding his muted trumpet comments to nearly every track, but look also at Riddle's subtle use of flutes, for instance; on "So Young" they flutter like autumn leaves in response to Sinatra's "old and grey" and at other times talk in the manner of the woman who is making him so happy. There is a beautiful inevitability about Riddle's build-up, especially when the cathartic bells materialise at the request of Sinatra's "bells to be rung" to say, away with the war, with the old, with paying back, with saying sorry; now and tomorrow are what count, the new marriage made in post-war heaven, a beauty so cherishable that you can easily excuse and understand Sinatra singing "you make me feel so spring has sprung" in the second verse.
So deservedly does Sinatra's voice get the lion's share of attention that his role as bandleader -- his understanding of how instrumental coloration deepened the emotional chords he was wringing from that voice -- gets too little attention (a funny anecdote in Bill Flanagan's chronicle of U2 in the studio and on the road At The End of the World shows the band clearly shocked that, when Sinatra joins them in the dressing room in 1987, he knew so much about music and music-making; apparently no one ever talked about music with Sinatra). Personal favorite: "Too Marvelous For Words."

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