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The Very Best of Frank Sinatra

The Very Best of Frank Sinatra

A great, comprehensive collection of Sinatra’s most popular Reprise tracks, and worth having for any number of reasons, Very Best Of features tons of familiar hits–but requires a caveat for casual Sinatra fans. When Sinatra formed Reprise, he began to re-record many of the sides he’d released on Capitol, in an attempt to transfer his catalog to the new label. It was a smooth move, but his re-recorded versions seldom replaced the originals in the way he’d hoped. And many of the familiar songs here are Capitol remakes. It’d be a task to compare the track listing here with that of the Capitol Years set, but if you want to get serious about your Sinatra, that’s the way to go. If you’re just a music fan, this is a gem. –Gavin McNett

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3 Responses to The Very Best of Frank Sinatra

  • Mark Blackburn says:
    147 of 152 people found the following review helpful
    5.0 out of 5 stars
    His Very Best is just that!, December 12, 2002
    By 
    Mark Blackburn (Winnipeg, Manitoba Canada) –
    (REAL NAME)
      

    This review is from: The Very Best of Frank Sinatra (Audio CD)
    I’m convinced this 2-CD collection really is “The Very Best” way to begin your Sinatra collection: ‘Disc one’ is pure gold for those who love strong melodies and great standards from the American Songbook. So I’d like to focus on the lesser of the two CDs, ‘Disc 2.’ Because, while it contains some weaker songs (not many, and they may be more popular tunes in terms of record sales), Disc 2 drives home the point I’d like to make: Sinatra reserved his very best work for his own Reprise label, contrary to opinions expressed by some reviewers in favor of the Capitol Years — an opinion I shared when that was my only Sinatra collection.

    By 1963 (his very best year?) The Voice had mellowed to a rich baritone; the tone deepening from something like a ‘violin sound’ in his early Columbia years, to the ‘viola’ of his middle-period, Capitol years; finally ‘expanding’ in timbre to emerge as “a fine cello” (as his favorite arranger put it) for the first Reprise albums represented here.

    Disc 2, for instance, features Sinatra’s finest recording of an early signature tune, “All or Nothing at All.” This version, recorded November 22, 1961, arranged/conducted by Don Costa, is more beautiful even than the (later) Nelson Riddle arrangement of May 16, 1966. Oddly enough, that Riddle-arranged take was selected in place of this Costa version for the larger, 4-CD Reprise Collection. But I believe most serious musicians would agree the aural feast concocted by Costa is lovelier.

    Similarly, this collection’s “Night and Day” (also from November 22, 1961) is, from every standpoint, Sinatra’s best treatment of the Cole Porter classic; not least because it includes the priceless opening verse (“beat-beat of the tom-tom”) —-which, inexplicably, isn’t included in the Riddle arrangement for the Capitol Years’ “Swingin’ Affair.” Sinatra & Costa take it at a slower, more sensuous tempo—with more beautiful and heartfelt results. For those who care a lot about recording quality, the Reprise sessions of the early 60s represent (understandably) a marked improvement over the best Capitol recordings of the 50s.

    But the singer himself is simply better: he’s packing more emotional punch in these Reprise recordings. He’s still crafting the same deceptively ‘artless’ works of art, first generated in the 50s, but he projects a greater range of emotion, including enthusiasm (for his new record label?) If there are any weaknesses in his mid-life voice, they’re employed to emotional advantage.

    Then there’s the amazing breath control: just try singing along; you’ll be gasping for air long before the old master takes his next breath—an achievement that would reach its zenith on the “Concert Sinatra” album of 1963: performances with the largest symphony orchestra Nelson Riddle would ever assemble, featuring (mostly) Sinatra’s favorite songs by his all-time favorite composer. Alas none of those are represented in this collection; a few are included in the larger, 4-CD Reprise box set. But when purchasing individual albums, better to buy the complete “Concert Sinatra.” The singer himself considered that one his crowning achievement (Please see reviews for that one.)

    For many of the same reasons, the April 30, 1963 take of “Witchcraft” included here is much more beautiful than the Capitol recording of May 20, 1957. For this version, Sinatra is in perfect voice and Riddle’s revised arrangement is better too. The recording quality is as good as anything produced today, 40 years later. Oh yes, and for those who love the Cahn/Van Heusen classic “The Second Time Around” it’s ‘only available here’ (never recorded at Capitol).

    While some of us have come to believe that “The Voice” reached its absolute ‘operatic’ pinnacle in 1963, Disc-2 in this Reprise collection provides a glimpse of the greatness Sinatra could still summon up, as late as February 11, 1969. That’s when “Wave” one of the loveliest from Brazilian composer Antonio Carlos Jobim was recorded in Hollywood (with an evocative arrangement by Jobim’s compatriot Eumir Deodato). At the end of each chorus, the old Master, then 54, nails a bassoon-textured bass note, a full octave below the tonic. If you’ve never heard it, you owe it to yourself. Its original album setting “Sinatra & Company” was one CD never produced on this continent; another is the obscure “Great Songs from Great Britain” which I recently obtained from an Amazon.com seller after a ten year search. Mine was among the very first to carry the “Made in USA” label and it quickly went out of print. (Please see reviews for both those CDs.)

    So there’s lots of reasons why new fans of Sinatra should acquire this 2-CD set before purchasing any other ‘Best of’ collection. In titling this one “His Very Best” Reprise merely states the plain truth to new fans who may wish to respect his advice that we “Keep listening!”

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  • Dan Berger says:
    49 of 50 people found the following review helpful
    5.0 out of 5 stars
    This is the finest of all Sinatra albums, April 10, 2000
    By 
    Dan Berger (Atlanta, GA USA) –
    (VINE VOICE)
      

    This review is from: The Very Best of Frank Sinatra (Audio CD)
    “The Very Best of Frank Sinatra” on Reprise gets panned for certain things. Other reviewers here disparage the wide variety of songs, like “Pocketful of Miracles,” a children’s song, or the prevalence of remakes.
    But this album succeeds in presenting Frank at his finest. His voice is still nearly as strong as in his 1950s peak. And he sings with great conviction, styling, power and emotion, and perhaps greater maturity than in his Capitol years. This is a man at the height of his strength.
    Sinatra, as chairman of Reprise, had the creative freedom he didn’t always have at Capitol. Most of these songs are arranged and the bands led by the same leaders Sinatra had made history with, including Nelson Riddle and Billy May. I believe he wanted to seal his place in history with these recordings. They feature fabulous, creative arrangements, with no expense spared on the orchestra, rather than the humdrum backups he sometimes got with Capitol. “Witchcraft” and “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” are both more powerful here than on the Capitol album. They are perfect. Sinatra’s singing is devoid of kidding around here and has very little ad libbing. His phrasing is perfect but he is not yet using it to compensate for a failing voice. This is a man taking himself seriously as an artist and wanting these recordings to capture that.
    I disagree that there are huge gaps on this album. Sinatra’s 50 year career is too big to capture on any conventionally sized set, and bigger sets are unmanageable and invariably contain chaff. This one has as many, if not more, of the big hits than any other selection. It captures every phase of his career from crooning, to the 50s songs, be they swinging or sad, to movie and show tunes, to 60s hits. Yes, some space spent on his late 60s numbers might be considered wasted by some – his voice was just beginning to slip and songs like “Something Stupid” aren’t immortal. But then many baby boomers will remember these songs as pop radio hits in the 1960s. And with some criticizing this album for having too many of the somber songs already, would it make sense to add more?
    I have listened to this album probably more than 300 times, and it is my favorite Sinatra album. “The Best of the Capitol Years” is also worthy – and certainly, so are the many original albums, particularly those from the 1950s. But for a one-stop shop, this is every bit as good as the Capitol selection.
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  • miller stevens says:
    77 of 82 people found the following review helpful
    5.0 out of 5 stars
    sinatra? you’ve got to be kidding!, November 10, 2003
    By 
    miller stevens (seattle) –
    This review is from: The Very Best of Frank Sinatra (Audio CD)
    Frank Sinatra? What the hell do I care about old Blue Eyes? I’m in my 30s and prefer listening to someone who didn’t pre-date TV. But, well, my dad was visiting and he didn’t want to listen to Travis or Seal in the car so I did the good son thing of getting him a Frank CD. I knew some of these songs, of course. They’re old and classic. Dad sang along to them. I grated my teeth and kept on driving. The CD finished and dad looked disappointed, so I played it again. And again. Somewhere during the fifth play, I had my epiphany. This guy really was incredible. There is something, some quality in his voice that I don’t think you can put a finger on, but it’s there. Dad said, “Okay, let’s change the CD” but I said that I’d let him listen one more time.
    Dad has headed back home now, but I find myself listening to Frank still. Sinatra did something that nothing else has done – bridged a generation gap. I have encouraged friends to listen to his stuff too and they have the same reaction: while Dido or Madonna get old after a couple of listenings, Sinatra can stay in your CD player a run through a hundred times without sounding tired. That’s just amazing.
    Next time, Dad wants me to get an Al Jolson CD for us to listen to, but I think there are limits.
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