Thursday, August 11, 2011

A MUSICAL EDUCATION IN 1001 STEPS - PT 7

Frank Sinatra - Songs for Swingin' Lovers! (1957)

A repeat appearance in this project's artistic line-up so early in the proceedings would have to come from a real heavyweight, and what do you know? It does. Old Blue Eyes is back - along with legendary arranger Nelson Riddle - for what The Book calls "day following night", referring to the happier, snappier tone of the selections here compared to the more reflective, somber feel of the picks from In The Wee Small Hours. Is the tumbler of bourbon half full or half empty? It all depends on whether you're drinking or pouring. On Songs for Swingin' Lovers!, Sinatra is definitely pouring, and he's pouring it on thick. The Rat Pack's Chairman of the Board is in full-on swagger mode here, and once again he displays an almost supernatural control over his instrument. 

Still, despite all the bounce and swing, there remains an undeniable darkness. This is, I suspect, partly a by-product of a half-century of social evolution - the casual misogyny occasionally catches today's sensitive listener off guard - and partly due to the fact that Frank was kind of a nasty piece of work in real life. You can almost picture him forcing Norman Fell to get down on his hands and knees to spit-shine his patent-leather Mary Janes in the lobby of The Sands, or retiring to the Jungle Room after his umpteenth triumphant gig to while away the night banging cocktail waitresses two at a time while Joey Bishop and Peter Lawford wait patiently in an adjoining suite for a chance at sloppy seconds. 

Here is a man who spends most of Under My Skin essentially telling his lover that he's constantly trying to figure out ways to dump her, but the pussy is just too damn good. In Makin' Whoopie, you can almost hear the contempt dripping from Frank's lips as he details the countless "humiliations" the Average Joe has to put up with just to get a little tail. The idea that some men would actually stoop to doing dishes is literally beyond Triumphant Frank's ability to comprehend. He even manages to make Anything Goes - originally an ironic ode to prudery - sound like an aggressive invitation to anal sex. "Bite the pillow, doll-face... it's going in dry!"

Then again, maybe that's what makes Somber Frank so potent. Later in his career, when he rumbled out the immortal words: "Regrets, I've had a few..." we knew exactly what he was talking about.

Had I heard it before? A few of the songs were new to me.
Did I like it before? Again, it would be truer to say that I didn't NOT like it.
Do I like it now? I appreciate Sinatra's gifts a lot more now, but I prefer him in a more reflective mood.
Am I keeping it? Only the Standout Tracks.
Standout tracks? "You Make Me Feel So Young", You're Getting to be a Habit With Me", "Too Marvelous for Words", "Pennies From Heaven", "I've Got You Under My Skin", "Anything Goes", "How About You?"


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