Tag Archives: Nelson Riddle

Frank Sinatra’s “Best of Vegas” — I’m All In!

31 Jan

A new Sinatra release is always a cause for celebration. That is especially true when you’re talking about LIVE recordings. Better yet if the live material includes performances from the ’50s and ’60s (my favorite era of Frank’s stellar career). The first 9 tracks on this collection fall into that friendly territory. The initial 3 tunes (following the introduction) were recorded at The Sands in 1961 — ring a ding ding! Tracks 5-9 are even better, thanks to the participation of conductor Quincy Jones and the amazing Count Basie Orchestra.

The music swings throughout this 17-track live collection and boasts several 1980’s performances captured at Caesar’s Palace and the Golden Nugget. Nuggets found here include Pennies from Heaven and New York New York. Have the earmuffs ready as Old Blue Eyes employs some salty language during his sometimes lengthy and always engaging between song stage patter. Hey, Frankie had some great pipes … but he wasn’t exactly a choir boy.

In the span of a few years, Las Vegas refueled Frank Sinatra’s career and Sinatra in turn became the lead figure in the city’s ascendance. It was a synergistic relationship that has since become legendary in the annals of 20th century entertainment.

Some of the finest moments in that legendary symbiosis are captured in Frank Sinatra: Best of Vegas, a series of live recordings presented by Concord Records. The 14-song set, under license from Frank Sinatra Enterprises (FSE), captures Sinatra in concert at the Sands, Caesars Palace and the Golden Nugget in Las Vegas between 1961 and 1987. The collection is a distillation of highlights from Sinatra: Vegas, the five-disc boxed set (4 CD/1 DVD) of live recordings released by Reprise Records in 2006.

 

“From his debut at the Desert Inn in September 1951, no entertainer was ever more synonymous with the city of Las Vegas than Frank Sinatra,” says Charles Pignone, author of The Sinatra Treasures, in his comprehensive liner notes to the Best of Vegas CD. “It has been said that next to legalized gambling, nothing has been more beneficial and profitable to Las Vegas than Frank Sinatra.”

All the Sinatra classics are here, performed live before adoring crowds at some of the most prestigious venues in the history of Vegas. “The Lady Is a Tramp” (The Sands, 1961); “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” (The Sands, 1966); “All or Nothing at All” (Caesars Palace, 1982); “Pennies From Heaven” (The Golden Nugget, 1987); and of course, the “Theme From New York, New York” (Caesars Palace, 1982) are just some of the gems in the Best of Vegas collection. 

“If you were in Las Vegas at the same time as Sinatra, there was nothing else that could compare,” says Pignone. “Even when the entertainment in town was changing from headliners to magic and production shows, Sinatra was still the ‘main event.'”

Or in the words of Las Vegas Mayor Oscar B. Goodman, Sinatra was “the destination’s most enduring icon, an inimitable original who was influential in shaping Las Vegas’ image and entertainment scene.”

Sinatra returned to Vegas in December with the opening of Sinatra Dance With Me, at the Wynn Las Vegas. Conceived, choreographed and directed by Twyla Tharp, Sinatra Dance With Me features original recorded masters of Frank Sinatra with a big band and 14 of the world’s finest dancers.

www.sinatrafamily.com

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Concord Re-Issues “Strangers in the Night” CD

29 Jan

Concord Music continues its streak of winning CD re-issues with this classic from “Old Blue Eyes.” This is swinging mid-sixties Frankie at his finest. The first two tracks are gold — the title cut and “The Summer Wind,” which features lyrics by the amazing Savannah, GA native, Johnny Mercer. I am also very fond of Sinatra’s groovy take on Tony Hatch’s timeless “Call Me.” The album’s only clunker is “Downtown.” Yes, the same tune that Petula Clark rode to the top of the pops. It just doesn’t click in Sinatra’s hands and, frankly, he seems a little annoyed during the take.

But why focus on the negative when there is so much winning material here. The bonus live tracks are fun, but it’s the studio cuts that you will come back to time and time again. Nelson Riddle’s arrangement work is spot on and future star Glen Campbell even played rhythm guitar on the title track. Betcha didn’t know that!

LOS ANGELES, Calif. — “Strangers in the Night” was Frank Sinatra’s best-selling single and — between the single and its namesake album — the recipient of four Grammy Awards including Record of the Year in 1966. But it almost didn’t get to market in time, with Bobby Darin and Jack Jones cutting the song at the same time. Sinatra’s version was the hit, displacing the Beatles’ “Paperback Writer” to the #2 position in 1966 and proving the biggest hit of his career. The album shot to the top of the charts as well. Even in the rock ’n’ roll era, nine-time Grammy recipient Frank Sinatra was still the Chairman and one of the most important musical figures of the 20th Century, selling more than 27 million CDs in the SoundScan era alone.

On January 26, 2010, Concord Records, on license from Frank Sinatra Enterprises (FSE), will release Strangers in the Night: Deluxe Edition, a digitally remastered reissue of Sinatra’s classic album featuring three bonus tracks and liner notes by Ken Barnes. The deluxe edition contains all ten of the original Reprise Records album’s songs as well as three previously unreleased additions: “Strangers in the Night” and “All or Nothing at All,” both recorded live at Budokan Hall in Tokyo in the ’80s, and an alternate take of “Yes Sir, That’s My Baby” from the original 1966 album sessions.

The Strangers in the Night album was arranged and conducted by Nelson Riddle (with the title track arranged by Ernie Freeman). Sonny Burke was the album’s producer, with the exception of the title track, which was produced by Jimmy Bowen, theretofore known primarily for his work in rock ’n’ roll and country. German composer/arranger Burt Kaempfert, known for his production of the Beatles’ first commercial recordings in the very early ’60s, had supplied theme music for the James Garner film A Man Could Get Killed called “Strangers in the Night.” Within days, Bobby Darin and Jack Jones were both recording it. But Bowen heard it as a hit for Sinatra and instantly set up a session to record just that song (most sessions would produce four songs at a time). Sinatra was not initially crazy about the song, but trusted Bowen’s judgment. It wasn’t long before the trust was justified.

Within hours of final mixing, Bowen sent acetates of the song to key radio stations —by private planes. The extravagance paid off, but not overnight. Two months later, the song broke big in the U.K. and a month later, on July 2, 1966, it hit #1 in the U.S. and in every major territory, becoming the biggest record of Sinatra’s career.

The rest of the Strangers in the Night album was recorded in two May 1966 sessions with longtime producer Burke again at the helm and Riddle arranging. The songs were primarily classic standards with a few of them reflecting the current scene. But as annotator Barnes points out, there was no attempt to appeal to teenage America, other than that some of the songs came from Sinatra’s own teenage years: Walter Donaldson and Gus Kahn’s “My Baby Cares for Me” from 1928, Donaldson’s “You’re Driving Me Crazy” from 1930, and “Yes Sir, That’s My Baby,” also by Donaldson and Kahn, from 1925. Also included was Rodgers & Hart’s “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World” from the 1935 musical Jumbo. Apart from the album’s title track, the most important song on the album was a German tune with English lyrics by Johnny Mercer, “Summer Wind,” which reached #1 on Billboard’s Easy Listening chart.

Two British songs, both popularized by Petula Clark, “Call Me” and “Downtown,” were a nod to current tastes, as was Alan Jay Lerner’s “On a Clear Day,” one of the better show tunes of its period.

Ken Barnes observes, “Despite a marked stylistic difference between the title song and the rest of the tracks, Strangers in the Night became Sinatra’s most commercially successful album. He had dealt with the new pop age spectacularly — and on his own terms.”

www.concordmusicgroup.com/albums/strangers-in-the-night