October 31, 2015

#20: Where the air is rarefied

We've ascended into the rarefied air of my top 20 Sinatra favorites with Frank's 1965 take on Cahn and Van Heusen's fabulous "Come Fly With Me." Listen closely for the finger-snaps; Frank is completely in the groove:



The 1958 recording for the album of the same name is terrific, even iconic, but I'm with Bob Belvedere on this one; I gotta go with the later, swing-ier recording:

For years, only the edited version was available. Luckily and thankfully, the full version has been released [and is the one featured below].
This performance is the one to point to when you want to show someone the swinging side of Francis Albert Sinatra. You could put this recording as the only track on an album entitled: This. Is. Sinatra.
Unlike the version found on the album of the same name [#62], which featured a smooth take-off and nice ‘n’ easy flight, this version jets straight-up to the stars and wings it’s way swingin’ a little bit higher where the air is even more rarified.
To nit-pick just a little, this version ends with that odd line about packing a small bag, but I consider that a vast improvement over the edited version's "and don't tell your mama," which grates on me every time.

Here's the original Billy May arrangement:



Now for a choice quote from Mark's Steyn's very choice piece on this song:
Billy May was a fat, jolly, bibulous larger-than-life character. He wasn't quite so large by the time I met him, and he'd quit drinking some years earlier. But in 1957 his intake was prodigious. He drank during sessions, which unnerved some of the musicians, who found him not the most skillful conductor at the best of times. But he would announce sternly at the beginning of the evening, "Ladies and gentlemen, there'll be no drinking off the job" - and then take a slug of scotch. He became Sinatra's go-to guy for fun exotica, for "Road To Mandalay", "Granada", "Moonlight On The Ganges (My little Hindu)"... But he also was a sensitive ballad writer, and his arrangement of "Moonlight In Vermont" would stay with Sinatra all the way to the mid-Nineties.

He was also a famously fast arranger. Is it true, I asked him, that he wrote the chart for "Come Fly With Me" an hour before the session while, ahem, somewhat the worse for wear? He smiled. "Maybe two hours."

Frank Flynn, the gong-walloper on "Road To Mandalay", was with May that afternoon, playing under him at a 4pm rehearsal for Stan Freberg's radio show. "Geez," said Billy afterwards, "I still have to write two arrangements for the date tonight." In the three-and-a-half hours between wrapping up the Freberg rehearsal and walking into the Capitol session, May wrote two charts, one of which was "Come Fly With Me". Sinatra sang it for the first time that night - October 8th 1957 - and never stopped singing it . . . .
Read the whole thing.



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