April 1, 2015

#75: A train song

This is kind of a humble little song written by Johnny Mercer and Jimmy Van Heusen in 1939 about a guy on a train thinking about the girl he's left behind. In 1956 Frank and Nelson applied their talents to it and created this jewel:

Go ahead and listen again. It grows on you.

When I started listening to Sinatra about 10 years ago most of the music was new to me, and all of it was new to my children. It was playing more or less non-stop in the kitchen and they responded by making wisecracks about the lyrics. After Franks asks, "And what did I do?"  they said things like, "I'm sure he's going to tell us," or "Probably the same thing he did the first fifty times we heard this." Ah, well. Youth is wasted on the the young and all that.

This is my third Johnny Mercer entry, fifth from Jimmy Van Heusen, and fourth track from SFSL. There will be many more to come from all three.

March 29, 2015

#76: Put on those Basie boots

 Here's the title song from Frank Sinatra and Billy May's relentlessly, irresistibly swinging Come Dance With Me (from which we've already listed two or three numbers, with more to come):

This part always makes me smile:

What an evening
Way to go, Sammy. That is bold songwriting. I love it.

(Were "Basie boots" a thing? Or just something that sounded good to Frank?)

#77: Frank and Nelson swing Cole Porter

 In 1956, Frank Sinatra and Nelson Riddle took this:

and made this:

Who says there's no such thing as progress?

I hope there's an expert out there who can discuss the original lyrics and tell us where the "silly gigolo" and "great romancer" lines from the Sinatra version came from. And who changed "now God knows" to "heaven knows"? (As for the end, I've always assumed that "May I say, before this record spins to a close, I want you to know, anything goes" was Frank's own addition, in spite of the fact that it isn't quite the last song on the record.)

March 21, 2015

#78: Sinatra unplugged

"Autumn Leaves" was written by Joseph Kosma, Jacques Prévert, and Johnny Mercer. It's a long story which we'll let Mark Steyn tell when he gets around to it.

Sinatra made his only studio recording of the song in 1957 for Where Are You?, one of the sad albums arranged by Gordon Jenkins. Truth to tell, I'm generally not fond of the Jenkins style. So I'm going to break my own rule here and instead of choosing a favorite recording I'm going with a video. This minimalist take, just guitar, flute, and voice, is really lovely:

I don't know where this concert took place but it's likely one from Sinatra's Word Tour for Children in 1962. Harry Klee, mentioned by Frank at the top, was a member of the sextet that accompanied Sinatra to six continents in two months. It's a shame Frank didn't sing "Autumn Leaves" in the Paris concert that was recorded and released as Sinatra and Sextet: Live in Paris, and even more of a shame that he and the sextet never got around to making a studio album of the World Tour material.

March 19, 2015

#79: Another Rodgers and Hart favorite

This is the third of four R and H tunes on my personal Sinatra hit parade:

That recording was arranged by Billy May for 1961's Swing Along With Me.

An "unfinished" version of "Have You Met Miss Jones" has been added as a bonus track to the top-notch Ring-a-Ding Ding! CD, arranged by Johnny Mandel. Ten minutes long, the track, recorded in December of 1960, allows us to listen in as Sinatra works his way through the arrangement. He's clearly not pleased with it, declaring, "It sounds like a different album" (yes, it does), and, ultimately, "Pass this." You can hear it here.