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From the Inside Out

Lift Every Voice

By Published: October 1, 2003

Early cuts show Franks as a fusion troubadour, mixing Japanese and Ahmad Jamal influences into zen-pop cool and soft that flowed with more than clever wordplay. “Eggplant” and “Popsicle Toes,” for example, demonstrate the absolute best uses of the words “mayonnaise” and “Tierra del Fuego” that pop music ever saw.

Franks easily moves as a pop singer among the musical elite. He breathes “The Lady Wants to Know” to life with guitarist Larry Carlton, The Crusaders’ bassist Wilton Felder and keyboardist Joe Sample, saxophonist Michael Brecker, and an orchestra arranged and conducted by Claus Ogerman. Franks eventually moved from California to New York and found new compatriots in the music nightlife: Bassist Will Lee, percussionist Ralph MacDonald, guitarist John Tropea and drummer Steve Gadd appear on “Cookie Jar,” arranged by Eumir Deodato.

Sadly, somewhere between the first disc in this anthology and the second, Franks’ musical model seemed to change from Mose Allison to Christopher Cross – from a jazz perspective, not for the better.


Frank Sinatra: Sinatra Sings Cole Porter (Columbia / Legacy)
Columbia celebrates the sixtieth anniversary of Sinatra’s first recordings as a solo artist (June 1943) with three new compilations that showcase the fledgling singer’s grace and dexterity with the popular songbook of the time. Sings Cole Porter puts every Sinatra studio recording of Cole Porter for Columbia together with ten previously unreleased radio and TV broadcasts of Sinatra singing Porter tunes during the time he was a Columbia artist.

It is odd to hear, through the periscope of so many decades, “The Chairman of the Board” sound youthful and playful as a colt, like barely more than a choirboy. The spry and sparkle of the material certainly helps. The arrangements, including charts by enduring Sinatra associate Billy May, are as clever as Porter’s lyrics – sometimes, perhaps, a bit too clever, as when Sinatra complains “There’s too many words” as he gallops through “Don’t Fence Me In.”

At this time, Sinatra was a genuine pop idol, as the swooning and squealing young girls who respond to “I Love You” and “I Get A Kick Out of You” will attest. Small wonder: His elocution is picture-perfect in the first, textbook reading of “Night and Day,” and he strolls coolly through the one bluesy change of pace (and the least orchestrated piece, piano trio plus clarinet), “Why Can’t You Behave?” Though not yet with the personalized style he would develop two decades later, this reading of “I Concentrate on You” does foreshadow the liquid, samba version on Francis Albert Sinatra / Antonio Carlos Jobim.


Frank Sinatra: Sinatra Sings Gershwin (Columbia / Legacy)
Similarly, Sings Gershwin compiles Sinatra’s studio recording of Gershwin songs for Columbia with fourteen previously unreleased Sinatra radio and TV programs broadcast while he was a Columbia artist, including his famous 1947 Gershwin tribute for CBS radio, Songs by Sinatra.

He’s essentially the pop crooner here, dedicating “Embraceable You,” for example, “ïto little Nancy on her seventh birthday.” And his repartee with his female co-lead in “It Ain’t Necessarily So” shows him a charming comic. But some Gershwin material allows Sinatra room to explore jazzy effects, too, as in the way the swinging trumpet sings back to his verses in “I’ve Got a Crush on You.”

Sinatra was obviously a big fan of Porgy & Bess, from which he broadcast two different medleys. The first splits “Summertime” in half with quick snatches of “I Got Plenty O’ Nuttin’” by a supporting vocal group. The second, from the CBS radio tribute, strings together “Summertime,” “There’s A Boat That’s Leaving Soon For New York,” “Street Cries,” and “Bess You Is My Woman Now,” and in every one Sinatra’s voice resonates strong and true.

“Someone to Watch Over Me” finds Sinatra still bright-eyed and in love with love; decades later, he would sound more suspicious he might never find herï


Frank Sinatra: The Voice of Frank Sinatra (Columbia / Legacy)
The Voice was originally recorded in 1945 with a chamber orchestra (plus contributions from another Columbia noteworthy, vocal product guru Mitch Miller). This reissue supplements the album’s eight original tunes with ten bonus tracks, six of which are rare alternate takes, sending a picture postcard from a long-ago musical era.



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