FRANK SINATRA: New York (Label: Reprise)


Forget Harry Connick Jr, Michael Bublé, Jamie Cullum and all the other fake young pretenders to Frank Sinatra’s crown – here’s a magnificent box set that celebrates the King of the Hill’s association with the city that doesn’t sleep, New York, the so-called Big Apple. Sinatra waxed lyrical about the Windy City, of course, in his hit song ‘Chicago,’ but in truth his kind of town was really New York even though he was born in Hoboken, New Jersey. What’s fascinating about this box set is that there are four CDs-worth of previously unreleased material, all recorded live in New York at different junctures of Sinatra’s career. The first CD opens up with Sinatra guesting at a concert by the Tommy Dorsey band at the Manhattan Center in 1955, singing three of the big hits that he enjoyed while being a featured singer in Dorsey’s band in the 1940s (‘I’ll Never Smile Again,’ ‘Oh! Look At Me,’ and ‘This Love Of Mine’). The second half of the CD captures Sinatra at the United Nations building eight years later accompanied solely by a pianist where he performs intimate versions of ‘They Can’t Take That Away From Me’ and ‘I Get A Kick Out Of You.’ The second disc, recorded at a Carnegie Hall concert in 1974 finds Sinatra in a familiar big band setting and although he was 59 years old at the time and making a comeback from a hasty retirement announced a year earlier, vocally he sounds in great shape. His set – conducted from the piano by Sinatra’s long time MD, Bill Miller – includes the big hits ‘Come Fly With Me,’ ‘I’ve Got You Under My Skin,’ ‘That’s Life,’ and the somewhat turgid and self-referential ‘My Way,’ which unfortunately became Ol’ Blue Eyes’ signature tune later in life. Several months after that performance, Sinatra returned to the Big Apple for a charity concert at another prestigious location, Madison Square Garden. A never-before-released recording of that gig appears on CD 3. In some ways, it’s hard to see why the compiler/producer, Charles Pignone, included it on the compilation as Sinatra’s set list is almost identical. Nevertheless, the man dubbed ‘The Voice’ delivers a peerless performance. The fourth and final CD in the set comprises material culled from two concerts – the first eight songs from a 1984 visit to Carnegie Hall, and the last seven from a Radio City Music Hall gig from 1990, when Sinatra was 75. As a bonus, there’s a 70-minute DVD of the great man – sourced from a US TV broadcast – recorded live in 1980. Sinatra is at his charismatic best, despite his advancing years. Besides the music, this box set includes a fabulous booklet with essays and fascinating reminiscences from the likes of Frank Sinatra Jr, film director Martin Scorsese, and esteemed jazz writer, Nat Hentoff. At £60 this collection isn’t cheap but for Sinatra aficionados, it’s well worth the money.
(CW) 4/5