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05/22/12

Frank Sinatra
The Concert Sinatra
Concord Records

In late 1960, with the launch of his Reprise label, Frank Sinatra began the most prolific period of his entire recording career. By the time he got to The Concert Sinatra in early ’63, he’d delivered eight Reprise albums (and had already sold up shop to Warner Bros.). Despite such steady output, The Concert Sinatra remains the crown jewel of the Chairman’s early- to mid-’60s work.

Remarkably, it was Sinatra’s first full-length Reprise session with arranger and conductor Nelson Riddle, and Riddle is in superlative form, working with the largest orchestra ever assembled for a Sinatra album, yet masterfully avoiding the lure of grandiosity. To achieve unprecedented richness, the eight tracks were recorded on a movie soundstage, the audio captured on 35mm film. This reissue marks the first time since the release of the original LP nearly a half-century ago that the original sound mix has been employed.

Befitting such majestic settings, Sinatra shapes a playlist of eight Broadway masterpieces (six from the Richard Rodgers songbook). All, including seismic treatments of “Ol’ Man River” and the Carousel showstopper “Soliloquy,” are magnificently rendered, with slight hints of encroaching vocal rust only adding to their luster. But Kurt Weill’s enchanting “Lost in the Stars,” an awed Sinatra traversing Riddle’s cosmos of strings, is the album’s magnum opus, ranking alongside “In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning,” “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” and “One for My Baby” at the apex of the entire Sinatra-Riddle canon.

Originally published in May 2012
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