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Frank Sinatra : Sinatra: Vegas

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In the sanitized post-millennial Vegas where Celine Dion and Cirque du Soleil rule supreme, the hard-swinging Sin City of smoke, sleaze, sharkskin and mink stoles (back when the town’s most popular Canuck was Canadian Club) has all but disappeared. Which makes this five-disc salute to the headliner who, more than any other, defined that delectably debauched burg’s intoxicating blend of bravado, hedonism and uncensored high spirits all the more valuable.

As any Sinatra fan worth his Jack Daniels knows, though his appearances along the Strip spanned nearly a half-century, only one Vegas album-1966’s Sinatra at the Sands-was ever released commercially during his lifetime. Casual perusal of this slickly packaged box set’s track listing might easily lead you to believe that that seminal, mid-’60s platter, generally accepted as one of the all-time greatest live recordings, is the centerpiece of this collection. Yes, the set’s second disc does comprise material from those landmark Sands dates that teamed Sinatra with Count Basie and His Orchestra, arranged and conducted by an überhip up-and-comer named Quincy Jones. And yes, a dozen of the songs are the same. But this shorter assemblage (missing “One for My Baby,” “Where or When” and “Angel Eyes,” but adding a slam-bang “Luck Be a Lady”) is made up entirely of previously unreleased material. As such, it remains pricelessly consistent with the other rarities included here. The opening disc, from a November 1961 Sands date overseen by then-Reprise A&R man Neil Hefti and intended for a live album that was subsequently scuttled, easily rivals the ’66 sessions in greatness. This is Sinatra at the very top of his game. He owns Reprise, he owns a piece of the Sands, and the world is his high-flying playground.

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