Drowned in Sound: Frank Sinatra: The Very Good Years

Drowned in Sound
Frank Sinatra
The Very Good Years
Record offers the best of Ol' Blue Eyes' days with Reprise
by Kodi McKinney, DJ at U92
kodimckinney@gmail.com

There are very few musicians from the 20th century with an honest chance to be played 100 years from now. Think about how many recording artists you've heard over your lifetime, and it's strange to think that your descendants may never know about most of them. But among the great male singers, the man most likely to stay in the ears of several more generations to come is probably Frank Sinatra.
This is no offense to Elvis Presley, who eventually may be known more as a brand than as a performer despite helping invent rock and roll. Sinatra edges him out because his music was bigger than all of the Rat Pack trappings of his image, updating the American songbook with added jazz influences and perfectly phrased singing. On The Very Good Years, a 20-song compilation of selections from the much larger Reprise Collection, classic after classic follows each other and helps Sinatra show just what makes him so important.
The album itself is a perfect summation of the standards Sinatra recorded after gaining enough popularity to start Reprise Records in the early 1960s. It is staggering to think that the Reprise Collection could possibly fit any more songs into it than The Very Good Years already does, and that is because this record is just plain loaded. "Luck Be A Lady" and "Fly Me To The Moon" transport you back to Las Vegas at its most swinging, with no small amount of backing provided on the latter track by the great Count Basie. "That's Life," "Strangers In The Night," "Nancy,"...this list of bona-fide classics seems to go on forever.
Everyone likely knows who Frank Sinatra was by now, but The Very Good Years hides a few surprises for the uninitiated. A good example is "Love And Marriage," which would later become the theme for the television sitcom Married...with Children. Sinatra's knockout emotive abilities also remind us that great pop does exist; all that's missing for most of its performers is some conviction. That conviction keeps even the cheesiest songs here from being anything less than great. In particular, "My Way" is Sinatra at his most triumphant, and it will give you massive chills.
But the greatest example of what sets Sinatra apart for the ages is found within "Theme From New York, New York." Sinatra's aforementioned conviction takes the song into the stratosphere. Though it has been performed by countless singers since 9/11, I would wager that not one of them even came close to matching the original's intensity. To think of how Sinatra himself might have paid tribute to that city is a tantalizing prospect. One could only assume it would be the performance of a lifetime. If you want something truly timeless, The Very Good Years is a must-have.

Rating: 5 out of 5