Friday, June 10, 2011

Frank Friday! Frank Sinatra and Count Basie: It Might As Well Be Swing

Review # 12
Artist: Frank Sinatra & Count Basie
Title: It Might As Well Be Swing
Format: LP
Label: Reprise
Year: 1964
Songs: 10

This is one of my favorite Frank Sinatra records ever. In fact, as far as the swinging Sinatra material goes, this the absolute best, as far as I'm concerned. Sinatra is teamed up here with one of the true masters of jazz, Count Basie, and his orchestra. The songs are arranged and conducted by another famous name in American music, Quincy Jones. You just can't go wrong with this combination, and this record is practically flawless. Starting with "Fly Me to the Moon," the first song on side A, this record always has me snapping my fingers and singing along. It puts a spring in my step. It makes me want to get dressed up for a night on the town and drink martinis. It just feels cool and classy to listen to this record.

My favorites on this collection are "Fly Me To the Moon," "The Best Is Yet To Come," and Sinatra and Basie's rendition of "Hello, Dolly!" which features lyrics that have been altered to include a loving tribute to Louis Armstrong. There's also the touching "I Wish You Love," a song in which a lover that never was wishes the best for the object of his unrequited love. One of the great things about Sinatra is that, no matter what he's singing, you feel like he means it. Thus, even though this is a mostly upbeat song, it's a little poignant as well, as the protagonist of the lyrics gracefully lets go of the one that got away.

Throughout the record, the band swings in a way that makes you wonder how it is that big bands ever went out of style, and you can feel the energy between them and Sinatra, who, according to the liner notes, shunned the isolation booth usually used by singers so that he could see the band and they could see him. It pays off. The performances are lively and just feel incredibly natural and effortless. The only song on this record I don't dig as much is the closing tune, "Wives and Lovers," which, even for 1964, is just painfully sexist. If you aren't familiar, the song basically tells all the wives listening that they need to make themselves pretty, otherwise their husbands will cheat on them with girls at the office because, well, you know how men are. I don't fool myself to think that Sinatra was a man of enlightened feminist views, but this one just goes too far and frankly (no pun intended) makes me feel a little uncomfortable.

A cool feature of this record is that on the back of the sleeve, there's an interview with Quincy Jones (or "Q" as Sinatra apparently nicknamed him) which offers some interesting insight into the recording process and what it was like to work with Sinatra and Basie.  I particularly liked this quote:

"[Sinatra is] not constricted by the melody as it was written. He bends it so that invariably it fits flawlessly into what's going on in the background. So far as I can put the essence of Frank into words, I'd say that he just makes everything work. He makes everything fit, and that's exactly what happened on these sessions."

I can't disagree.

Fly to the moon with Frank and the Count here.
Total songs listened: 151

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Good pick, good pick... if I do say so myself! :)