Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Frank Sinatra With the Red Norvo Quintet [extended]

  • Duets [Capitol, 1993] C
  • Sinatra and Sextet: Live in Paris [Reprise, 1993] Dud
  • Everything Happens to Me [Reprise, 1996] A
  • Live in Australia, 1959 [Blue Note, 1997] A-
  • Sinatra '57: In Concert [DCC, 1999] A-
  • The Rat Pack Live at the Sands [Capitol, 2001] ***

See Also:

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Frank Sinatra: Duets [Capitol, 1993]
He creaks, he cracks, he croaks, he clinks, yet that's not quite the point--older guys with worse voices have sung better anyway. Champion Jack Dupree, for instance, prevailed in his eighties because he never staked his manhood on the technical impeccability of his physical instrument. For decades, Sinatra's sound was magnificent--not just beautiful, meaningful. But now, though he still outclasses the likes of Bono and Carly Simon, Liza Minnelli takes him to acting school and Luther Vandross sings pretty rings around him. He who lives by the larynx shall die by the larynx. C

Frank Sinatra: Sinatra and Sextet: Live in Paris [Reprise, 1993] Dud

Frank Sinatra: Everything Happens to Me [Reprise, 1996]
The Chairman on Reprise is a study in why artists shouldn't own record companies. My researches into a catalogue that runs to some 100 LPs have yet to uncover a single title that comes near the great Capitols, and the compilations are not to be trusted. So rather than spending $60 for the choppy 81-song box, try this 20-song oddity, supposedly programmed by Frank himself at age 79 and duplicating only seven box selections. It anoints more Don Costas than Nelson Riddles and is surprisingly scant on the Tin Pan Alley pantheon, the defining factor is tempo, almost always moderate or less, accentuating the autumnally ruminative mood of the songs and the old man who looked back on them so fondly. It ain't, to choose the Capitol remaster I've just glommed onto, Songs for Young Lovers/Swing Easy! But from the "suddenly you're a lot older" of the 1981 lead track, there's character here no callow 40-year-old would stoop to. A

Live in Australia, 1959 [Blue Note, 1997]
With an official live corpus comprising little beyond Vegas dates, statuesque concert stuff, and an insensate 1962 small-group session, this cleanly remastered version of a tape legendary among the bootleggers he's served so well belongs in a canon that's already as outsized as his FBI file. True, it does sample his sense of humor, and although the economy of crack bandleader Norvo offers relief from his usual arrangers, even the greatest vibes players do inevitably play the vibraphone. Nevertheless, there's no authorized Sinatra like this. Its light, relaxed, groove-powered phrasing may not mean as much as the endless timbral subtlety of his studio work, but it gives up the fun his patter misses, as well as the spontaneous musicality those who think him "merely" pop claim isn't there. In the ebullient "Night and Day" that tops things off, he even risks undermining the lyric. He knows no more heinous sin, and the transgression becomes him. A-

Frank Sinatra: Sinatra '57: In Concert [DCC, 1999]
The big deal about the new George Jones record is supposed to be that, due to his near-death experience, he didn't get to overdub the vocals. He should have. One of the few better singers in this century was also a perfectionist cautious about preserving his live shows. Of those officially released so far, this is the most impressive, its lighter and less precise attack good for a grace that's rarely so prominent in the studio work. The audio is exquisite, the repertoire is choice, the excellent Nelson Riddle arrangements are mixed way below the voice, CD technology lets you zap his monologue, and just to affirm our common humanity, he hits a clinker on "My Funny Valentine." A-

Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin & Sammy Davis Jr.: The Rat Pack Live at the Sands [Capitol, 2001]
master singer, underrated comic, disruptive symbol ("Dialogue [Track 15]," "Medley: Drink to Me Only With Thine Eyes/I Don't Care If the Sun Don't Shine/I Love Vegas [Paris]") ***