A warm and generous introduction to the man known as the Chairman of the Board
Chris Jones 2008
Released to mark the 10th anniversary of the demise of Francis Albert Sinatra, this is the first of what will undoubtedly be a plethora of reissues, rarities and assorted merchandising ventures. However, as with Elvis, it's hard to bemoan such blatant catalogue squeezing when the man at the centre of it is such an immense presence in modern history.
Of course, Mr Ring-A-Ding's status has been boosted over the last few years by the rediscovery of the so-called 'Rat Pack' by a younger generation. While the oleaginous croonings of Dean Martin (or the acting skills of Peter Lawford) may not withstand such endless repackaging, Sinatra always will be a safe bet. For anyone yet to taste the exquisite joys of the coolest swinger in town, Nothing But The Best does its introductory job very well. But when it comes to the title itself, we're perhaps on shaky ground.
The reason? Well by 1960 Frank, finally elevated to the star bracket that he always knew he was born to inhabit, had fallen out of love with the corporate machinery of Capitol Records; the label that made him more than the bobbysoxxers' idol. In a bold move presaging the behaviour of many 70s rock acts, he decided that he'd simply form his own label. Thus Reprise Records was born. This compilation comes from that period. And while it's all good stuff it lacks the edge of his earlier work.
However, to say the label was vanity project would be woefully inaccurate. Frank was always a consummate professional. He was also a man who loved to make records. Indeed he almost single-handedly redefined the role of the singer in the age of electricity by his peerless delivery in front of a studio microphone. Not only that but he knew his arrangers as well. Thus the compiliation is chock-full of legendary names who always gave nothing but their best. Nelson Riddle, Billy May, Quincy Jones, Gordon Jenkins and Billy Strange: these are people who were hired for their innate understanding of the level of performance that Frank wanted to achieve. So, while none of these sides approach the mastery of Frank's defining Capitol years, they still include some amazing moments. My Way, Strangers In The Night, Somethin' Stupid (with daughter, Nancy), It Was A Very Good Year, That's Life - all stand tall in the Sinatra canon. And for the completist there's even a serviceable unreleased version of Body And Soul, not to mention a DVD of his 1971 Royal Festival Hall appearance.
As stated, this makes for a warm and generous introduction to the man known as the Chairman of the Board in his later years. But anyone who already knows what makes Frank tick needs to take themselves back a decade or so, and immerse themselves in some of the 20th century's finest music.