It’s hard to believe that by the early fifties, Frank Sinatra’s career had stalled. Frank Sinatra’s career was at a crossroads. He hadn’t released an album since Sing and Dance with Frank Sinatra. Released in October 1950, Sing and Dance with Frank Sinatra was the final album he released for Columbia. This marked the end of an era for Frank Sinatra.

Previously, Frank Sinatra had been a teen idol. However, those teens had grown up. For Frank Sinatra, this presented a problem. There was only option, Frank Sinatra had to change direction. The problem was, which direction should his career head? 

Frank was at a loss. His contract with Columbia was over. They hadn’t renewed his contract. The only other thing Frank Sinatra knew was acting. He had previously, featured in twelve films. They were a mixed bag, including musicals, romances and short films. These films were met with a mixed reception by critics. So, it’s ironic that a film revived Frank Sinatra’s career. This was From Here to Eternity

From Here to Eternity was released in August 1953. It was an adaptation of James Jack’s book and features the lives of three soldiers stationed in Hawaii, in the run up to the attack on Pearl Harbour. Playing the main lead characters are Frank Sinatra, Burt Lancaster and Montgomery Clift. Donna Reed and Deborah Kerr played their wives. Other members of the star stubbed cast included Ernest Bogerine, Phillip Ober and Jack Warden. Directed by Fred Zinnemann and produced by Buddy Adler, great things were forecast for From Here to Eternity.

Upon its release, From Here to Eternity was released to widespread critical acclaim. From Here to Eternity was nominated for thirteen Academy Awards and won eight. One of the Academy Awards went to Frank Sinatra, for Best Supporting Actor. Frank Sinatra also won one of two Golden Globe Awards. Again, this was for Best Supporting Actor. As a result of the critical acclaim and commercial success From Here to Eternity enjoyed, Frank Sinatra’s career was back on track. 

In 1953, Frank Sinatra signed to Capitol Records. This was one of the best decisions of his career. He was now thirty-eight and too old to be a teen idol. His music had to change direction. However, he couldn’t do this on his own. Fortunately, Capitol Records had the man who could rejuvenate Frank Sinatra’s career, arranger, Nelson Riddle.

Capitol Records had many of the top arrangers in their employ. This included Billy May and Gordon Jenkins. The best was, without doubt Nelson Riddle. Almost single handedly, Nelson Riddle transformed and reinvented the career of Frank Sinatra. With Nelson Riddle’s help, Frank Sinatra recorded music that was much more grownup, darker, emotive and sometimes, melancholy. This included several classic albums, including In The Wee Small Hours and Sons For Swingin’ Lovers which were recently rerelease by Black Coffee Records.

Each of Black Coffee Records’ rereleases of Frank Sinatra albums have been remastered. The sound quality is stunning. Never has the Chairman Of The Board sounded better. As an added and very welcome bonus, both albums features bonus tracks. In The Wee Small Hours features eight bonus tracks. Songs For Swingin’ Lovers! features eleven bonus tracks. This makes these reissues the one to choose. Especially, when you hear the story behind each album.

Having signed to Capitol Records, Frank Sinatra set about rejuvenating his career. Little did he realise, that Capitol Records was the perfect label for an artist on the comeback trail. Capitol Records had access to some of the best songwriters, musicians, producers and arrangers. It was one of Capitol Records’ best known arrangers, Nelson Riddle who helped transform Frank Sinatra’s career.

By 1953, Nelson Riddle was just thirty-two. He had already worked as an arranger, bandleader, composer and orchestrator. Nelson had already worked with some of the biggest names in music, including Tommy Dorsey and Nat King Cole. That would be the case throughout his long and distinguished career. Frank Sinatra was just the latest artist to work with Nelson Riddle. Their partnership began on the 1954 album Songs for Young Lovers.

Songs for Young Lovers.

For Frank Sinatra and Nelson Riddle’s first collaboration Songs for Young Lovers, they spent two days in the studio. Nelson Riddle provided the orchestrations. Producing Songs for Young Lovers was Voyle Gilmore, Capitol Records’ in-house producer. Recording took place between 5th and 6th November 1953. Eight songs were recorded. This included covers of Cole Porter’s I Get A Kick Out of You, Rogers and Hart’s My Funny Valentine and Little Girl Blue. Two Ira and George Gershwin’s A Foggy Day and They Can’t Take That Away From Me. Once the eight songs were recorded, Songs for Young Lovers was released in 1954, nearly four years since Frank Sinatra’s last album.

During this enforced break, times had changed. Songs for Young Lovers became the first Frank Sinatra album not to be released on 78. One thing hadn’t changed, Frank Sinatra’s voice.

Despite nearly four years away from the recording studio, Frank Sinatra hadn’t lost his Midas Touch. He breathed, life, meaning and emotion into the eight songs on Songs for Young Lovers. It’s no wonder Songs for Young Lovers, was released to critical acclaim. The Chairman Of The Board made a swinging return. This was just the start of one of the golden period’s in Frank Sinatra’s career.


Swing Easy!

Swing Easy! was a landmark album for Frank Sinatra. It was the first album to feature arrangements by Nelson Riddle. On Songs for Young Lovers, Nelson Riddle was responsible for orchestration. Not now. He took charge of orchestrations and arrangements. Voyle Gilmore, Capitol Records in-house took charge of producing Swing Easy, which featured eight songs.

Just like Songs for Young Lovers, Swing Easy saw Frank Sinatra dip into some of the great American songbooks. This included Cole Porter’s. His Just One Of Those Things opened Swing Easy. Other tracks included I’m Gonna Sit Right Down And Write Myself A Letter, Wrap Your Troubles In Dreams and Harry Warren and Johnny Mercer’s Jeepers Creeper. Closing Swing Easy, was Gerald Marks and Seymour Simon’s All Of Me. Again, these eight tracks were recorded in two days.

Recording of Swing Easy took place on the 7th and 19th April 1954. Accompanying Frank Sinatra was Nelson Riddle and His Orchestra. They provided the backdrop for Frank Sinatra. The songs had been chosen well. The uptempo numbers allow Frank and the Orchestra to swing. His vocals are full of nuances and subtleties. Frank’s timing is perfect, as the songs take on new meaning. It seemed Nelson Riddle’s arrangements were the perfect foil to Frank Sinatra’s vocals.

Critics agreed. They were won over by the latest album from the comeback King, Frank Sinatra. Vocal jazz, swing and pop melted into one on Swing Easy! Some critics felt that Frank Sinatra’s star was in the ascendancy. How right they were.


In the Wee Small Hours.

Without doubt, the first classic album of Frank Sinatra’s time at Capitol Records was In the Wee Small Hours. It’s credited with being the first ever concept album. It was one of several concept album Frank Sinatra would record. 

The song on In the Wee Small Hours deal with a variety of issues. Loneliness, love lost, heartbreak and the breakup of relationships. There’s even songs about depression and night life. That’s reflected on the cover to In the Wee Small Hours. 

A pensive, thoughtful Frank Sinatra stands at the corner of a dimly lit street. It’s as if the cover to In the Wee Small Hours is telling you that the music within is for late night listening. Especially if you’re lonely, heartbroken and morose. That’s apparent from the music. It’s also a reflection of where Frank Sinatra was.

Just before Frank Sinatra began recording In the Wee Small Hours, his marriage to Ava Gardner was on the rocks. It was said to be a turbulent relationship, best described as they couldn’t live together, couldn’t live apart. Both were alleged to be unfaithful and this put a strain on the marriage. By the time recording of In the Wee Small Hours began, the marriage was all but over. So Frank Sinatra was experiencing the emotions he was singing about on In the Wee Small Hours.

Recording of In the Wee Small Hours began on 8th February 1955 and lasted to March 4th 1955. Nelson Riddle was responsible for orchestration and arrangements. Voyle Gilmore, Capitol Records in-house took charge of producing In the Wee Small Hours. When Frank started singing, it must have been like a window into his weary, lonely heartbroken soul.  In just under a month, Frank Sinatra recorded In the Wee Small Hours. It would become a classic album. That was obvious from the opening track of In the Wee Small Hours.

In the Wee Small Hours features a string of classic tracks. It opens with melancholy reading of In The Wee Small Hours Of The Morning. Mood Indigo is then transformed. It’s slowed down and takes on a thoughtful sound. The way Frank sings Rogers and Hart’s Glad To Be Unhappy and Hoagy Carmichael’s I Get Along Without You Very Well it’s as if he’s living the lyrics. 

In Deep in a Dream, Frank sings of better days. Deep down though, he knows he’s kidding himself. I See Your Face Before Me features a wonderfully wistful vocal from Frank. Just like so many times on In the Wee Small Hours, Frank sings the lyrics as if he’s living them and is desperate to come out the other end. Can’t We Be Friends? seems almost personal. It’s as if Frank’s thinking aloud. The result is a truly poignant track. When Your Lover Has Gone features a vocal tinged with hurt, heartbreak and loneliness. This is accentuated my the melancholy strings. Like Frank’s vocal, they’re designed to tug at your heartstrings, and proved a perfect way to close side one of In the Wee Small Hours.

A despairing, lovelorn Frank Sinatra breathes meaning into Cole Porter’s What Is This Thing Called Love? He’s then in a reflective mood Last Night When We Were Young. Reflective becomes melancholy on I’ll Be Around and Ill Wind. Frank then dips into the great American songbooks again.

He delivers two Rogers and Hart songs. It Never Entered My Mind features a disbelieving vocal from Frank. Dancing on the Ceiling demonstrates why Rogers and Hart were one of the most successful songwriting partnerships is American musical history. Frank Sinatra toys with the lyrics. It’s as if he’s reflecting on their meaning. His delivery rueful, emotive and sometimes, tinged with regret. Quite simply, it’s Frank Sinatra at his thoughtful best.

Frank like anyone whose had their heartbroken, thinks I’ll Never Be the Same. His delivery of the lyrics seems personal. It’s heartfelt and almost a glimpse of the hurt and torment he was experiencing in 1955. Closing In the Wee Small Hours was This Love Of Mine. This was the second time Frank had recorded This Love Of Mine. Originally, he recorded the song with Tommy Dorsey in 1941. By 1955, Frank was older and had matured as a vocalist. His delivery of the lyrics is very different and much more believable. This proves the perfect way to close what was a classic album, In the Wee Small Hours.

Critics agreed. They said that In the Wee Small Hours was a career defining album from Frank Sinatra. It was a coming of age from Frank Sinatra. In the Wee Small Hours was Frank Sinatra’s ninth album. Everything had been leading up to In the Wee Small Hours. 

Critically acclaimed, the first concept was an emotional roller coaster where Frank laid bare his heart and soul. It seemed to strike a chord with the American record buying public. Released in April 1955, In the Wee Small Hours reached number two in the US Billboard 200 charts. It spent eighteen weeks in the charts, and by 2002, was certified gold. By 2002, accolades and awards came the way of In the Wee Small Hours.

Music magazines referred to as a In the Wee Small Hours as a classic. Every self respecting record collection included a copy of In the Wee Small Hours. It’s seen as an album that changed not just Frank Sinatra’s career but music. After all, never before had anyone released a concept album. This was a first.  However, In the Wee Small Hours wasn’t the last concept album Frank Sinatra released. They would become a staple of his discography. So were classics, which describes his next album Songs For Swinging Lovers.



Songs For Swingin’ Lovers.

What a difference a year made. In March 1956, Frank Sinatra released Songs For Swingin’ Lovers. It featured a much more optimistic, upbeat Frank Sinatra. He decided to record existing pop standards in a hipper, jazz-tinged style. There was an optimism and  exuberance as a hip, finger clicking, swinging Frank Sinatra worked his way through fifteen songs. Just like In the Wee Small Hours, there’s classics aplenty on Songs For Swinging Lovers, which was recorded in late 1955 through to early 1956.

Recording of Songs For Swingin’ Lovers began on Capitol Records Studios on October 17th 1955. There was then a break until early 1956. The sessions then resumed on 9th January 1956. They recorded right through until the 12th January and returned on 17th January 1956 to complete Songs For Swingin’ Lovers. Frank Sinatra was accompanied by his A-Team. Nelson Riddle was responsible for orchestration and arrangements. Voyle Gilmore would produce Songs For Swingin’ Lovers. Little did they realise they’d recorded another classic album.

Just like In the Wee Small Hours, Songs For Swingin’ Lovers was released to widespread critical acclaim. Critics hailed the optimism of Songs For Swingin’ Lovers. They liked the upbeat fusion of jazz and pop. It was a much more hipper Frank Sinatra. For some critics, it was as if Frank Sinatra stylistically, had undergone a makeover. That wasn’t the case. He was just demonstrating his versatility. Record buyers realised this and just like In the Wee Small Hours, made Songs For Swingin’ Lovers a huge commercial success.

On its release in March 1956, Songs For Swingin’ Lovers reached number two in the US Billboard 200 and number one in Britain. For Frank Sinatra, he was on his way to becoming one of the most successful singers and entertainers of the fifties. Songs For Swinging Lovers was just the latest critically acclaimed album from the Chairman Of The Board.

Songs For Swingin’ Lovers opens with a joyous version You Make Me Feel So Young. Frank Sinatra makes the song swing and at the same time, claims it as his own. In doing so, the song becomes a classic. It Happened In Monterey would become another Frank Sinatra classic. Frank’s light, airy vocal becomes a mixture a power, longing and sadness. Then Frank, accompanied by horns, toys with You’re Getting To Be A Habit With Me. A reflective, joyful Frank delivers a tender, subtle take on You Brought and New Kind of Love to Me. There’s no drop in quality. 

Too Marvellous For Words was penned by Johnny Mercer and Richard A. Whiting. It’s one of the highlights of Songs For Swingin’ Lovers. As the horns cut loose, Frank delivers one of his best vocals. He unleashes a vocal tour de force. This is just the start of what would become a string of classics.  By now, Frank is just getting into his swing. It’s as if he’s warmed up for Ole Devil Moon, Pennies From Heaven and then George and Ira Gershwin’s Love Is Here To Stay. That proves a poignant and perfect way to close side one.

The Cole Porter classic I’ve Got You Under My Skin opens side two. A swinging Frank Sinatra makes it his own. That’s why, whenever anyone covers I’ve Got You Under My Skin, comparisons are drawn with Frank’s version. After all, it’s the definitive version. 

I Thought About You and We’ll Be Together Again see melancholia turn to joy. Then on Makin’ Whoopee, Frank kicks loose. A familiar track is given a makeover. The Sinatra-Riddle partnership work their magic. This continues on Swingin’ Down The Lane. It’s Frank Sinatra at his best. His phrasing breathes life and meaning into the lyrics. That’s the case with his light hearted, good natured take on Anything Goes. Closing Songs For Swingin’ Lovers is the thoughtful, poignant and beautiful How About You? Just like any good album Frank Sinatra leaves you wanting more on Songs for Swingin’ Lovers!

After the release of Songs for Swingin’ Lovers, Frank Sinatra’s comeback was complete. This was a long way from the early fifties, when his career was at a crossroads. Much of the credit goes to Nelson Riddle. His arrangements played a huge part in the sound and success of Songs for Swingin’ Lovers! That was the case with In The Wee Small Hours Of The Morning. This was just the start of the commercial success and critical acclaim that would come the Sinatra-Riddle partnership’s way. 

Although Voyle Gilmore produced In The Wee Small Hours Of The Morning and Songs for Swingin’ Lovers, he played a less important role than Nelson Riddle. He was responsible for the arrangements and orchestrations. They were crucial to the rejuvenation of Frank Sinatra’s career. Without Nelson Riddle, Frank Sinatra might never have reached the heights he did. One of their finest collaborations was Songs for Swingin’ Lovers. It was the perfect foil for his previous album In The Wee Small Hours Of The Morning.

Songs for Swingin’ Lovers and In The Wee Small Hours Of The Morning show two sides to Frank Sinatra. There’s songs abo loneliness, love lost, heartbreak and the breakup of relationships In The Wee Small Hours Of The Morning. There’s even songs about depression and night life. It’s a wonderfully melancholy album. Frank Sinatra, the troubled troubadour lays bare his troubled soul. Then on Songs for Swingin’ Lovers a much more optimistic, upbeat Frank Sinatra swings his way through fifteen songs. Just like In The Wee Small Hours Of The Morning, Songs for Swingin’ Lovers finds Frank Sinatra back to his very best. 

In The Wee Small Hours Of The Morning and Songs for Swingin’ Lovers marked the second coming of Frank Sinatra. The former teen idol had reinvented himself, and was now one of the most successful and critically acclaimed artists. His music was popular around the world. However, things had changed. Frank Sinatra, the former teen idol had matured, and was now a troubadour, who in 1955 and 1956, released two classic albums In The Wee Small Hours Of The Morning and Songs for Swingin’ Lovers.




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