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Buy 'Come Fly With Me' from Amazon.co.uk.Come Fly With Me

Come Fly With Me, as this wonderfully engaging collection of songs illustrating the theme of world travel was titled, is a continuation of the brilliant series of thematically-organized albums Frank Sinatra had begun recording shortly after signing with Capitol Records in early 1953. Recorded at three sessions in early October, 1957, the performances stand as yet another milestone in a career crowded with them. For one thing, they represented the singer's very first collaboration with arranger-conductor Billy May, an inspired pairing that, as you'll hear, produced some of the most satisfying, forceful and invigorating music Sinatra ever recorded. There's more than a little irony in their having made these recordings since four-and-a-half years earlier May had been the singer's first choice arranger for his Capitol recordings.

In early 1953, while discussions went forward between Sinatra and Capitol's executives regarding the strategy to be followed in his recordings for the label, with which he had just signed an exclusive recording agreement, his old friend and frequent collaborator during the previous decade, arranger-conductor Axel Stordahl, was brought in to supervise Sinatra's first Capitol recording session (for the fruits of this maiden effort, listen to the Sinatra CD release Point Of No Return). This, however, was never regarded as anything more than a stopgap measure by Capitol officials who wanted the singer to pursue a more contemporary direction, one more vibrant and forceful and, hopefully, innovative as well, than that associated with Stordahl and Sinatra's Columbia recordings. Sinatra's loyalty to Stordahl notwithstanding, the question of his continuing to serve as the singer's alter ego was rendered moot when Stordahl signed on as musical director for Eddie Fisher's television show, which necessitated his remaining in New York City. It was at this point that Sinatra voiced the desire to have Billy May assume musical direction of his recordings.

It was an appropriate choice, for the Pittsburgh-born May, following more than a decade's experience, first as a trumpeter and later, increasingly, as arranger, for a number of big bands, including those of Charlie Barnet, Glenn Miller and Alvino Rey, had emerged as one of the most resourcefully creative orchestrators of the late 1940s and early '50s. Nor was his experience limited solely to dance and swing bands, for after settling in los Angeles in the middle '40s he had gained wider expertise through extensive writing for many popular radio and recording performers, often conducting as well. By the end of the decade he had formed  a close relationship with Capitol Records, serving as musical director for many of the label's leading artists and recording with them in a broad range of musical styles.

In the fall of 1951 may had assembled a recording band of his own, gaining success with the novel glissando unison saxophone sound, slyly spiced with brass punctuations, he devised for the group, among other innovations in orchestral writing he introduced and which gave his music such a strong, distinctive character, urbane, sophisticated and decidedly witty. What had started out solely as an experimental studio outlet for his writing soon blossomed into a full-fledged and full-time performing career. So when Sinatra called on his services, May was unavailable, having taken to the road with his touring band.

Enter Nelson Riddle. On the basis of his earlier activities for Capitol, including having arranged two of the label's biggest hits, Nat Cole's Unforgettable and Ella Mae Morse's Blacksmith Blues, his name was put forward as a viable alternative to May's. Sinatra and Riddle met for the first time at the singer's second Capitol recording session, on April 30, 1950, and from the beginning it was apparent that the pairing was of a special, singular, even magical character. Not everyone at Capitol was convinced the collaboration would prove fruitful, however, for Riddle was instructed to orchestrate two of the four selections to be recorded in the style of Billy May, the other two as he felt most appropriate to the occasion. How well he succeeded in fulfilling the former requirement is evidenced by the fact that for many years it was assumed that South Of the Border (included here) and I've Got The World On A String had been arranged by May rather than Riddle. It was in the remaining two selections Don't Worry 'Bout Me and I Love You, that the characteristic Riddle orchestral sound was heard in sympathetic support of the singer for the first time, initiating an association that was to result in large numbers of superlative recordings, some of them among the undisputed classics of American popular song, a generous portion of hit singles and, as a result of all this, a revitalization of the singer's career so complete as to eclipse his accomplishments of the previous decade. Not only that, his collaboration with Riddle had brought Sinatra to the very pinnacle of his art, stimulating and making possible his achieving the phenomenal levels of focused artistry he attained so consistently throughout his Capitol recordings.

As a result, Sinatra's first recorded meeting with May did not take place until four-and-a-half years after his joining Capitol. After several years of touring with his band, May had relinquished direction of the group to Sam Donohue and returned to Los Angeles to resume his arranging-conducting career. Finally, in the fall of 1957 the two entered Capitol's studios to begin work on the present set of recordings. As you'll hear, the results more than amply proved worth the wait.

On the basis of his invigorating writing for his own band, one might have expected May to push the singer into an all-stops-out, rhythmically swinging groove. After all, that's what May had excelled at. Expectiations notwithstanding, Come Fly With Me turned out to be something quite different entirely, a program of many and varied moods which May orchestrated with some of his most helpfully imaginative and deliciously colored writing ever, framing the singer as perfectly and sympathetically as Riddle ever had and establishing once and for all his utter mastery of the full breadth of popular orchestral writing. As a result, the performances are among the finest, most assured and breathtakingly lovely the singer ever recorded, his spacious, beautifully shaped, knowing interpretations framed by orchestral settings of like sensitivity and subtlety. And rather than comprising forceful, up-tempo swingers, the great bulk of Come Fly With Me consisted of romantic ballad performances of rather slow tempi.

Not all were of this ardent cast, however. Certainly On The Road To Mandalay, with its zestfully exotic touches, and the rousing Brazil, with its constantly shifting rhythmic tapestry, summon up the characteristic May way with an orchestra, as do the breezy album title song and the equally zesty Let's Get Away From it All. These provide wonderful contrast to the more subdued romantic fare, the pensive, almost wistful treatment accorded Around The World, for example, the fetching vocal wizardry of London By Night, or the unhurried majesty of Moonlight In Vermont, among other stunning performances that might be cited. The only outright allusion to May's unique brand of musical wit occurs on Isle Of Capri, which is given a bracing, light-hearted treatment, sly and whimsical. Even the singer is affected by the almost tongue-in-cheek approach; listen closely and you'll hear him sing on the song's third verse, "She wore a lovely meatball on her finger; 'Twas goodbye at the Villa Capri," the latter an allusion to a popular Italian restaurant in Los Angeles.

This first meeting between the two proved so felicitous - and commercially successful as well - that, happily for us, two further Sinatra-May collaborations took place, Come Dance With Me, already released in CD form, and Come Swing With me, an early CD release of which is planned.

For this compact disc version of Come Fly With Me, three additional travel-related performances have been added to the original analog album, all arranged and conducted by Nelson Riddle. Earliest of these is the previously-mentioned South Of The Border, with Riddle sounding very much like May, the breezily exuberant Chicago, from August of 1957, a song forever associated with Sinatra, and from April 1960 the warmly affectionate I Love Paris, another choice performance.

As one of the fine selections from this fetching album declares, "It's nice to go trav'ling." And with Sinatra, May and Riddle at the helm, it's purely a pleasure trip.

Pete Welding

Come Fly With Me (1958)

Capitol CDP 7 48469 2

Come Fly With Me
Around The World
Isle Of Capri
Moonlight In Vermont
Autumn In New York
On The Road To Mandalay
Let's Get Away From It All
April In Paris
London By Night
Blue Hawaii
It's Nice To Go Trav'ling
South Of The Border
I Love Paris

Buy Come Fly With Me from Amazon.co.uk.

Songs For Swingin' Lovers
The Sinatra Christmas Album
Come Fly With Me
Only The Lonely
No One Cares
Nice 'N' Easy
Ring-A-Ding Ding!
Point Of No Return
Great Songs From Great Britain
The Concert Sinatra
September Of My Years
Moonlight Sinatra
Strangers In The Night
The World We Knew
A Man Alone
Sinatra & Company
Some Nice Things I Missed
Sinatra Love Songs
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