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In the midst of some of the aural horrors that roar out of the radios and the juke boxes these days, it is well to remember that Frank Sinatra is one of the most successful vocal artists on record, the complete refutation of the theory that if it's good, it won't sell. With Sinatra, it's good and it does sell and like Picasso and Miles Davis and Duke Ellington and very, very few others, the level of artistic consistency is remarkably high.

Some people have the giftto tell a story and make it memorable. Never mind the words, they're dull when mouthed by someone else; never mind the point, even, others will blunt it. It's the performance that counts. Joe E. Lewis does this, W.C. Fields did it and Sinatra does it with a song.

It must be a wonderful feeling to be able, as Sinatra is, to flick on the radio any hour of the day or night and within ten minutes hear one of a legion of other singers pay the ultimate compliment of imitation. When you do something so good that this can happen, you have laid it down for the ages and done so in an art that is terrifying in its transilience.

George Bernard Shaw once remarked that the ability to take liberties was the secret of success in private life. A singer's public appearances are are a private life between him and his audience and it is a testament to Sinatra's supreme capabilities that he constantly takes liberties which make it. Listen to the low tones he gets on "Easy To Love," hear the way he comes in on "When I Take My Sugar To Tea," listen to his pronunciation on "A Fine Romance."

The tempos and the phrasing, both done with ease and naturalness, are once again present in the form that has made his style strong enough for a dozen others to carve careers for themselves within its outlines. One of the aspects of this style, which must make playing in the accompanying band such a ball, is its sheer musicianship. A good musician sings on his instrument; Sinatra sings as though he were a strong, mellow horn. There are few better examples of this musicianship than the delightful way in which the trumpet of Don Fagerquist fits with Sinatra's voice to form a perfect interplay of lines in "A Foggy Day." And with the mention of Fagerquist, it should be noted that Sinatra's recording dates, ever since he gained his recording liberty and has had control of them, have always included enough hard core jazz musicians to give even his sweetest singing a slight jazz flavor.

Earlier I remarked that the radio offers the flattery of imitation to Sinatra by the hour. It also offers additional proof, if that were needed, of his creative individuality. Coast down the dial and catch a vocal; two bars and you'll know if it's Sinatra. Who else could come on intimate and soft, as he does in "When I Take My Sugar To Tea," and yet remain as absolutely masculine as Rocky Marciano? Singing a popular ballad, with that indefinable touch of insinuating charm, is a tight rope to walk. A little too far to one side and the effect collapses into a very unmasculine impression. That question never arises with Sinatra.

The hard glare of publicity and the ravages of the cult of personality in our society wrecks many artists. They have to be strong and their art has to be strong and vital to survive. The great process of mass popularity and mass culture has a vicious tendency to demean art. When you appeal to the mass, you usually appeal to the least common denominator. Once again, it is a tribute to Sinatra that he does not do this and never has. He is the living proof that quality has a place in the mass society. And in some mystical way, perhaps, his success with quality is a reaffirmation of the basic positive good of life itself.

A word about the accompaniment on this album: The trumpet on "A Foggy Day" and "Easy To Love" is Don Fagerquist; on "A Fine Romance" it is John Anderson. Bill Miller is the pianist heard on "Be Careful, It's My Heart," Emil Richards is the vibraphonist on "I've Got My Love To Keep Me Warm" and Bud  Shank (flute) and Frank Rosolino (trombone) are heard on "You And The Night And The Music."

Johnny Mandel, one of the very best of the young crop of jazz-based arrangers and conductors, leads the band and wrote the arrangements for most of the songs. A native New Yorker, he studied under Stefan Wolpe and at Juilliard, has played trombone with many bands including Jimmy Dorsey and Count Basie and is the composer of several well known jazz numbers, including "Not Really The Blues," "Straight Life," "Pot Luck" and "Hershey Bar."

Ralph J. Gleason, 1961,
San Fransisco Chronicle and Times-Mirror Syndicate.

Ring-A-Ding Ding! (1961)

Reprise 9 46933-2

Ring-A-Ding Ding
Let's Fall In Love
Be Careful, It's My Heart
A Foggy Day
A Fine Romance
In The Still Of The Night
The Coffee Song
When I Take My Sugar To Tea
Let's Face The Music And Dance
You'd Be So Easy To Love
You And The Night And The Music
I've Got My Love To Keep Me Warm

Buy Ring-A-Ding Ding! 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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