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Sinatra Love Songs

All through the war-torn years of the ‘40s, and the happy ones that followed, the love song reached celestial heights. Bright, youthful voices floated in clouds of strings; choral groups sang as sweetly as angels. Words like "forever" and "always" were sung with complete conviction; a vow of love seemed like a promise of eternity. When love died, the hurt was so profound that the sky seemed to cave in.

No singer captured those feelings better than Frank Sinatra. Love Songs is a musical scrapbook of Sintra in his twenties and thirties - a time when he was the Prince Charming of pubescent girls who jammed the Paramount Theater in New York and screamed in unison whenever he bent a note. All the tracks here come from Sinatra’s Columbia years (1943-1952), the first phase of his solo career. Included are six previously unissued alternate takes that, for Sinatra completists, allow interesting comparisons to the familiar versions.

Today we regard this early decade of Sinatra as classic in its own right. He hadn’t yet developed his tough-guy swagger; instead he offered up a ballad as gently as if he were handling his prom date a corsage. His bel canto style was unfailingly pretty, with its soft sustained high notes, silky lines spun out on a thread of breath, and a tone as light and clear as a choirboy’s. The Sinatra of those days is remembered fondly by singer Eileen Barton, who as a teenager was chosen by the star to appear with him on his CBS radio shows. "His voice was so flawless in those days" she says, "I think he was a greater singer in the ‘40s than he was at any other time. Because it was pure."

Yet "The Voice, " as he was called, was equally concerned with exploring the intricacies of phrasing that turned song lyrics into musical conversation. His blunt toying with words ("She’d never bother with some bum she hates … That’s why this chick is a tramp!") was still to come; for now he sang the songs mostly as written, yet he personalized every phrase with subtle shifts of weight and texture. Faced with an audience, he was even more expressive. As Cue magazine noted in 1943: "Just let the word love or darling occur (and they occur very often in Sinatra offerings) and he hugs the microphone even closer and sings the magic words with tremendous feeling and volume."

This collection gives a fresh view of his ballad singing by avoiding most of his trademarks; out of fifteen songs, only three are Sinatra chart hits. But nearly every track features Alex Stordahl, the acclaimed string arranger whom Sinatra met as a band singer with Tommy Dorsey. Stordahl’s wash of sweet, sentimental sounds made him a perfect conductor for the young Sinatra.

Several tunes from the Broadway of Sinatra’s youth indicate the richness of that era,

Irving Berlin’s Annie Get Your Gun(1946) ran for 1,147 performances and yielded seven standards, including "They say it’s wonderful." Ethel Merman had belted it to the last row of the balcony, but that kind of grandstanding was never for Sinatra. Instead, he pinpoints the wistfulness of such lines as "The thing that’s known as romance is wonderful,wonderful / In every way, so they say," singing them with a hint of a sigh. Sinatra’s version reached number 2 on the charts.

In The King and I (1651), Rogders and Hammerstein made an impassioned plea for forbidden love in "We Kiss In A Shadow;" Sinatra sings its triumphant declaration with quiet confidence. From Cole Porter’s Out Of This World (1950) comes the slow, sexy beguine "I am Loved" which Sinatra croons with a smile in his voice. "Embraceable You, " the Gerswhin balled from Crazy Girl (1930), was as inescapable in the ‘30s and ‘40s as "My Funny Valentine" became in the ‘50s.

"Falling In Love With Love" had been introduced by Muriel Angelus in Rodgers and Hart’s The Boys From Syracuse (1938). To the strains of a swirling waltz, Hart told a story of complete disillusionment; in his understated way, Sinatra captures all of its heartbreak.

As a naughty sailor in MGM’s Anchors Aweigh (1944), Sinatra introduced Jule Styne and Sammy Cahn’s "I Fall In Love Too Easily" with a tone of pure vulnerability. In Take Me Out To The Ball Game (1949), he and Gene Kelly played two hoofers who join a Baseball team for the summer. Sinatra fantasized about his future sweetheart in "The Right Girl For Me," written for him by Betty Comden, Adolph Green and MGM musical director Rogers Edens.

Sinatra undoubtedly helped to make "Fools Rush In" a standard, and every word of Johnny Mercer’s lyric seems to glow, thanks in part to his precise and thoughtful diction. Another soulful singer of his generation, Lee Wiley, gave the first performance of "Love Me," a Victor Young-Ned Washington ballad of 1934. He introduced "Everybody Loves Somebody" in this 1947 recording, but Sinatra’s version was forgotten long before Dean Martin took the song to number one in 1964. Late in 1950, Sinatra recorded the agonized "Take My Love," Two pianist-conductor friends of his, Jack Wolf and Joel Herron, had adapted the melody from the third movement of Brahms’ Third Symphony; Sinatra is credited with the words.

Other tunes here are small, pleasant souvenirs of the ‘40s, memorable because of the feeling Sinatra poured into them. "Every Man Should Marry" recalls that moment in post-World War II America when marriage seemed like an irrestibly romantic prospect. "I hear A Rhapsody" is best remembered as a 1940 hit for Jimmy Dorsey and Bob Eberly.

Though his career would last forty more years, and he would emerge from the cocoon of the "crooner" era with a rainbow of vocal colors that weren’t there before, the innocence of his early singing remains as touching as ever. Here is the golden age of the pop ballad, and the voice that helped it shine.

James Gavin - New York City, 2000.

Sinatra Love Songs (2001)


Tracks: (Title, Length, Date of Recording, Date of original Release)

Falling in love with love (2.44) (HCO1948-1 08/08/46). 1954
I love you (2.26) (HCO3749-PB 06/05/49) *
I fall in love too easily (3.15) (CO33931-PB 01/12/44) *
Embraceable you (3.17) (HCO1183-PB2 19/12/ 44) *
They say it’s wonderful (3.05) (HCO1748-PB2 10/03/46) *
Fools rush in (2.59) (CO38303-PB131/10/47). 1949
Everybody loves somebody (3.14) (CO44634-1 04/12/47). 1948
Take my love (3.17) (CO44634-1 11/11/50). 1951
I am loved (2.25) (CCO44635-1 11/11/50). 1950
Every man should marry (3.49) (CO40970-PB1 14/07/49) *
The right girl for me (3.09) (HCO3635-PB 03/03/49). *
My Girl (2.24) (RHCO1010 06/02/52). 1952
We kiss in a shadow (3.35) (CO45157-1 02/03/51). 1951
Love me (3.08) (CO45186 27/03/51). 1951
I hear a rhapsody (3.04) (RHCO10082 01/07/52). 1952
April in Paris (2.43) (CO44428 09/10/50). 1950
Night and day (3.38) (CO38275 22/10/47)
These foolish things (remind me of you) (3.07) (HCO1501 30/07/45). 1945

All recordings arranged and conducted by Axel Stordhal With the exception of Track 10 (arranged and conducted by Hugo Winterhalter)

* Previously unreleased alternative take

Sleevenotes kindly submitted by Jill Beasley

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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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