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Buy 'Nice ‘N’ Easy' from Amazon.co.uk.Nice ‘N’ Easy

Nice ‘n’ Easy is not only the name of a song and an album title, it’s an attitude of mind, a kind of romantic relaxation that, when used to explore a song, can have the most delightful results.

This exploration, this nice ‘n’ easy approach, is a talent held by few, and by none so firmly as Frank Sinatra. Many are his talents, broad his singing capabilities, but it is pure mystery and magic when he takes a song and gives it his own caressive, unrestrained interpretation.

As for these songs one (the title tune) is a new one – a gently swinging tune that gets Frank’s session off to a bright start, then eases lightly into the ballad mood. The others are indeed all ballads – favorite ones that have been closely identified with Sinatra down through the years. They are popular classics, made more popular and more classic by his definitive performances – masterful, yet nice ‘n’ easy.

For longtime fans of Frank Sinatra’s matchless artistry, Nice ‘N’Easy occupies a special place in the singer’s extensive discography. With the exception of the lighthearted title track, the only contemporary song recorded for the album, all of the songs were ones the singer had recorded during the first decade of his recording career when he was beginning to establish his supremacy in the art of popular singing. Just how well he had succeeded in achieving this is indicated by the stunning performances that make up this marvelous, immensely satisfying album. In it Sinatra not only revisited his past; he sought to revise it as well, in effect reinventing himself for a new generation of listeners through the vastly increased poised command of technical and expressive means he had arrived at in the decade-and-a-half that had elapsed since he first recorded these songs. Comparison with those earlier recordings reveals clearly and unequivocally the great strides Sinatra had made in mastering the difficult art of popular singing which, through performances such as these, he brought to unprecedented levels of focussed, mature artistry and great emotional persuasiveness.

The difference between these and those earlier recordings, good as many of them were, are immediately apparent. The most obvious one is the deeper timbre of the instrument itself. By the middle 1950’s Sinatra’s voice, always lovely and distinctive, had deepened considerably from the clear, light-bodied, almost transparent sound he projected so effortlessly in the his youthful years, replaced by a warm, resonant,smoky-hued baritone that arranger-conductor Nelson Riddle once likened to that of a well seasoned cello. Then too, Sinatra’s interpretive abilities had increased greatly over the intervening years during which he had experienced a number of professional and personal setbacks – among them, declining popularity and reduced record sales through the late 1940’s and early ‘50s, which resulted in his being dropped by Columbia records after a decade-long association; the break-up of his first marriage, and the widely publicized problems associated with his second, to actress Ava Gardner, which ultimately ended in divorce; his difficulties in maintaining a continued presence in films, culminating in his determined efforts at securing the role of Maggio in the projected film version of James Jones’ best selling "From here to Eternity."

By the time this album was undertaken, in the spring of 1960, all of these difficulties had long been resolved. Not only had Sinatra recaptured pop record success but had extended it into new areas through the marvelous series of concept albums he had been making since 1954 for Capitol Records, primarily in collaboration with the gifted Nelson Riddle, but with Gordon Jenkins and Billy May as well, which unequivocally affirmed his unrivaled mastery of popular singing. His Academy Award-winning performance in "From here to Eternity" has led, as the singer had anticipated to further film success, restoring his box-office primacy. These activities were supplemented by frequent television appearances and a busy performing schedule in Las Vegas showrooms and at other major concert venues here and abroad, making him one of the most in-demand performers of the time. Sinatra was back where he belonged - at the top.

His passage through the emotional upheavals of those troubling times had not left Sinatra untouched, however, as is clearly evident in his singing. If nothing else, the experiences had made him a much more emotionally persuasive singer, one who consistently revealed – and to their fullest – the real emotional implications of the finest, most artfully written popular songs. He got to their heart, transformed them, and made them his own. He had become, in short, not a different singer but a vastly better, more insightful, poised and knowing one, simply the finest we’ve ever had the pleasure of hearing. If the singing of the Sinatra of the Columbia years projected the expected youthful qualities of optimism, exuberance and innocence, that of the mature, life-tested singer of the Capitol years revealed to us one who had been through it all, who had tasted the sweet, heady brew of success and the dregs of failure, and who like the consummate artist he was, used the experience thus gained to enrich his art. There is pain and pathos at the heart of his singing here, for he had been touched by them, and deeply too. But there is joy and tenderness and affirmation too, as well as the confident assurance of one who had been tested sorely and not found wanting. It is this that allows Sinatra to set loose in his singing the feeling of vulnerability that charges it with such poignance and touching, understated power. Innocence had given way to true, hard-won self knowledge and this suffuses every note of every performance the singer turned his hand to during this period.

Nothing reveals this as clearly or with greater immediacy than does a comparison between earlier and later recordings of the same song materials, by means of which the gains in expressive technique growth in emotional maturity and overall mastery are thrown into bold relief. And this must have been the major, if not sole impetus for the singer’s undertaking an entire album of song reinterpretations. Prior to this set Sinatra had on more than one occasion revisited his recorded past but never to the extent or with the deliberacy of intent he did in Nice ‘N’ Easy.

For the record, Sinatra had first recorded Fools Rush In in late August, 1940, some months after he had joined the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra: he recorded it again on Halloween of 1947. The singer recorded both Embraceable You and She’s Funny that Way on December 18, 1944, the second of which he also did as a V-Disc in mid-1945 and sang once again in the motion picture "Meet Danny Wilson" in early 1952. The year 1945 saw him undertaking his initial recording of Dream (March 6), You Go To My Head, and Someone To Watch Over Me (both July 30) and Try A Little Tenderness (December 7), while How Deep Is The Ocean saw its first recording by the singer on March 10th of the following year. Sinatra first committed Mam’selle to record on March 11 1947: That Old Feeling and The Nearness Of You and The Nearness Of You on August 11 of that year, and I’ve Got A Crush On You on November 5, a V-Disc version shortly after and reprising it once more in "Meet Danny Wilson." His initial recording of Nevertheless took place October 10, 1950, while he had introduced Day In-Day Out in mid-1953 on one of his regular radio broadcasts.

It’s breezy title song notwithstanding, Nice ‘N’ Easy actually is an album of romantic ballads of a decidedly ardent, even reflective cast. In short, the sort of song materials Sinatra performed better, more tellingly than any other singer, and in the recording of which he was so well served by arranger-conductor Nelson Riddle. Recorded at Three sessions held in Capitol Record’s studios on the first three days of March, 1960, the album was the eighth such the two men had undertaken since first joining forces at the singer’s second Capitol recording session in April of 1953. Like the seven that had preceded it, Nice ‘N’ Easy was conceived as a integral set of performances that through its thoughtful selection of like-minded songs and orchestral settings devised to underscore the feelings they shared, would convey a consistent emotional mood, providing the album a focused unity of expression.

This approach to album recording was something the singer had pioneered in his pace-setting Songs For Young Lovers and Swing Easy LPs, and the sensitivity with which he and Riddle went about every aspect of their planning, preparation and recording resulted, happily for us listeners, in a sizable number of albums of surpassing loveliness and perfectly poised, focused expressiveness. At the time of their release these were widely praised for the freshness and originality of their conception n less than the sheer beauty of the music they covered, and in the years since have come to be recognized as the timeless classics of popular song, as rewarding and beguiling today as when first recorded more than three decades ago.

This is such a recording. Twelve songs were recorded for the album. When, as it turned out, Nice ‘N’ Easy was brought to the participants attention, they hastened to record it (this took place only five weeks after the original album sessions on April 12) and made it the album’s centrepiece, bumping The Nearness Of You to make room for it. In expanding Nice ‘N’ Easy to acceptable CD playing length, we’ve restored this selection to it, and have added as well three further Sinatra-Riddle collaborations of a similar character - Someone To Watch Over Me, from September 23,1954; Day In-Day Out, from March 1,1954 and My One And Only Love from May 2,1953.

There is perhaps no finer tribute to the astonishing levels of artistry Sinatra and Riddle attained so often and so consistently than the fact that we continue to listen to, take great delight in, and marvel at their perfection, another chapter of which is offered here. Popular song, truly, gets no better than this.

Pete Welding.

Nice ‘N’ Easy (1960)

CAPITOL CDP 7 96827 2

Nice ‘N’ Easy
That Old Feeling
How Deep Is The Ocean
I’ve Got A Crush On You
You Go To My Head
Fools Rush In
She’s Funny That Way
Try A Little Tenderness
Embraceable You
The Nearness Of You
Someone To Watch Over Me
Day In-Day Out
My One And Only Love

Produced by Dave Cavanaugh
Arranged and Conducted by Nelson Riddle

Sleevenotes kindly submitted by Jill Beasley

Buy Nice ‘N’ Easy 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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