Sunday, 28 April 2013

Albums for Life: 13: Frank Sinatra: In the Wee Small Hours

In the early 50s Frank's glittering career as darling of the Bobby Soxers had passed him by. He lost the plot, attempted suicide and then had to reset. Now in his 30s he was desperate to relaunch his career. 'From Here to Eternity' put him back in the limelight, earning him an Oscar as Best Supporting Actor in 1953, but it was signing to Capitol Records the same year that rekindled his musical career. 'Songs for Swinging Lovers' and 'Swing Easy' were recorded and released in 1954 and both were hits.
Meanwhile, despite his resurgent public profile, Sinatra's private life was a mess. He'd divorced his wife Nancy in 1951 and married Ava Gardener 10 days later. Frank and Ava were jealous and driven creatures, both renowned for their insatiable, extra curricular sexual appetites; the marriage was rocky from the off. That relationship's decline informed the melancholy that permeates every moment of this gloriously down beat album. Recorded in 1955, produced by Voyle Gilmore, 'In the Wee Small Hours' is regarded by many as the first ever concept album. Depression, loneliness, lost love and late night ennui were the themes addressed.
Recorded in 5 sessions at KHJ studios in Hollywood, Sinatra was emotional and intense throughout.
One witness noted:

“Sinatra takes a gulp of the lukewarm coffee remaining in the cup most recently handed to him, and the he lifts the inevitable hat from his head a little, and plops it right back, almost as if he wanted to relieve the pressure from the hat band. The studio empties fast; just music stands and chairs remain. Sinatra flops onto one of the chairs, crosses his legs, and hums a fragment of one of the songs he's been recording. He waves to the night janitor now straightening up the studio, and says: "Jeez, what crazy working hours we got. We both should've been plumbers, huh?"

This could be my favourite vocal performance on any one album.
I love this because my dad Terry loves it.
He loved it because his dad Joshua loved it.
Frank's heartache floats upon Nelson Riddle's exquisite arrangements.
Never has sorrow sounded so sweet.
Oddly, the clips available on YouTube have been sped up...
... this is is music that needs to unravel in its own sweet time.
I can only source the original audio as a 'link' so...
Listen to the whole album here.

1 comment:

  1. Unquestionably one of the great albums, even if my Dad, unlike yours, hated (hates) Sinatra.