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Archive for November 15th, 2011

Review: Frank Sinatra, “Best of the Best”

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There’s simply no getting around it: Frank Sinatra is the voice of the Great American Songbook.  That’s not to discount the dozens of other significant voices that brought life to the House That George, Ira, Irving, Cole, Jerome, Richard and Lorenz Built.  (Again, just to name a few.)  But Frank Sinatra’s voice, as well as his persona, has become such a deeply ingrained part of the American musical fabric that it’s hard to find new ways to present it.  The body of work created by Sinatra at Capitol and Reprise, not to mention RCA and Columbia, has been released album-by-album, as well as in complete sets, numerous times in the past, and anthologized in countless compilations.  The latest of these, Best of the Best, has arrived from Capitol Records and Frank Sinatra Enterprises.  What is its twist?  This new collection (available as both a 1-CD edition and a 2-CD miniature box set with a long out-of-print concert disc appended) brings together The Voice’s recordings for both Capitol and Reprise under one attractive roof.  There’s no better recent release for a breezy reminder of the way he wore his hat, the way he sang on key, and indeed, the memory of all that, than Best of the Best.

Best of the Best marks the very first time both eras have been compiled together as a single disc; the soundtrack to the television movie Sinatra did feature recordings from both labels, but functioned more as an accompaniment to the film than an actual “best of” album.  Even the title Best of the Best allows that there’s more good stuff than can be heard on one compact disc, but producer Charles Pignone has done admirable job presenting some of the material that made Frank Sinatra into the indisputable Chairman of the Board.  There’s plenty of zing and loads of ring-a-ding-ding here!  23 tracks compose the main disc: 13 from Capitol and 10 from Reprise.

Such were Frank Sinatra’s powers of interpretation that even though he didn’t write the songs, he might as well have.  When Sinatra opened his mouth in front of a microphone, the truth came forth.  Where Best of the Best succeeds most is presenting the artist’s trajectory; after all, these songs became the singer’s musical autobiography.  Countless books have delved into the many colors of Sinatra’s private life, but all that matters was on record: his despairing loneliness (“In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning,” “Angel Eyes”), his bravado (“I’ve Got the World on a String,” an atypical song by torch song maestro Harold Arlen), his winking humor (“Love and Marriage,” or the song known to a generation as the theme to Married…with Children), his deeply-felt romance (“All the Way,” “Night and Day”). On one level or another, Sinatra’s music often mirrored his life; when he turned 50 and recorded the Reprise album September of My Years in 1965, it was a reflective acknowledgment of where he had been in a music business becoming more and more youth-conscious.  Not every song or album was as explicitly autobiographical, but most were just as deeply felt.

Of course, it’s the image of Sinatra the swinger that has lived on most, his tilted hat, dangling Camel and carefree smile (and a glass of Jack Daniel’s nearby) adorning countless T-shirts, postcards, magnets, posters, and the like.   The songs that invented that Sinatra style are here: Cole Porter’s “I’ve Got You Under My Skin,” with the Nelson Riddle arrangement that just might be the most famous orchestration of all time; Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart’s saucy “The Lady is a Tramp” (of which Nelson Riddle told Frank Sinatra Jr. that his father “took particular delight in its salaciousness,” according to Sinatra Jr.’s fine liner notes); Sammy Cahn and Jimmy Van Heusen’s “My Kind of Town,” tailor-made for Sinatra, as were so many of the songs the team supplied him.

What else will you find?  Just hit the jump! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

November 15, 2011 at 12:14

Intrada Has “It,” Releases Two Television Scores

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Intrada’s latest soundtrack releases may be from television projects, but these small screen adventures are sure to be big hits for fans.

The latest entry in the Special Collection series is a two-disc presentation of the score to the 1990 adaptation of Stephen King’s It. The best-selling book of 1986, It was the story of a group of young friends in 1950s Maine who thwart an interdimensional child-killing monster, only to have it return when the group settles into adulthood. The two-part television movie starred John Ritter, Annette O’Toole, Olivia Hussey and – perhaps most notably – Tim Curry as Pennywise, the vicious clown which It commonly poses as.

The Emmy-winning score was composed by Richard Bellis, who is perhaps best known to Disneyphiles for his work adapting famous action, horror and sci-fi themes for various attractions in the Disney theme parks. (Rides based on Star Wars, the Indiana Jones series and The Twilight Zone are just three examples of his great work.) Bellis balanced the unnerving terror of Pennywise with an almost rousing set of cues for the small-town Americana setting which hosted the story. The set, mastered in stereo from the original stereo two-track masters, is available now.

The label has also announced a release in the Signature Edition series: the premiere release of the score to the television film 21 Hours at Munich (1976). This telefilm starred William Holden and Shirley Knight in a dramatization of the real-life “Black September” incident at the 1972 Olympics in Munich, where terrorists kidnapped and killed 11 Israeli athletes. (Cinephiles doubtlessly remember the incident through the lens of the recent Munich (2006), Steven Spielberg’s historical fiction piece that covered the Israeli government’s response to the killings.) Laurence Rosenthal, known for his work on The Miracle Worker and Clash of the Titans, to name but two, used a small orchestral ensemble bedecked with lots of percussion to convey the musical side of the story. This short score – about a half-hour’s worth – is sourced from Rosenthal’s own mono 1/4″ session tapes.

Order links and the usual track lists are after the jump.

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Written by Mike Duquette

November 15, 2011 at 11:37

Posted in News, Soundtracks

Release Round-Up: Week of November 15

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A brief note before we kick off the Release Round-Up: first, an apology for missing the last one. And second, a moment of crowd-sourcing from you, our beloved readers. As nice a service as the Round-Up is, it also seems….boring. Do you agree? How might one change it up? Sound off in the comments.

The Who, Quadrophenia: The Director’s Cut (Geffen/UMe)

Four discs of Quadrophenia goodness: the remastered album, demos, vinyl, a book of liner notes and, heaven knows why, part of the album remixed in 5.1 surround.

Ray Charles, Singular Genius: The Complete ABC Singles (Concord)

Five discs of the Genius’ single sides of the ’60s and ’70s, including “Georgia on My Mind,” “One Mint Julep,” “Hit the Road Jack,” “I Can’t Stop Loving You” and “America the Beautiful.”

Frank Sinatra, Best of the Best (Capitol/Reprise)

The first compilation to span the Chairman’s best-loved eras, available as a single-disc set or a deluxe set with a rare live show.

The Supremes, More Hits by the Supremes: Expanded Edition (Hip-o Select/Motown)

The original album in mono and stereo plus scores of rarities for the discerning fan.

R.E.M., Part Lies, Part Heart, Part Truth, Part Garbage 1981-2011 (Warner Bros.)

The American rock legends put a period on the end of their career with their first double-disc compilation, spanning both the I.R.S. and Warner Bros. years.

Various Artists, Cameo-Parkway Holiday Hits (Real Gone)

Eighteen rockin’ holiday hits from Bobby Rydell, The Cameos and…Bob Seger? A must hear in a slightly weaker season for Christmas catalogue titles.

Wall of Voodoo, Lost Weekend: The Best of the I.R.S. Years (Varese Vintage)

The first career-spanning compilation from the “Mexican Radio” band, bringing a lot of latter-day tracks to CD that many have probably not heard much, if at all.

Original West End Cast, The Phantom of the Opera: 25th Anniversary Box Set (Decca)

The cast albums for Phantom and its not-nearly-as-good sequel, Love Never Dies, plus a bonus DVD.

Written by Mike Duquette

November 15, 2011 at 09:19