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Frank Sinatra - At His Peak
see end of review for track listing
Axel Stordahl and his Orchestra
rec. 1944-47 SOUNDS OF YESTERYEAR DSOY 953
When I received this disc, I wondered whether to review it under “Jazz” or “Nostalgia”. I realised that Frank Sinatra became jazzier when he signed with Capitol Records and began working with arranger Nelson Riddle, producing such landmark albums as Songs for Swingin’ Lovers. Before that, he had worked with the bands of Harry James and Tommy Dorsey. One of Dorsey’s arrangers was Axel Stordahl, and Sinatra found that Axel’s arrangements suited him very well.
When he left Dorsey in September 1942, Sinatra took Stordahl with him. They weren’t able to record together until 1944 because of the ban imposed by the American Federation of Musicians. Then they recorded many successful tracks for Columbia records. Stordahl’s style was best suited to ballads, with sweeping strings and a gentle style which allowed Sinatra’s voice to come through clearly. But it means that most of the tracks on this CD are closer to Nostalgia than Jazz, which is why the album is being considered under this category. These recordings were made between 1944 and 1947.
Admittedly a few tracks are swingers – like the opening Saturday Night (is the Loneliest Night of the Week) which includes a jazzy trumpet solo. And Five Minutes More has an easy swing, with a big band in the background. The Coffee Song even has a Latin-American accompaniment which turns into swinging four-four. But the majority of songs have a lush backing of strings and harp.
Frank does his usual thing of changing lyrics. For instance, in You’ll Never Walk Alone he sings “Keep your chin up high” instead of “Hold your head up high”. But these mostly sentimental yet seductive tracks may explain why he was such a pin-up for American teenagers.
This is a generous album, offering more than 76 minutes of mostly easy-listening music, well performed by Sinatra and Stordahl.
1. Saturday Night (Is the Loneliest Night of the Week)
2. I Dream of You (More Than You Dream I Do)
3. If You Are but a Dream
5. I Should Care
6. If I Loved You
7. You’ll Never Walk Alone
8. Nancy (With the Laughing Face)
9. The House I Live In (That’s America to Me)
10. Oh! What It Seemed To Be
11. Day by Day
12. Full Moon and Empty Arms
13. They Say It’s Wonderful
14. All Through the Day
15. Five Minutes More
16. The Coffee Song
17. Begin the Beguine
18. The Things We Did Last Summer
19. September Song
20. I Believe
22. Almost Like Being in Love
23. I Have but One Heart (‘O Marinariello)
24. What’ll I Do?
25. But Beautiful