Frank Sinatra: Best of Vegas

Single disc excerpt from the Sinatra: Vegas box set

Frank Sinatra and Las Vegas had a uniquely symbiotic relationship. Las Vegas helped resurrect Sinatra’s career and turned him from a big band singer into a polished entertainer, and Sinatra turned Las Vegas into ground zero for sophisticated adult entertainment. The brilliant vocal phrasings that became his trademark on his Capitol recordings of the 1950s and the ring-a-ding-ding attitude that took him into the 1960s were given their road tests on the stages of Las Vegas. The development of live sets in which every song fit into a compelling arc, also influenced his albums, which became more holistic, and in a few cases, thematic. The stage banter, and the ease with which it was dispensed, became the backbone of his film and television personality.

Sinatra played Vegas off and on for forty-four years, starting out at the Desert Inn in 1951 and bowing goodbye at the MGM Grand in 1994. In between he reigned over the Copa room at the Sands through much of the ‘50s and early ‘60s, and afterwards continued to sell out shows at Caesar’s, Bally’s, the Golden Nugget and Riviera. A number of Sinatra’s Vegas performances have been issued before, including the superb Sinatra at the Sands, the Sinatra/Martin/Davis Rat Pack: Live at the Sands, and the multidisc box set Sinatra: Vegas. This single CD is excerpted from the latter, selecting tracks from 1961 and 1966 shows at the Sands, a 1982 date at Caesar’s and a 1987 date at the Golden Nugget.

The Sands recordings are some of Sinatra’s very best. The earlier date finds him capitalizing on the success he’d found throughout the 1950s, and the later date finds him backed by the ferocious swing of Count Basie’s band. The confidence with which Sinatra sings is completely mesmerizing, whether he’s contemplating the ballad “Moonlight in Vermont,” inserting hipster lingo into “The Lady is a Tramp” or blowing away the room with “Luck Be a Lady.” These appear to be alternate performances from the takes on the 1966 live album, giving fans an opportunity to hear how Sinatra kept his act fresh every night. The set includes some of Sinatra’s stage patter and story telling, including a lengthy monologue that shows how complete an entertainer he’d become.

By the 1980s Sinatra’s voice had begun to show signs of age. But while his tone was perfect and his notes weren’t always tightly held, his artistry was intact and his ability to entertain still on full display. The jazz combo on “I Can’t Get Started” provides an intimate backing that perfectly matches the introspective tone Sinatra struck in his sixties, and the set stretches from early standards (“All of Nothing at All” in a then-new arrangement by Nelson Riddle) to latest successes (“Theme from New York, New York”). The sound quality throughout this disc is terrific, and though you don’t get the thrill of a single night’s full performance, the songs are well sequenced. Charles Pignone’s liner notes from the box set are excerpted for the 20-page booklet. [©2011 hyperbolium dot com]

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