Frank Sinatra: The Concert Sinatra

Disconcerting 2012 remaster of Sinatra’s 1963 stage songbook

As has been noted widely, Concord’s 2012 reissue of this Sinatra title has provoked strong reactions among the vocalist’s knowledgeable fans. Originally recorded and released in 1963, this remastered edition remixes and rebalances the multitrack masters, and sharpens the individual tracks to the point of distraction. It’s interesting to hear the elements rendered so crisply, especially Sinatra’s vocals, but the separation, particularly between the voice and instruments, is unsettling. A great recording has an instrumental pocket into which the vocal fits, hand-in-glove, and earlier editions of this title show the pocket exists; this mix pushes Sinatra’s vocal forward, to the point at which the overall result is not cohesive. At times Sinatra sounds as if he’s overdubbed on top of the music, rather than the key player within it.

There’s no fault in Sinatra’s choice of material, which leans heavily on the Broadway stage compositions of Richard Rodgers, nor is there any problem with the arranging and conducting of Nelson Riddle, the enormous orchestra assembled on a Hollywood scoring stage, or the recording technology. Earlier editions of this title showed how Sinatra’s fluent interpretations and Riddle’s sympathetic backings worked in concert to create grandly emotional renderings of these songs. This re-master still contains each artist’s masterful work, but woven less tightly into a coherent whole. Lawrence Stewart’s original liners are augmented by new notes from Frank Sinatra Jr., and the original ten tracks are extended by a pair of bonuses that include the Van Heusen-Cahn “California,” originally commissioned by the state’s then-governor, Pat Brown.  [©2012 hyperbolium dot com]

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