“What’s your favorite song? That’s like asking me if I like steak or ice cream…”
He was The Beatles before The Beatles were The Beatles. His voice would make women swoon and men want to be him. He romanced some of the most beautiful women in Hollywood history, and he sat at tables with kings, princesses, and presidents. He was The Voice. The Chairman of the Board. He was Old Blue Eyes. His name was Francis Albert Sinatra, but we all called him Frank. He had an unprecedented singing career that literally covered seven decades. Eagle Rock Entertainment gives us a few frozen moments in time for three of those decades. The Frank Sinatra Collection is a group of television specials that give us a wonderful glimpse into several stages of the man’s career. Witness the evolution of the song selections as well as the man himself.
I’m not a fan of the “stand and deliver” method of teaching or concert specials. That’s what most of these shows are. It’s a bit strange for me to enjoy them as much as I do. Sinatra doesn’t use big screens with crazy images. There aren’t any pyrotechnics. He certainly isn’t doing any running or stage calisthenics. It’s just Frank with a microphone. But he’s always had the ability to cast a spell over his audiences both live or on a television screen. The music is front and center here with perhaps a guest or two and an orchestra playing behind him. It’s all Frank Sinatra ever needed, and these performances showcase that power about as well as you’ll find.
The Man And His Music (1965)
This special aired on NBC and would be the first in five annual Sinatra specials that would air around the time of his birthday. This one was intended to celebrate the singer’s 50th. The show has an interesting setup. You don’t see the orchestra until about halfway through the show, and there’s an attempt to provide showy settings as the stage area changes throughout. You never see the audience, which I consider a flaw on most of these shows. Frank had a unique relationship with his audience that is missing for most of these specials. The only other attempt at extra showmanship is a collection of newsreel early attempts at flight. We’ve seen them all before, and they introduce Come Fly With Me.
1) I’ve Got You Under My Skin 2) Without A Song 3) Don’t Worry ‘Bout Me 4) I Get A Kick Out Of You 5) Nancy 6) My Kind Of Town 7) Medley: It Was A Very Good Year / Young At Heart / The Girl Next Door / Last Night When We Were Young 8) This Is All I Ask 9) Come Fly With Me 10) The Lady Is A Tramp 11) I’ve Got The World On A String 12) Witchcraft 13) You Make Me Feel So Young 14) Put Your Dreams Away
The Man And His Music Part II (1966)
For the second annual special Sinatra moved over to CBS. This time he added his daughter Nancy to the mix, who had recently released two of her own hit records in Downtown and These Boots Are Made For Walking. Most of the hour follows the format of the first special. Frank sings many of his classics up until that time. Nancy does a solo song (Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)) and is soon joined by father Frank for a medley that includes her hits. They offer up some banter that isn’t quite as funny as they thought it was. The rest of the show has Frank back in charge and on his own. There’s a bit of a showy reflective piece where we see Frank contemplating between a collection of performances.
1) Fly Me To The Moon 2) The Most Beautiful Girl In The World 3) Moonlight In Vermont 4) You’re Nobody ‘Til Somebody Loves You 5) Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down) – Nancy 6) On Broadway – Nancy 7) Yes Sir, That’s My Baby – Frank & Nancy 8) Medley: Downtown / These Boots Are Made For Walking – Frank & Nancy 9) Medley: Just One Of Those Things / My Heart Stood Still / But Beautiful / When Your Lover Has Gone 10) Luck Be A Lady 11) That’s Life 12) Granada 13) My Kind Of Town 14) Put Your Dreams Away
A Man And His Music + Ella + Jobim (1967)
The show shifts back to NBC and includes two very special guests for the evening. Ella Fitzgerald was a legend herself and sings a couple of solo numbers here before joining Sinatra for a couple of duets. Their voices are sheer perfection here. But Ella looks uncomfortable and even a little angry at times while she’s singing. We never get any idea why, but it never shows in her voice. Brazilian composer Antonio Carlos Jobim joins Sinatra on guitar for a medley that includes his own compositions. While Sinatra has played his music for years and often referred to him as a friend, this is the only known filmed footage of the two performing together. What a treat that must have been for the members of the small invited audience.
1) Day In, Day Out 2) Get Me To The Church On Time 3) What Now My Love 4) Ol’ Man River 5) Body And Soul – Ella 6) It’s All Right With Me – Ella 7) Medley: How High The Moon / Up, Up And Away / Look Out For Jimmy Valentine / Theme To Tony Rome / Goody Goody / Don’t Cry Joe / Ode To Billie Joe / Goin’ Out Of My Head – Frank & Ella 8) Medley: Change Partners / I Concentrate On You / The Girl From Ipanema – Frank & Jobim 9) Medley: The Song Is You / They Can’t Take That Away From Me / Stompin’ At The Savoy / At Long Last Love – Frank & Ella 10) Don’t Be That Way – Ella 11) The Lady Is A Tramp – Frank & Ella 12) Put Your Dreams Away
Francis Albert Sinatra Does His Thing (1968)
It’s back to CBS in the established ping-pong annual specials. This time Sinatra went for a theme. He attempted to portray how black music has influenced pop culture at the time. To help him in this he had more guests. Diahann Carroll does a medley of spirituals with Frank and the Motown stars The Fifth Dimension. They sing a couple of their hits and then introduce “for the first time anywhere” the 6th Dimension…Frank Sinatra, all in Motown sequin and glitter. It’s a rather fun moment, and he joins the group for a song. This might well be the most animated of the specials. There’s a lot of diversity here with the sweet emotional voice of Diahann Carroll and then the energetic swinging style of The Fifth Dimension.
1) Hello Young Lovers 2) Baubles, Bangles And Beads 3) Cycles 4) The Music That Makes Me Dance – Diahann 5) Where Am I Going – Diahann 6) Medley: Diane / Deep River / Sometimes I Feel Like A Motherless Child / Lonesome Road / Nobody Know The Trouble I’ve Seen / Amen – Frank & Diahann 7) Medley: Glad To Be Unhappy / Here’s That Rainy Day / It Never Entered My Mind / Gone With The Wind 8) It’s A Great Life – The 5TH Dimension 9) Stoned Soul Picnic – The 5TH Dimension 10) Sweet Blindness – Frank & The 5TH Dimension 11) Nice ‘N’ Easy 12) (How Little It Matters) How Little We Know 13) Lost In The Stars 14) Angel Eyes 15) Put Your Dreams Away
The last of the annual specials stayed at CBS and in spite of Frank’s promise that they were going to keep doing them until they got it right, this was the last of the series. This special also goes back to the show’s roots in a couple of different ways. Once again there are no guests, and we’re left with the magic of Frank’s voice. He also looks backward more on this show and sings mostly very early tracks. There is an exception to that rule, however. We get to hear him perform one of his recent, at the time, recordings. That song was My Way, and it would join The Theme From New York New York as two of Sinatra’s biggest concert anthems. That alone makes this somewhat of an historic performance as Frank now hits 55.
1) For Once In My Life 2) Please Be Kind 3) My Way 4) Film Clip Medley including song highlights of: I Couldn’t Sleep A Wink Last Night / You’re Sensational / All The Way 5) The Tender Trap 6) Little Green Apples 7) Out Beyond The Window 8) A Man Alone 9) Didn’t We 10) Forget To Remember 11) Fly Me To The Moon 12) Street Of Dreams 13) Love’s Been Good To Me 14) Goin’ Out Of My Head 15) My Kind Of Town
Sinatra And Friends (1977)
After nearly a decade Frank Sinatra returned to the television special format, this time on ABC. This is more of a celebrity showcase. A large number of guests join Frank, who doesn’t get to sing many solo songs this time out. The format was simple. A guest would sing a solo number and then be joined by Frank for a duet. Once in a while Frank would sneak another solo of his own between the acts, but this plays out like an A-list open mic.
Natalie Cole, Robert Merrill, Dean Martin, Tony Bennett, Leslie Uggams, Loretta Lynn and John Denver
1) Where Or When – with all guests 2) I’ve Got You Under My Skin 3) I Get A Kick Out Of You – Frank & Natalie 4) I’ve Got Love On My Mind – Natalie 5) If I Were A Rich Man – Robert 6) The Oldest Established Floating Crap Game – Frank, Dean & Robert 7) She’s Got You – Loretta 8) All Or Nothing At All – Frank & Loretta 9) One – Tony 10) My Kind Of Town – Frank & Tony 11) I Honestly Love You – Leslie 12) The Lady Is A Tramp – Frank & Leslie 13) My Sweet Lady – John 14) September Song – Frank & John 15) Night And Day 16) Everybody Ought To Be In Love 17) Put Your Dreams Away
The Man And His Music (1981)
It’s back where it all started on NBC 16 years later. Frank is joined by Count Basie and his Orchestra for a truly legendary concert by Frank Sinatra. It’s a classic look at the singer, who has now turned 66. His voice retains its silky-smooth quality even has he takes puffs from a cigarette between lyrics. Sinatra reveals his more modern numbers here with Something and The Theme From New York New York.
1) Intro / (This Is A) Lovely Way To Spend An Evening (instrumental) 2) Nice ‘N’ Easy 3) The One I Love Belongs To Somebody Else 4) Pennies From Heaven 5) I Loved Her 6) The Girl From Ipanema (featuring Tony Mottola on guitar) 7) At Long Last Love 8) Something 9) Monday Morning Quarterback 10) The Best Is Yet To Come 11) (We Had A) Good Thing Going 12) Say Hello 13) I Get A Kick Out Of You 14) Theme From New York, New York 15) Thanks For The Memory
Concert For The Americas (1982)
This time Frank Sinatra is on Showtime, and it’s pretty much a live concert recorded at the Altos de Chavon Amphitheater in The Dominican Republic. It’s a sweet open-air stadium, and the acoustics are perfect. I’ve attended open-air concerts, but none that sounded as flawless as this one did. The concert includes a great drum solo by the legendary Buddy Rich and an appearance by guitarist Tony Mottola on Send In The Clowns. Tony and Frank have worked together for decades, and it all shows here.
1) I’ve Got The World On A String 2) I Get A Kick Out Of You 3) Come Rain Or Come Shine 4) When Your Lover Has Gone 5) The Lady Is A Tramp 6) The House I Live In 7) Prologue / Jet Song – Buddy Rich 8) Searching 9) My Kind Of Town 10) Something 11) The Best Is Yet To Come 12) Strangers In The Night 13) All Or Nothing At All 14) The Gal That Got Away / It Never Entered My Mind 15) I’ve Got You Under My Skin 16) Send In The Clowns – with Tony Mottola on guitar 17) Quiet Nights Of Quiet Stars (Corovado) – with TONY MOTTOLA on guitar 18) I Won’t Dance 19) Theme From New York, New York
What else can I say about a collection like this? You get four discs that can be bough separately. It’s entertaining and marks a collection of historical music moments in time. Frank’s gone, and we recently lost Frank, Jr. A collection like this helps to keep the music alive for all of us fans who are still out there. With the release of The Frank Sinatra Collection, I can honestly say, “It was a very good year.“