Frank Sinatra was at the top of his game between 1953 and 1961 when he recorded some of his most memorable songs on the Capitol label. Often backed by the terrific arrangements of Nelson Riddle. Uploaded by blue-eyes.com.
It’s cheating in a way to have a “Best of” album honored here, but that’s not exactly what “The Capitol Years” is all about. This isn’t a greatest hits album, but a compilation of 75 of the finest Sinatra recordings during his years with Capitol Records (1953-1961).
This was the era when Sinatra was at his very best. He had matured beyond the pop idol status he held during the big band era, and hadn’t become the
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self-satisfied geezer that Saturday Night Live parodied. Here he was in full voice, with enough life experience to make his love songs credible, whether he sang about love gained or lost. And he had the benefit of amazing arrangements by the great Nelson Riddle and Billy May.
You can find the full 75-track listing elsewhere, but here are some of the notable highlights on the album:
“I’ve Got the World on a String” * “They Can’t Take That Away from Me” * “I Get a Kick out of You” * “Young at Heart” * “In the Wee, Small Hours of the Morning” * “Love and Marriage” * “(Love Is) The Tender Trap” * “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” * “The Lady is a Tramp” * “Night and Day” * “Witchcraft” * “Chicago (That Toddlin’ Town)” * “Autumn in New York” * “Come Fly with Me” * “Guess I’ll Hang My Tears Out to Dry” * “Saturday Night (Is the Loneliest Night of the Week)” * “High Hopes” * “Almost Like Being in Love”
Ira wrote the words, George wrote the music, and music buyers everywhere wrote the checks. Uploaded by georgejgoodstadt.com.
This may be the ultimate example of a Gershwin song. With music by George (Great American Things, Feb. 24, 2010) and lyrics by Ira, “Embraceable You” is sophisticated, complex, and yet eminently singable.
The brothers wrote the song in 1928 for an operetta that never got published, so they pulled it out and used it in the musical Girl Crazy in 1930. Ginger Rogers sang it in the play, and it helped make her a star. Girl Crazy went on to be filmed three times, most notably in 1943 with Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney.
(By the way, how’s this for some unheralded star power – in the original orchestra for the Broadway show were unknown musicians Glenn Miller, Gene Krupa, Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey, and Jack Teagarden. Wow.)
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“Embraceable You” is one of the most frequently recorded Gershwin songs. The website jazzstandards.com ranks “Embraceable You” as the number 24 jazz standard of all time. Their highest recommendation goes to the Sarah Vaughn version, but I couldn’t find that in full on YouTube, so here’s Ella Fitzgerald with the Nelson Riddle orchestra. Hard to beat this combination…
Natalie sang with her father on one of his biggest hits, and made it even more memorable. Uploaded to Flickr by Don3rdSE.
This is one of the greatest songs from the Great American Songbook. Nelson Riddle arranged it, and Nat King Cole (Great American Things, November 2, 2009) sang it. That’s a potent combination no matter what the material. It’s even more potent considering the song’s source.
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Sometimes people have one accomplishment in life that nothing else they do can even approach. “Unforgettable” is so far beyond anything else songwriter Irving Gordon wrote that it’s stunning. While he had a few songs make the charts, his next biggest songs are “Mr. and Mississippi” and “Allentown Jail.”
Nat’s daughter, Natalie, helped expose a whole new generation to this classic tune. While Nat originally recorded it in 1951, he sang a non-orchestrated version in 1962, this time in stereo. Natalie sang along with this version of her daddy’s hit, creating the Song of the Year, Record of the Year, and Best Traditional Pop Vocal Performance in the 1992 Grammy Awards.
Here’s Nat and Natalie, singing – and being – Unforgettable:
Copyright 2009-2011, Robin G. Chalkley. All material on these pages, and the listing of items as Great American Things, is copyrighted. The exceptions are the photographs and videos, which remain the property of their respective owners.
Header photo used courtesy of Flickr photographer too melo.