Saturday, April 01, 2006

1001 Albums – Number 1

In The Wee Small Hours of the Morning – Frank Sinatra

So it's taken me a while but I finally got around to buying the first album on the 1001 albums list. Actually going to record stores and rooting around in the racks for something in particular is something I've not done for a while, and it was nice, but considering my disinterested reaction to this album I think I'll just download the rest unless I think there is a strong likelihood that I'm going to enjoy it.

That's not to say I think it's bad music. There's no denying that Frank sure has a great voice, but the entire album is based around it and the backing music is just a little snooze inducing. A few songs stand out, mainly the first, titular track, but after twenty minutes ago the whole act gets old. Frank doesn't really change his tone or style for the duration, and I find some of his phrasing quite annoying. The lyrics vary a lot in quality too. That's only to be expected when every song is written by different writers, but some of them are pretty cheesy.

This album is held in high regard for several reasons. Firstly because it was one of the first recordings to really be designed for the LP format. The songs have a uniform sound and subject, and it even tells a little bit of a story. This is a valuable development in popular music, but as I've already noted, I find it a little too consistent musically.

The second notable thing about it is that it was recorded in the aftermath of Sinatra's breakup with Ava Gardner and is one of his most emotional performances. Maybe I'm just a cynical product of a jaded generation, but to someone whose introduction to the love of music involved Trent Reznor ripping his guts up screaming “kill me”, Frank's gentle and almost insipid delivery of “When I get that mood indigo/ I could lay me down and die” doesn't rate very high on the intensity scale.

So the 1001 albums isn't off to the best start. Next up we have Elvis and we'll see if he fares any better.


Joel said...

Ah but it's all about subtlety vs. the obvious. Understatement vs. overstatement.
Both have their place, but sometimes subtle wording implying suicide and other grisly things can be alot more scary than just saying it. If you never explicitly say it, then no one can save you.

(I have no real idea what I'm talking about because I've never listened to Sinatra)

Jon said...

Well it's not a case of understatement in the lyrics, (although the lyrics do come across as being extremely cheesy, but that's forgivable considering the era they were written in) I'm talking about delivery, and Sinatra's chirpy style doesn't really convey much emotional depth to me.

fairy princess said...

Give the cd to a girl, with a IOU note for one romantic home cooked special dinner of love...and maybe some flowers.

Jon said...

That's a good idea Heidi, but no woman I'm geunuinely interested in will be subjected to either Frank Sinatra or my cooking.

fairy princess said...

Yes. The secret is just to pretend to cook. Buy precooked stuff that just requires heating.
Then give her enough wine that she won't notice the empty packets.
(or cook spag bol surprise again!, with extra cloves)

Maybe you are right though about the cd though. I think that you would be incompatible with a girl that liked that.

Jon said...

Those are good suggestions Heidi, especially the bit about the wine.

For my own personal take on the technique, I like to substitute 'hard liquor' for 'wine', and 'dirty drunken sex' for 'cooking a nice meal'.

andrew brown said...

'frank sinatra was found ground to, not so much of a pulp, but more of a fine powder"