For most of my life I’ve heard about how great Sinatra was as a singer and yet this is the first album I’ve ever heard. instead, I’ve mostly experienced him as an actor. (I generally think he’s underrated.)
The problem for me is that I am an adult with specific music tastes. Traditional American pop music and “vocal jazz” (this is not jazz!) of Sinatra’s prime are not only not within my realm of music tastes but are, in many ways, anathema to them. There are few things I don’t like about this type of music:
- I don’t like the polish – you can imagine everyone did take after take until they got everything right. (I think they were editing tape in 1958 but I’m not sure how frequent that was at this point.)
- To the extent that this music is “jazz,” it is only jazzy (when it is even jazzy). I have read that Sinatra did sing jazz early on in his career but this music is a pale imitation of the sound of jazz, and that particular sound of jazz is from a different decade. Listen to Miles (or whomever) from 1958 and compare this music – there is nothing to compare.
So, now that you know where I stand, what do I actually think about it?
It’s clear that Sinatra is a great singer, for what he is doing. (I briefly listened to a Dean Martin record from 1953 and I couldn’t handle it; it was so maudlin.) I don’t know that being a good crooner makes him one of the great singers ever, but I understand the appeal: in addition to be talented, he is super easy to listen to.
I don’t love the fake big band jazz vibe of the whole thing. It’s pretty clear to me that this record is made not for young people but for people who were old enough to have children in 1958. This is safe, safe stuff. And yes, that’s what I should expect, but musically it isn’t the least bit challenging, even for its time. That makes it boring to my ears.
I find the concept to be really, um, uninspiring and not really a concept. I mean, it’s the loosest of concepts. It’s more of a theme. (I also find the lyrics to be really of their time – so “American Dream” aspirational.” They are not good.)
But everyone does a good job – it’s not like this is poorly played or poorly sung. So, as much as I do not like it and will never listen to it again – and may never listen to another Sinatra record again, unless I have too – I can’t tell you it’s bad.
PS: The younger version of me, that would have given this a 4/10 10 years ago, would like to point out that this is the kind of music that white middle class Americans listened to while they passively enabled their country in exploiting the poor and non-white in the United States and enabled their country as it meddled with foreign regimes, all because all they cared about was getting rich and showing off their riches. It’s nice to listen to easy listening pop music when you don’t have to worry about your own government supporting coups in other countries and allowing Jim Crow to continue to exist. Just a thought.