Frankie and Tommy
This is the first of two album appearances by Frank Sinatra in the Gold Standard Series EP collection. Highlighted here are performances from the early days of his career; a time after he had left the Harry James orchestra but before he became the vocal stylist/superstar that would mark his long career. Sinatra is best known for his recordings with Columbia, Capitol, and Reprise but he did record briefly with RCA during the 1940s. This album presents Sinatra as a member of the singing group, The Pied Pipers, and as a featured soloist with the Tommy Dorsey orchestra.
The album cover amply demonstrates why Sinatra acquired the nickname "Old Blue Eyes". The picture, however, shows Sinatra a bit older than when he recorded these numbers. RCA may have been trying to exploit the new found popularity of Sinatra with the release of this album. In the early 1950s Sinatra's career was in decline but by the mid 50's he started to rebound. Indeed, he was about to enter into a golden era where his career would soar. Sinatra only recorded for RCA while a member of the Dorsey orchestra and for four recordings made while trying to break away from the Dorsey organization. Further clues tying the album to Sinatra's rebounding popularity are on the back cover. A drawing of both Sinatra and Dorsey shows both artists looking more like they did in the mid 1950s. Dorsey had died in 1956 and is shown with the crew cut hair style he wore in his last years. Sinatra is shown wearing the trademark hat he adopted in the mid 50s and which was featured prominently in his Capitol Records album covers. Clever marketing, RCA.
This was not the only example of clever marketing. At the same time this Gold Standard Series EP was released RCA released a 33 1/3 Long Play version (LPM 1569). This album had the same cover and name as EPA 5014. All four performances on the EP appear on the LP and the back cover of the LP contains the same illustrations and information too. This marks the first time a Gold Standard Series EP album was derived from an LP. It is also the first time both were marketed simultaneously. It would not be the last.
There are two other curious feature on the Gold Standard Series album cover beyond the use of the recent picture of Sinatra. First, the banner in the upper right corner is blank. Normally this banner would proclaim "45 RPM Economy Package". It appears that the printer missed applying the black ink that added these words and the detailing in the bag of gold coins in the logo! The second is the name of the album, itself. As can be seen here the cover calls it "Frankie Tommy". On the back cover it is called "Frankie and Tommy". The word "AND" is missing due to the same ink problem noted for the banner. This collector owns a second copy of this album where the black ink was correctly applied.(To view this cover as it was supposed to look, move your cursor over the album image. Move your cursor off of the image to restore the original image.)
All performances on this album were originally released on 78rpm records.
A recording session in November of 1940 produced Oh! Look at Me Now (Side 1 - Track 1) in a performance that breaks the mold for vocals. Typically the vocal came only after an extended orchestra section often featuring instrumental solos. The vocalist sang a chorus during the last third of the performance. But for this arrangement the vocal is the feature. The band opens with a surprise - no intro. Tommy Dorsey and company jump right into the chorus in an up tempo beat. At the spot where the instrumental solo usually is heard we, instead, hear Frank Sinatra delivering the lyric. But again there is a surprise. The lyric has been altered so that only Frank sings the line "Oh, Look at Me Now". Frank and Connie Haines then joins Frank and begins to trade phrases with him but when she gets to the title line it is altered to "Look at You Now". Their exchanges almost become a kind of patter. The orchestra provides a bridge then Connie Haines takes the lead with Frank offering musical asides. As before the lyric has been altered so she is describing Frank while he agrees with her assessment! The Pied Pipers join in the exchange with Connie Haines. Their part of the lyric has also been altered to state "Look at Him Now" Frank retakes the lead as the orchestra adds a tag to finish the performance. Despite the presence of Connie Haines and the Pied Pipers. with the way the lyric has been altered, it is obvious Frank Sinatra is the "star" of this performance.
This Love of Mine (Side 1 - Track 2) recorded in May 1941 presents Sinatra as a featured soloist. But just as with track 1, the performance presents some surprises. First is with the instrumentation. The session data for this recording lists Joe Bushkin as a pianist but there is no piano on this recording. Instead we hear a celesta. Since this is also a keyboard instrument it is possible that Mr. Bushkin is playing it. The second surprise is a kind of role reversal. Instead of the solo vocalist having only about a third of the performance, it is the orchestra that is given this share. Frank delivers the vocal for the other two-thirds. Curiously the vocal is only the chorus, which is delivered twice. The final surprise comes at the end of the performance as Frank adds a few words to the tag line. It is possible this is an ad-lib ending. The arrangement is a tasteful presentation of this ballad. An arpeggio on the celesta ushers in Frank Sinatra who gives a tender reading to the chorus as the orchestra provides accompaniment from the woodwinds and muted brass. When the chorus ends the orchestra takes over with the muted brass taking the melody. A lyrical muted trombone solo from Tommy Dorsey leads to a segue bringing back Frank to sing the same lyric with which he opened this number. The celesta now accompanies him. Then comes that surprise. Frank adds an "extra" line to the lyric as the celesta plays another arpeggio to end this performance. Nicely done.
Side two of the album leads off with another example of Sinatra performing with a singing group. I Guess I'll Have to Dream the Rest (Side 2- Track 1) recorded in June of 1941 pairs Frank with the Pied Pipers again. This performance completely flips the formula for a big band vocal. Sinatra and the Pied Pipers carry two thirds of the performance while Tommy Dorsey and the orchestra lead for only a chorus near the end of the number. The arrangement opens with the woodwind intro handing off to the Pied Pipers who give a "do-do-do" vocal harmony to accompany Frank as the lead vocalist. Curiously a few years later, when James Pertillo called a recording strike that all but killed the big band era, Frank Sinatra was able to continue recording using the kind of arrangement being demonstrate here - solo vocalist accompanied by a chorus. After the first chorus the woodwinds provide a bridge ushering in Frank who now blends his voice with the Pied Pipers. The mix is such that Sinatra's distinctive voice is clearly recognizable. Then Frank takes the spotlight again and delivers a second chorus as the Pied Pipers revert to the "do-do-do" accompaniment. A chorus segue brings in Tommy Dorsey with a trombone solo that is far too brief. Sinatra returns for a recap of the first chorus accompanied by the Pied Pipers doing the "do-do-do" accompaniment. Frank and the Pied Pipers blend voices for the finale.
How Do You Do Without Me (Side 2 - Track 2) recorded in September 1941 is the only example of the typical big band/vocalist formula. It is curious that after the obvious build up of Sinatra as a "star", Dorsey chose an arrangement putting Sinatra back into the role of supporting performer. The number opens with an up-beat tempo leading to Dorsey's solo trombone taking the melody lead. Instead of handing it off to the vocalist, he keeps it and delivers the first chorus as the orchestra provides accompaniment. A solo piano provides the segue bringing in Sinatra who delivers the lyric for the chorus. The piano continues as his main accompaniment. At the end of the chorus the full orchestra returns for the finale. Although this performance runs 2:58 Sinatra is heard for only 57 seconds!
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