The Essential Frank Sinatra: The Columbia YearsThe Essential Bing Crosby: The Columbia Years

The Essential Frank Sinatra: The Columbia Years

(Columbia/Legacy)

The Essential Bing Crosby:The Columbia Years

(Columbia/Legacy)

First Appeared at The Music Box, December 2003, Volume 10, #12

Written by John Metzger

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Today’s pop stars are disposable, but back in the early half of the 20th Century, artists had the charisma and talent to keep their careers in high gear for decades. Indeed, Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby are two of the most influential and popular entertainers of all-time, and even now, an amazing 60 years — 70 in the case of Crosby — after they first began performing solo, their albums are still strong sellers, which undoubtedly explains the numerous compilations of their material that have been released over the years. These offerings include recent collections such as The Essential Frank Sinatra and The Essential Bing Crosby, both of which focus on the singers’ short-lived relationships with Columbia Records. Without question, neither set is definitive, but each offers its share of classic tunes, some of which form the bedrock of American popular culture.

Sinatra’s first successes had come as a singer with Tommy Dorsey’s big band with whom he performed on 16 Top Ten hits. He left the ensemble in 1942 to embark on a solo career, and all of the tracks featured on The Essential Frank Sinatra are culled from recordings he made between 1944 and 1952. As such, it highlights his development as a both balladeer and rival of Bing Crosby. Interestingly, eight of the album’s 15 songs are previously unreleased alternate takes, and each serves as a showcase for Sinatra’s relaxed and easy-going charm. Whether dabbling in the jazz-blues of One for My Baby (And One More for the Road), revisiting swing on Saturday Night (Is the Loneliest Night in the Week), or delivering the Gershwin classics I’ve Got a Crush on You and Someone to Watch over Me, Sinatra made it look easy and repeatedly proved why he deserved to be such a star.

Still, the very model that Sinatra followed — even as he made it his own — was that of Bing Crosby’s career. Like Sinatra, Crosby wasn’t just a recording artist, he was also a media star, and he fused a diverse array of styles into his songs, putting his own indelible stamp on them in ways that allowed him to appeal to a wide audience. Crosby’s stay at Columbia Records was even shorter than that of Sinatra, and all 16 of the tracks on The Essential Bing Crosby were recorded between 1931 and 1934, just as he was commencing his career as a solo artist. Still, many of the songs on this collection are as important as any that Crosby recorded. Gracefully moving from the sizzling strains of Sweet Georgia Brown to the socio-political aspects of Brother, Can You Spare a Dime to the romantic crooning of Beautiful Girl, they illustrate how he altered the face of popular music, while offering a terrific overview of this era of his career.

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The Essential Frank Sinatrastarstarstarstar

The Essential Bing Crosbystarstarstarstar

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The Essential Frank Sinatra is available
from Barnes & Noble. To order, Click Here!

The Essential Bing Crosby is available
from Barnes & Noble. To order, Click Here!

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Ratings

1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!

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Copyright © 2003 The Music Box