Romance: Songs from the Heart
First Appeared in The Music Box, February 2007, Volume 14, #2
Written by John Metzger
Frank Sinatra first caught the public’s attention via his performances with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra. Soon thereafter, he joined the Columbia family, became a star, and parlayed his success into a film career with MGM. Although he later became an icon with Capitol, he lost nearly everything in between.
The early 1950s were particularly difficult for Sinatra, and he was forced to rebuild both his career and his life. When he finally was able to land a new recording contract, Capitol initially gave him only 12 months to prove his worth. The company not only refused to provide him with an advance but it also forced him to foot the bill for his own recordings. Not surprisingly, the first two endeavors that Sinatra produced for Capitol (Songs for Young Lovers and Swing Easy!) featured merely eight tracks a piece, making them unusually short affairs even by the prevailing standards of the day. Nevertheless, he was successful enough at repositioning himself in the marketplace that Capitol extended his contract. With his confidence restored, Sinatra returned to making full-length endeavors, and he quickly demonstrated how determined he was to re-conquer the world.
Sinatra’s stint with Capitol lasted for eight years — from 1953 until 1961 — and understandably, his material from this era has been packaged and repackaged countless times. Therefore, the recently issued, 21-track set Romance: Songs from the Heart is just the latest retrospective to focus on this period of his career, though it boasts a unique twist. Instead of presenting another view of his hit singles, it digs deeper into Sinatra's canon, focusing its attention upon some of the less familiar moments of his work. Four tracks on the outing (Day by Day, I’ve Got a Crush on You, I’ll Be Seeing You, and Almost Like Being in Love) are reconfigured renditions of tunes he had tackled during the 1940s, while Nice ’n‘ Easy is presented as a previously unreleased, alternate take. The only actual single on the set is All the Way, though many of the other selections — My Funny Valentine, As Time Goes By, and Cheek to Cheek, among them — have become an integral part of American pop culture via other artists’ interpretations.
Nevertheless, Romance: Songs from the Heart has one major flaw: Its sequencing isn’t terribly organic. Where Sinatra’s hits are able to stand on their own, separate from the albums on which they initially were released, the deeper cuts that completed his efforts falter because they were meant to complement and enhance whatever ambience he was trying to create. On Romance: Songs from the Heart, the individual components, good as they are, can’t help but to feel jumbled and out of place. Although the outing covers a lot of ground as it jumps from big band romanticism to brooding reflections upon love — while also setting to Nelson Riddle’s stunning orchestrations material that was penned by the likes of Cole Porter, Johnny Mercer, George Gershwin, and Irving Berlin — its otherwise stellar moments are undermined by a lack of context. This might seem like a minor quibble considering that most of his recordings for Capitol are indisputable classics, but one of the reasons that they were so powerful was that the moody atmospheres that he created were as important as the words that he sang. ½
Of Further Interest...
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2007 The Music Box