July 1999

Frank Sinatra - Sinatra '57 In Concert
DCC/Artanis Entertainment Group ARZ-101-2
Released: 1999

by Marc Mickelson

Musical Performance ****1/2
Recording Quality ***1/2
Overall Enjoyment ****

[Reviewed on CD]I’ve often wondered why remaster labels don’t search out little-known or forgotten recordings of high musical merit to work their magic on and then re-release as pseudo-new. Great music isn’t always recognized in its own time -- or even recognized at all -- and I know of more than a few recordings that are pretty much unknown but I can’t live without.

DCC and Artanis Entertainment Group have taken this idea one step further with Sinatra ’57 - In Concert and the previously released The Summit: they’ve remastered unreleased live material. Whereas The Summit was the comedic and musical work of rat-packers Sammy Davis Jr., Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra, this recording is all Sinatra, and almost all music too. From a historical perspective, this disc is significant because it’s a live recording of the Chairman, who crafted much of his musical legacy by performing live. It joins the group Sinatra at the Sands, The Main Event -- Live, and Sinatra and Sextet: Live in Paris, among others, and it gets my vote for the best of the bunch.

Many of the tunes are from Songs for Young Lovers and Songs for Swingin’ Lovers, both of which slightly pre-date this recording and were arranged by Nelson Riddle. They are also arguably two of Sinatra’s finest collections on Capitol. Consequently, "You Make Me Feel So Young," "It Happened in Monterey," "They Can’t Take That Away From Me" and "I’ve Got You Under My Skin" are here. As significant as the repertoire is the backing of the Nelson Riddle Orchestra, easily Sinatra’s most important collaborative body. Hence, the arrangements are classic music-making from Sinatra and Riddle during their most fruitful period.

Highlights abound -- almost all of the numbers are long home runs. On "At Long Last Love," Sinatra and the band work back and forth like jazz saxophonist and trumpeter, and when on "I Get a Kick Out of You" Sinatra flubs for a few bars, the band pushes ahead and he meets them again, right in time for a drum whack. Sinatra is informal throughout, ad-libbing lyrics in spots and even breaking the set in half with a monologue spiced with the requisite booze jokes and even a list of famous Americans who were drinkers. This only adds to the liveliness of this live set.

The sound is also good news. Sinatra’s voice leaps from between the speakers, not as a thin, disembodied likeness from the past, but rather as a fleshed-out semblance full of vitality. The recording is surprisingly in stereo, so the orchestra has right-to-left spread, as do the applause, enhancing the In Concert aspect of the disc. I cast my vote right now for DCC’s Steve Hoffman to re-remaster the entire Sinatra Capitol catalog.

Sinatra is one figure whose death does not resurrect his greatness -- he’ll be great for the rest of time. This disc captures him at the height of his prowess, singing a good many of his most popular songs and backed by the group of musicians that knew him best. Add to these the stunning job Steve Hoffman has done at the console and you have a pick of the month, a year's best, and one for the ages all rolled into one.