February 2007

Frank Sinatra - Sinatra: Vegas
Reprise Records R2 74075
Format: CD + DVD
Released: 2006

by Joseph Taylor

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

For entertainers of my parents’ generation, playing Las Vegas was a sure sign they had made it to the top. No single performer defined the city and its style more than Frank Sinatra. As Charles Pignone points out in the booklet that accompanies Sinatra: Vegas, "…next to legalized gambling, nothing has been more beneficial to Las Vegas than Sinatra." This set contains five Vegas performances by the singer, beginning with a 1961 show at the Sands, and closing with a 1987 appearance at the Golden Nugget. Four of the shows are on CD and one, from 1978, is on DVD.

Sinatra rehearsed his bands until they were sharp and swinging. Playing behind the Chairman was a prestige gig, and one of the great pleasures of Sinatra:Vegas is hearing the singer and his backing musicians at the top of their game. Disc 2, a 1966 recording from the same shows with Count Basie that produced Sinatra at the Sands, is the strongest of the four discs. The Basie band is fierce and commanding, and Sinatra relishes performing his craft in front of such a powerful group of musicians. While Sinatra's voice is strongest in the 1961 and 1966 shows, in later years his interpretations often reveal an older man’s deeper understanding of the lyrics.

The DVD is well mixed in three formats (PCM mono, Dolby 2.0, and Dolby 5.1), but it has the weakest of the five shows, perhaps because Sinatra is a little too aware of the TV cameras. Even on a slightly off night, Sinatra was still Sinatra, and Sinatra:Vegas will be essential to any Sinatraphile.