In this new series I want to share some of the vocalists who have informed my productions over the years. When I work with new vocalists I will often sit down with them and play a selection of work by several singers, not to get imitation but simply to show examples of amazing vocal control, the first one is Frank Sinatra.
One of my earliest musical memories is my Dad playing Sinatra on the piano, we also used to watch the Sinatra movies, in fact my Dad used to look like Ole Blue Eyes when he was younger. So almost before I could walk I had Frank in my life.
There's no doubt that Frank had some great songs, bands and arrangers around him, but still with all that he still managed to perform vocals unlike anyone else. Some of his best work is during his time at Capitol, this began in the early fifties, some call it Frank's comeback, although Frank hated that term as in his mind he didn't feel he had ever gone away.
One thing to note is that one of the most prolific singers of the 20th century had a perforated eardrum. It seems that talent will overcome anything.
So four songs I suggest listening to to hear Frank at his best are.
In the Wee Small Hours Of The Morning
One of the things I love about Frank's singing is the almost effortless way he performed many of his songs, he almost falls over the words, the push and pull he managed to place in a performance is a work of artistry, unequalled by few.
It Was A Very Good Year
Story telling is an essential part of a song, the evocative arrangement helps a great deal with this song, but it would be easy for the orchestral arrangement to become the star of this piece. However Sinatra seems to conduct the orchestra with his voice, this may be down to the fact that he did actually spend some time conducting orchestras. Again the combination of understatement and power in this performance are something any vocalist could learn from.
One More For My Baby (And One More For The Road)
One would assume that to perform a song like this would be relatively easy but this one song is a lesson in voice control, the entire vocal is sitting in quite a narrow dynamic range and yet Sinatra still manages to give it shades of dark and light, it rises at around 3 minutes but other than that most of the vocal is pretty low key, almost to the point of being spoken, but yet Sinatra manages to fill it with emotion.
Just in case you were thinking that Frank was a one trick pony, then this song proves his ability to knock a tune out of the park. From the very first note he hits the lyric as if he's singing the final chorus. Listen also to his voice control on the words 'Puppet' 'Pauper' 'Pirate' 'Poet' 'Pawn' both in terms of timing and the possibility of plosives taking over, this may also be a testament to the recording engineer on the session.
Legend has it that "The "scowl" in Sinatra's voice was a result of producer Jimmy Bowen telling Sinatra, after the recording session, to get out of his car and back in the studio to re-record the vocal. This made Frank VERY angry, which is evident in the song. That was the exact "feel" that Bowen wanted."
Are you a fan of Frank Sinatra? If so I'm sure I missed some other great examples of his work, let me know in the comments.