Thursday, June 25, 2015

Blame it on the bossa nova

It's wreaking havoc with my list. The week before last I was browsing through Will Friedwald's excellent book, Sinatra! The Song Is You, seeing what he had to say about the recording of Johnny Mercer's "Drinking Again" (#54). The song was arranged by Claus Ogerman, who also arranged Frank's lovely 1967 bossa nova album with Antonio Jobim.

Then I came across this passage:
Rather than tentatively dipping his toes into this particular lagoon, Sinatra elected to dive in headfirst. His rationale seemed to be that although other singers [. . .] had gotten there first, he would get there with the most. No other American pop star would so thoroughly immerse himself in the world of bossa; he not only recorded two whole albums' worth of the stuff but sacrificed his signature stylistics in order to more smoothly fit into the new vernacular. The two albums were Francis Albert Sinatra & Antonio Carlos Jobim (1967) and Sinatra-Jobim (1969), although the latter was not issued as Sinatra had originally intended. (p 426)
What? Two albums? I only knew about the first one. Mind you, before embarking on my year-long tribute I tried to cover my bases and make sure I was familiar with most of Sinatra's work. But there's a heck of a lot of it, and, somehow, I missed this album altogether. Normally, though, with Frank's later LPs, a blind spot wouldn't have mattered much as far as my list was concerned; if there was anything really great on it, I'd already know it. And if I had found this CD a few months ago, I could have made room for a new favorite or two, if any of them were that good.

It turns out the songs are that good. The album is great, in fact, maybe better than the first one. So if the bad news is that, at the halfway point, it's too late for me to squeeze new favorites into my countdown, where several of them surely belong, the wonderful news is that I've been given a gift I didn't anticipate: new (to me) top-tier Sinatra songs.

If I had it to do over again, instead of one song from the first Jobim album (coming up in a few weeks), I would have included four or five, two from the first album and the rest from the second.

The 1969 album was arranged by Eumir Deodato. Here's the quirky duet with Jobim, "Desafinado." Sinatra's last part, starting with "Possibly in vain," is as beautiful as anything he's ever sung:

That melody is a lovely, delicate creature and Sinatra handles it with care. If only he had finished the song himself. But it's delightful as it is.

Next up, "Wave," (included on the Ultimate Sinatra CD):

I don't know how this stunning recording escaped my attention but I'm thrilled to know it now. Easily a top 25 or 40 song.

The third one, my current favorite, is "Drinking Water." I don't think I've played a track over and over again like this since I was a brand-new Sinatra fan and had just gotten my hands on "Summer Wind."

Oh my. That first line --
Your love is rain, my heart the flower
-- has Sinatra ever sounded better? And the lines he sings in Portuguese -- wow.

All the songs were written by the prolific, immensely talented Jobim. Sinatra's work with him is right up there with his Basie stuff. There's some serious bossa nova exploration in my future.

The two Jobim CDs -- perfect summer music -- have been combined into one CD. Find it here.

(When I get up to my already-planned song from the first Jobim album, I'll piggy-back a newly emerged favorite from that CD onto the post. Stay tuned.)

No comments:

Post a Comment