Frank Sinatra and Las Vegas had a uniquely symbiotic relationship. Las Vegas helped resurrect Sinatra’s career and turned him from a big band singer into a polished entertainer, and Sinatra turned Las Vegas into ground zero for sophisticated adult entertainment. The brilliant vocal phrasings that became his trademark on his Capitol recordings of the 1950s and the ring-a-ding-ding attitude that took him into the 1960s were given their road tests on the stages of Las Vegas. The development of live sets in which every song fit into a compelling arc, also influenced his albums, which became more holistic, and in a few cases, thematic. The stage banter, and the ease with which it was dispensed, became the backbone of his film and television personality.
Sinatra played Vegas off and on for forty-four years, starting out at the Desert Inn in 1951 and bowing goodbye at the MGM Grand in 1994. In between he reigned over the Copa room at the Sands through much of the ‘50s and early ‘60s, and afterwards continued to sell out shows at Caesar’s, Bally’s, the Golden Nugget and Riviera. A number of Sinatra’s Vegas performances have been issued before, including the superb Sinatra at the Sands, the Sinatra/Martin/Davis Rat Pack: Live at the Sands, and the multidisc box set Sinatra: Vegas. This single CD is excerpted from the latter, selecting tracks from 1961 and 1966 shows at the Sands, a 1982 date at Caesar’s and a 1987 date at the Golden Nugget.
The Sands recordings are some of Sinatra’s very best. The earlier date finds him capitalizing on the success he’d found throughout the 1950s, and the later date finds him backed by the ferocious swing of Count Basie’s band. The confidence with which Sinatra sings is completely mesmerizing, whether he’s contemplating the ballad “Moonlight in Vermont,” inserting hipster lingo into “The Lady is a Tramp” or blowing away the room with “Luck Be a Lady.” These appear to be alternate performances from the takes on the 1966 live album, giving fans an opportunity to hear how Sinatra kept his act fresh every night. The set includes some of Sinatra’s stage patter and story telling, including a lengthy monologue that shows how complete an entertainer he’d become.
By the 1980s Sinatra’s voice had begun to show signs of age. But while his tone was perfect and his notes weren’t always tightly held, his artistry was intact and his ability to entertain still on full display. The jazz combo on “I Can’t Get Started” provides an intimate backing that perfectly matches the introspective tone Sinatra struck in his sixties, and the set stretches from early standards (“All of Nothing at All” in a then-new arrangement by Nelson Riddle) to latest successes (“Theme from New York, New York”). The sound quality throughout this disc is terrific, and though you don’t get the thrill of a single night’s full performance, the songs are well sequenced. Charles Pignone’s liner notes from the box set are excerpted for the 20-page booklet.
Feb 17, 2011
FRANK SINATRA, “Best of Vegas” (Concord) 4.5/5 Stars — No entertainers are more closely associated with Las Vegas than Frank Sinatra. Not Siegfried & Roy. Not Liberace. Not Wayne Newton. Not even the annoying Blue Man Group. From his first appearance in Sin City in 1951 until his 1997 swan song, Ol’ Blue Eyes entertained hundreds of thousands of people as he helped put Vegas on the map. Over the course of one glorious hour, “Best of Vegas” transports us to a time when the Rat Pack ruled the roost and Sinatra was their undisputed king.
The 17 tracks are gleaned from four famous performances — 1961 and 1966 sets at the Sands, a 1982 gig at Caesar’s Palace and a 1987 show at the Golden Nugget — and show how Sinatra commanded the room. “Best of Vegas” includes signature songs “The Lady Is a Tramp,” “I’ve Got You Under My Skin,” “Fly Me to the Moon (In Other Words),” “Luck Be a Lady” and “Witchcraft,” plus stellar readings of “Moonlight In Vermont,” “Street of Dreams,” and “Angel Eyes.” There’s also an extended monologue in which Sinatra takes some good-natured jabs at fellow Rat Packers Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr.
There are literally hundreds of Sinatra collections available these days. “Best of Sinatra” ranks right up there with any of them. (JS)
Feb 17, 2011
The Daily News
"Don't you love the sound of the big band?" an exuberant Frank Sinatra asked his audience in a spirited version of "Pennies From Heaven" recorded in 1987 at the Golden Nugget in Las Vegas. This recording is one of the many highlights of Frank Sinatra - Best of Vegas.
Best of Vegas collects songs from four of the five shows included in the essential box, Sinatra - Vegas, originally released in 2006 and covers a 26-year time period between 1961 and 1987. Tracks from the 1978 Caesar's Palace show, originally included as a DVD in Sinatra - Vegas, are conspicuous in their absence from this collection. They'd have made a welcome addition, as they are currently unavailable commercially on CD.
What is included though is prime Sinatra, from his cocky, swinging Rat Pack era to a more humble, older Sinatra, basking in the glow of the songs and their arrangements. The CD is presented roughly in chronological order, beginning with the 1961 tracks and finishing with the 1987 tracks, save for "Theme From New York, New York," which is taken from the 1982 Caesar's Palace show.
Highlights of the 1961 set include a stunning "Moonlight in Vermont," which Sinatra keeps from getting too serious by making an off-color comment toward the end. Similarly, he assures the crowd during a swinging "The Lady is a Tramp" that "smuck" isn't dirty the way he says it. Sinatra is on top of his game here in voice and attitude and he knows it.
Next up are songs from the 1966 run at the Sands Hotel with Count Basie and his Orchestra conducted by Quincy Jones. When Sinatra tells the crowd during a killer "I've Got You Under My Skin" that they were "going to take this here building and move it three feet that way – now" it really seems as if he and the band might be able to pull it off. Equally stirring are the versions of "Fly Me to the Moon (In Other Words)" and "Luck Be A Lady," also from 1966. Sinatra's monologue also comes from this show and he's in rare form, riffing on Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., alcohol and the Catholic Church. It's Sinatra at his irreverent best.
We jump to 1982 for the next set of songs, which includes some of the oldest material on the disc, including "Without a Song" from the Tommy Dorsey era, with the original arrangement no less, and "All or Nothing At All" from Sinatra's days with Harry James with a then-new arrangement by Nelson Riddle. Sinatra's voice is older, but still strong in this set and offers maturity not possible in the 1961 set.
The three songs from 1987 show that even into his '70s, Sinatra still could deliver live. The highlight of the show and one of the highlights of the disc is the stark rendering of the classic saloon song, "Angel Eyes." Sinatra's older voice gives the song an authenticity that might be lost on younger singers. The listener gets the impression he lived this song.
The good and bad thing about Best of Vegas is it leaves the listener wanting more. That's the idea of course, as people will want to pick up the Vegas box after hearing this. The other issue is that while Sinatra's voice sounds fine throughout, it does sound different as the CD advances to the '80s material. Still, the performances are all top notch and listeners wanting a taste of the adult-oriented Vegas Sinatra knew was all about would do well to start with this CD.
Feb 04, 2011
In 2008 Rhino released the box set Sinatra: Vegas, a collection of five separate concerts by The Voice. Each show got a disc: November 1961 at the Sands; early ’66 also at the Sands; March 1982 at Caesar’s Palace; and April 1987 at the Golden Nugget. (A DVD covered an additional show from Caesar’s in the late 70s). This musical travelogue through Frank Sinatra’s Vegas years was an essential artifact for the Sinatra aficionado. For everyone else, it was a bit pricey and perhaps excessive.
So in 2011 Concord — to whom much of Sinatra’s catalog has now reverted — remedies this situation with a single-disc distillation from the four audio recordings. Best of Vegas plays like a single concert, beginning with the emcee’s announcement and Sinatra’s walk-on, backed by Antonio Morelli & His Orchestra. On the first four tracks from this date, the band swings tightly while Frank himself is pretty loose. Plenty of “goddamns” and lyrical ad-libs fly, but Sinatra remains clearly in control, and at or near the top of his game. The song selection is unassailable: “”The One I Love Belongs to Somebody Else,” “The Lady is a Tramp.”
Five songs follow from the ’66 date with the impressive, amazing support of Count Basie & His Orchestra conducted by Quincy Jones. This section — with a swaggering Sinatra — is the best of the lot, but the song selection is a big part of this success. Cole Porter’s “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” is a highlight among highlights. Rarely has a singer sounded as self-assured as Sinatra on these tracks. That self-assurance is clearly earned. The playfulness remains, and at this stage it still has an air of genuineness. Years later, some of the delivery feels “Vegas-y” but in 1966 it was still fresh, not having been parodied to death at that point.
After a one-minute instrumental intro, Sinatra embarks on nearly seven minutes of what can only be described as standup comedy. His timing is impeccable, and while some of the jokes might fall flat in the 21st century (a number are decidedly dated, taboo and off-color by modern standards), Sinatra delivers the lines well.
By 1982, Sinatra was a towering institution; his presence all-but-literally towered over Vegas, as Charles Pignone’s liner notes point out. Past his prime but still in control of his instrument, here the Chairman dials back the intensity of the performance, with a song selection to match. The shtick and patter are more by rote here, but on songs like “All or Nothing at All” he still delivers the goods. But the cracks are showing a bit.
The band is more impressive on the 1987 cuts, but Sinatra’s voice is appreciably thinner here as well. Unassailable song choices serve to make the most of Sinatra’s diminished abilities, but even here at age 72 he could still run vocal circles around any so-called competition. Sinatra makes a point of identifying the composer and arranger of each song; classy, since he was likely under no obligation to do so. The man gave credit where it was due. “Pennies From Heaven” is the highlight here.
The entire disc is flawlessly sequenced, truly giving the feel of some sort of time-traveling single concert. The changes in Sinatra’s abilities are not so great as to be very noticeable when listening in sequence; putting the CD on shuffle might result in a jarring and less pleasing) experience. And the producers have minimized the sonic differences of the four performances, assign to the disc’s seamlessness. The disc wraps up like you thought it would: the “Theme from ‘New York New York’” is taken from the 1982 date, and here both Sinatra and the band pull out all the stops.
An expert distillation of four historically representative shows, Frank Sinatra’s Best of Vegas is a fine listen start to finish. It stands well on its own, and can serve equally well as a sampler of sorts for anyone considering purchase of the 2008 box set.
Feb 04, 2011
On February 15, 2011, Concord Records releases an electrifying fourteen-song collection of Ol' Blue Eyes era-defining ballads, Frank Sinatra: The Best of Vegas. Sinatra was a world-class performer who could mesmerize audiences anywhere in the world, but he was particularly in his element in Las Vegas. The sleepless town helped reignite his career and he enhanced its image, solidifying Sin City's spot on the map of pleasure capitals. Some of his premiere moments in the City of Lights are captured on Frank Sinatra: The Best of Vegas, a cocktail-and-cigarette journey through his timeless standards.
What makes this a winning compilation is not only the selection of Sinatra swizzle stick favorites, but the way Vegas permeates every track. During Sinatra's monologue, he converses with the audience, his wry, unaffected, un-politically correct dialogue refreshing yet rough as rawhide, with the sounds of ice clinking on the sides of glasses in the background an added touch of Glitter Gulch flavor.
The record opens with the emcee introducing Sinatra, who launches into the swinging "The One I Love Belongs to Someone Else," followed by the classy, silky "Moonlight in Vermont." The "The Lady is a Tramp," "I've Got You Under My Skin," "Fly Me to the Moon," and "Witchcraft" have been done by a numerous perfomers [sic] but none with the golden pipes of Sinatra, who turned every song into a master class on singing. Under license from Frank Sinatra Enterprises (FSE), these live recordings showcase Sinatra at his best at the Sands, Caesers Palace, and the Golden Nugget, from 1961-1987.
“It has been said that next to legalized gambling, nothing has been more beneficial and profitable to Las Vegas than Frank Sinatra” states The Sinatra Treasures author, Charles Pignone. Frank Sinatra: The Best of Vegas is certainly a treasure-trove of eternal songs that indeed still burn as brightly today as ever, in part due to well-packaged compilations like this one, which is a must for any diehard Sinatra fan.
Feb 02, 2011
Frank Sinatra made his Las Vegas debut at the Desert Inn during September of 1951. His last performance came in May of 1994 at the MGM Grand. During the 43 years between shows, his name became synonymous with the city.
Following Sinatra's death in 1998, the city honored him by dimming the lights on the strip. He was, without a doubt, the city’s enduring entertainment figure and helped to shape its image as one of the Meccas of entertainment.
Concord Records has now released Best Of Vegas by Frank Sinatra. Seventeen tracks from four different Vegas performances have been banded together to present an excellent overview of Sinatra at his best.
The first group of tracks was recorded at the Sands during November of 1961. Sinatra is backed by Antonio Morelli and His Orchestra. Also on hand are two of his longtime favorites, pianist Al Viola and guitarist Bill Miller. Highlights include “Moonlight In Vermont” and “The Lady Is A Tramp.”
Sinatra returned to the Sands during January and February of 1966. This time he was backed by The Count Basie Orchestra. His classic “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” is given a nice workout and is joined by “Fly Me To The Moon,” “Street Of Dreams,” and “Luck Be A Lady.” Of further interest is a monologue by Sinatra.
The next five tracks jump to March of 1982 with a performance at Caesars Palace. He has a smaller group in support, which featured guitarist Tony Mottola, pianist Vincent Falcone, bassist Gene Cherico, and drummer Irv Cotter. Songs included “All Or Nothing At All,” and the eternal “New York, New York.”
The final group of songs was recorded at the Golden Nugget during April of 1987. It’s nice to compare the singer's technique with his earlier performances, as “Witchcraft” and “Pennies From Heaven” present the mature Sinatra near the end of his career.
Sinatra was one of the great interpreters of songs of the 20th century. Best Of Vegas is a nice overview of his live style.
Jan 24, 2011
Posted by: Nancy | Jan 27, 2011 7:00 AM | Comments(0)