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Thread: WATERTOWN (Reprise) 1969 

  1. #1
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    Question Watertown

    Watertown is one of my favorite Sinatra albums. A concept
    album, as I recall, it received mixed or bad reviews when it
    was new. I really like the album. There are some cuts on
    the record that I can personally relate to. I put it on a CD and play it a lot now. What do you think? John

  2. #2
    Guest

    Thumbs up Watertown

    I love Watertown. Among my favorite tracks: For A While, Watertown, Elizabeth, and Lady Day. I think the album is an absolute treasure, and a reflection of Frank's incredible gift for the performance of a variety of types of music.

    Andrea

  3. #3

    Smile WATERTOWN

    Hi, everyone: I keep WATERTOWN in my car and I think about the songs everyday......also, the liner notes are a true tribute to FRANK's musical genious....Because I live in a small town, I love the part where HE sings parts that mention life in a small town, such as, "A WAVE, AN EASY GRIN, A SMILE TO PUT THEM IN".....to me, it's a total album full of all that HE learned through his life....Thanks, I'm always ready to praise and love "WATERTOWN" any time .....DOUG OF GREENVILLE, OHIO....
    Respectfully,
    The journey's long, much longer that I reckoned, in any throng, I'd know her in a second......

  4. #4
    Guest

    Pretty good, but definitely not one of my favorites

    I have never heard the actual "Watertown" album. However, I do have "The Complete Reprise Studio Recordings" and have programmed my CD player to play all of the songs from "Watertown". Perhaps I am not getting the whole picture by listening to it in this manner.

    There is a lot to like about "Watertown". It is an interesting concept album full of imagery. It is not a traditional Sinatra album, but it works for me. Using the A-B-C-D-F scale, I would give this album a solid B.

    As a whole, I would rank this album below the Capitol concept albums recorded in the 1950's.

  5. #5
    Guest

    Watertown as a Concept Album

    I believe that "Watertown" tells a linked story, unlike
    the concept albums at Capitol. Those records held a 'theme'
    more than a story - at least in my opinion. Watertown tells
    a story that just haunts me when I hear it. John

  6. #6

    WATERTOWN (Reprise) 1969

    1. Watertown
    2. Goodbye (She Quietly Says)
    3. For a While
    4. Michael and Peter
    5. I Would Be in Love (Anyway)
    6. Elizabeth
    7. What a Funny Girl (You Used to Be)
    8. What's Now Is Now
    9. She Says
    10. The Train
    11. Lady Day*

    *Reprise CD Bonus track, not on the original Vinyl LP or UMG re-issue.

    tracks 1, 3, 4, 6, 7 arranged and conducted by Charled Calello
    tracks 5, 10, 9 arranged and conducted by Joseph Scott
    tracks 2, 8 arranged by Joseph Scott, conducted by Charles Calello
    tracks 11 arranged by Charles Calello, conducted by Joseph Scott

    Original recording released through Reprise


    Re-released through Universal Music Group 2010

  7. #7
    Guest
    Released in 1970, "Watertown" has the distinction of being Sinatra's worst charting album of all-new material; it peaked at #101 on the Billboard charts.

    "Watertown" elicits strong reactions, both positive and negative, from Sinatra fans. Personally, I think the rock-styled arrangements aren't appropriate for FS, though his singing is wonderful, and I can never quite bring myself to think of Frank as a small town divorcee. Apparently the record buying public felt the same way when the album came out.

    PJ

  8. #8
    Guest
    For me, Watertown was an instant love affair. When I started collecting Sinatra's albums in the 80s, Watertown was nearly impossible to find over here (Germany) in the record shops. I borrowed the LP from a friend's father and taped it, and was captured on the spot by what I still consider the most unsual beauty of any Sinatra album. Finally, I tracked down a second-hand copy, and wore it out. I just LOVED this!

    There are quite a few facts surrounding the making of this album that explain why it partly was a failure, album-wise. The Reprise CD-reissue of the early 90s, however, contained an excellent booklet and liner notes conceived by Ed O'Brien that tried to explain the reasons for the shortcomings, also by printing an extensive interview with the album's songwriters, Bob Gaudio and Jake Holmes. It's certainly the best researched booklet of all Reprise CD reissues.

    The set was originally planned to become a TV special, and the story, in my opinion, would have been very suitable for it. In fact, this might very well be the Sinatra concept album with the most coherent stories of all albums!

    The CD also for the first time issued the "Lady Day" version (track 11) made for the album that was not present on the original LP.
    (Eddy, you should edit your original posting and mark that fact in the track list).

    Sinatra sings the character of a small town divorcee with great passion, and some of his very best vocals of his later Reprise years before the retirement. "Michael and Peter" is a definite highlight of the set.

    Also, while I would always agree that "rock-styled" arrangements don't fit Sinatra well, I don't think Watertown falls into this category (rock? where?), strongly opposing the views Friedwald has written down in his great book "Sinatra! The Song Is You".

    Sinatra, of course, recorded the whole album by overdubbing his vocals on previously laid-down orchestral tracks, a fact that might result in a certain lack of 'live' studio interaction between musicians and singer. But it doesn't take away from his performance, in this case, in my opinion.

    Maybe this album was just anticipating times. Today, I think, it stands out as a classic - not the type of classic you are used to from Sinatra, but nevertheless, a most poignant one.

    In short: Book me to the "strong positive reactions" category

    Bernhard.


  9. #9
    Guest
    As usual, another excellent review by Bernhard. This cd is one of my favorites. The liner notes by O'Brien are excellent.

    The cd is an entire story, set to music. And a sad story, at that.

  10. #10

    Watertown

    I was just listening to this cd last week and appeciating more than ever. I bought the album when it came out in the spring of '70 (complete with sepia-toned poster) and wanted to like it but it never became one of my favorites. Still, I find it to be a very special Sinatra recording. The story, of course, is very sad; the decision to eliminate "Lady Day" was a good one; "The Train" makes a hard-hitting ending.
    Sinatra was having throat problems at this time and there's too much vocal straining in these recordings, although some straining makes the work more dramatic. The orchestrations, as the new liner notes point out, were intentionally hard-edged and a little hard to love. And, even on the remastered cd, the sound is not particularly good.
    All that having been said, Sinatra finds a way to relate to this music and puts his heart into it...and that ultimately make it work.
    Part of the reason this album failed commercially could be that it so closely followed the Man Alone album, about five months, so the Sinatra ballad fans had either just bought the McKuen album or had the two from which to choose. I do remember the Columbia Record Club made Watertown an album of the month (meaning they sent it to you automatically if you didn't send your card back in time).
    It turns out A Man Alone was a disappointing album commercially too. It was only a matter of months later that Frank announced his retirement; certainly his problems adjusting to new public tastes were part of his decision.

  11. #11
    Guest
    Rich, you make some very good points here. Especially,

    ***Sinatra was having throat problems at this time and there's too much vocal straining in these recordings, although some straining makes the work more dramatic***

    I would like to underline that in a sense. Only that I don't think Sinatra sounds *really* strained on "Watertown" (for throat problems, I would rather refer to 'Live At The Sands' that carrys so much the natural strain of a singer being recorded in the 4th week of a daily engagement). But I think Sinatra's vocals might have been (even) better on Watertown if it hadn't been for the overdub decision. None of the tracks were recorded 'on the spot' with FS and orchestra together, as he usually did.

    But what I would second the most in your comment, is that the 'faults' in his voice make the sounds more dramatic. Definetely so, and they do so in a somewhat congenial way, since most of the Watertown songs are about longing and regret.

    This is maybe the first album by Sinatra (anticipating things to come) that shows that "strictly pure" vocal perfection was NOT needed by Sinatra the unique vocal artist to achieve his magic. Or rather, the LYRICAL artist I should say. His sense of phrasing a lyric so intimately that it reaches right down deep into your heart & soul from the mikrophone never cheated Sinatra. He even had it at age 76 when recording "One For My Baby" for duets.

    And in the special context of 'Watertown', what better voice singing the recollections of that small town divorcee than a grand singer with a *slightly broken* voice? Just the way the 'divorcee character' himself is 'slightly broken'.

    And the *slightlyness* is what makes Sinatra's vocal performance so stunningly beautiful in this album, I think. The way his voice is keeping the balance (and thus, reflecting the divorcee's soul's balance) between hope and loss is striking.

    I'd call that a perfect match!

    Bernhard.

  12. #12
    Guest
    Interesting that you, Bernhard, should bring up the point that vocal perfection was not required by Sinatra to make a song meaningful. Sinatra is one of the few performers who was able to continue to sing certain standards throughout his career that he first recorded as a younger man -- and still give them meaning. Because of his "conversational" style and intimate way with a lyric, you could believe him singing about the girl who got away whether he was a younger man (brash, full of himself, full of anger and hurt at his loss) or a world-weary late 60s or early 70s year old man, who rails against his loss in that same song, while also accepting it with a bitter resignation and knowing that it might be the last time he'll feel that deeply.

    Sinatra was more the actor in his songs than in some of his movies. I think that this comes out also in "Watertown" -- I think the trick is not to "see" the singer as Sinatra, but to listen to that weary voice and hear the story of this confused and hurt man in "Watertown."

  13. #13
    Guest

    Thumbs up "Watertown" (a love story)

    As always, Bernard, your comments should push everyone to find this excellent, unparalled FAS recording!

    Personally, It took a while to be convinced, but w/the assurrance of the forum members, I did so. I must admit, upon the first listening, was a bit taken aback. But then gave it another chance, followed along w/the lyrics included w/the CD, and it has literally taken ahold and will not let go! "What a funny girl you used to be!"

    My only derrogatory comment would be "Lady Day." I think it just seems to hang there, waiting. I love the song itself, but it just didn't seem to go at the ending of this amazing recording. I know it was written for Billy Holliday, but INHO, should have been eliminated, but what do I know! Frankly, (!) think it confused the flow and continunity of the love story!

    "After a quarter-century in exile, the most unconventional album of Frank Sinatra's career has finally been freed. Watertown is back. Though its commercial success has been elusive, over the years it has garnered a serious cult following among dedicated connoisseurs of popular American music. Watertown might appear to be a simple story of love gone awry, but a careful listening reveals it is much more than it seems on the surface.


    You're in for a special treat if you don't have Watertown in your Sinatra library!


  14. #14
    As I stated, on a similar thread, a couple of years ago, Watertown is my favorite Sinatra album. I never had to listen to it a 'couple of times', I loved it the first time I heard it. And the first time I heard it, I heard it about seven times in a row. Frankly, (no pun intended) it just blew me away !

    I don't think Frank had a sore throat, nor do I think he sang it poorly. I think he sang Watertown with that tone, intentionally.

    It isn't just music, it is poetry and art of the higheat calibre. Originally I bought the LP and when I heard it, I went out and bought an 'insurance copy' in case anything ever happened to the first one. I now, also own the CD.

    Way back then, I use to work in broadcasting and I hated it when the station would pull a single from the Watertown album for air play. That entire album is a song and picking one song for air play is wrong. It would be the same as reciting the fifth and sixth line of a play by Shakespeare and thinking you understood the play.

    Watertown is a work of art that has yet to be appreciated for its' beauty and perfection.

    Now, I think you know where I stand !
    When that old man with that great big scythe comes tugging at my sleeve...I'll be singing as I leave.

  15. #15
    It's always easy to love the popular Sinatra hits. Personally I prefer the less popular ones. My girlfriend comments that I usually play the less known Sinatra tunes instead of the "My Way"s and "New York"s.
    Watertown is a marvelous album. It was ahead of its time and dealt with an issue which most people (I think) at the time couldn't really fathom. The Train is my favorite because I can visualize him standing at the station waiting for the woman. I have no problem picturing Frank as a small town divorcee because of that great acting ability, whether just vocal or vocal and visual. In Watertown I can't see Frank as the multi-millionaire saloon singer who can make it anywhere, just like in "Only The Lonely" I can't see him as a swinging entertainer. He personifies not only songs, but also albums. That's one of the reasons he stood out. He didn't specialize as much in releasing an album of songs of various moods, but in releasing albums of singular themes: happy, sad, crazy, reflective, depressed, party-on!
    Watertown is a wonderful example of a thematic album, and though it may not get the exposure it deserves, it will eventually surface.

    Support the FAS Times Square Statue
    Sleep warm all!!!!!

  16. #16

    Smile Watertown. A real painting.

    This is one of the most coolest record, in my opinion, of our Beloved Frank. The album is more than conceptual, it paints a real painting while you are hearing it.

    I have friends that enjoy only prog rock groups ( Emerson, Lake and Palmer; Pink Floyd; Genesis, Gentle Giant...) that got really turned on on this album.

    If you have Gentle Giant's "Three Friends" (1972) album, you will notice that there's a very similar child chorus like the song "She Says" on that album three years after.

    A Masterpiece !

    Gerald

  17. #17
    Guest
    I find it interesting that as far as I see we only have very positive comments on this album so far (and as I wrote earlier, I share the positive sentiments, I love the album, too).

    When it was released in March 1970, sales were rather poor, and at the Billboard album charts it only reached #101 hightest, making it the least successfull one of the hitherto Sinatra albums.

    Would you think it's because the story was too "modern" for the early 70s and goes better with today's audiences? Or is it just that now with Sinatra gone, Watertown only gets a share in the general "Sinatra revival" we've witnessed over the past few years?

    Bernhard.

  18. #18
    Bernhard,
    I think it's a mixture of both. The story was too radical for the 70's and many couldn't understand what was behind the album, in my opinion. The 70's were also a time of the funky suits and such and so to have a middle-aged man sing about losing his wife was just not what the people wanted to hear. It had no standards, which by the 70's was what Sinatra was known for, and so it suffered.
    And now with Sinatra performing at the Paradise Club people are recollecting their thoughts and starting to rediscover, or discover for the first time, albums that never really made it publicity-wise. Nowadays we can accept and/or relate the man-losing-wife topic more openly. However I won't expect this album to make any headlines in the near future; most people still haven't gone beyond the usual "My Way" and "Strangers..." romance standard songs.

    Support the FAS Times Square Statue
    Sleep warm all!!!!!

  19. Sinatra Watertown

    I love this Lp but it is very emotional to the casual Sinatra fan.
    Read deep into this Lp theres a lot there to absorb. I enjoy the record. No matter what people say...to me....there is No bad Sinatra LP.


    Domenic
    "You gotta love livin, Cuz dyin's a pain in the a**" - Francis Albert Sinatra.

  20. #20

    Thumbs up Ditto !

    << there's no bad Sinatra LP >> I agree completly with you, my Friend !

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