As I said when I began The Strawfoot the primary focus of the blog is the American Civil War. I say primary because life is too large to focus exclusively on any one thing, even if that “one thing” is our nation’s seminal event. In this post I turn our attention to Old Blue Eyes.
Not long ago something came in the mail from Ye Olde Online Retailer. It was the Frank Sinatra: Concert Collection. The seven dvd set is the gift that keeps on giving with over fourteen hours of concert and television material and a forty-three page booklet.
Sinatra had been on television almost since the medium’s beginning. His first ever appearance on the small screen came as a guest on Bob Hope’s vaudevillian Star Spangled Revue. During his wilderness years in the early 1950s Sinatra had his own show on CBS called, appropriately enough, The Frank Sinatra Show. A decade later, after The Comeback, there was the Frank Sinatra-Timex Show on ABC. It was here that Sinatra scored his coup with the “Welcome Home Elvis” special in 1960. Welcoming The King home may have been the Chairman of the Board’s only highlight as a regular television host. Sinatra and television were just never a good fit. Gone on the small screen were the grace and confidence he commanded while on stage with a microphone in his hand. And his attempts at comedy? I won’t go there.
Thankfully none of this is present in the Concert Collection. It’s all about the music. And what music it is.
The set was produced by the folks at Shout! Factory, a company begun in 2003 by some guys who had worked previously at Rhino Records. In its short history Shout! Factory has produced sets on Second City Television (SCTV), Lenny Bruce, and the wonderful Dick Cavett Show—Rock Icons, among other things. With Sinatra they have outdone even themselves.
There are no stilted skits or cringe-inducing monologues here. The focus is on Sinatra’s day job. Here in one place are the “Man and His Music” specials of the 1960s. The first special was in 1965, when Sinatra was on the cusp of turning fifty. Sinatra produced such specials annually for the next few years, jamming with artists as disparate as Antonio Carlos Jobim, Ella Fitzgerald, the 5th Dimension, and Diahann Carroll. These affairs were so special precisely because they were so rare. Released from the burden of creating content regularly, Sinatra and his guests exude an energy missing from his previous television efforts.
Then there is the concert footage. Most of the live sets come from the 1970s and 80s, when Sinatra was recording less but touring frequently in front of rapt audiences. There are many highlights but my favorite is The Main Event from 1974. Sinatra always had a tad more energy when playing for a New York audience and this is apparent here on this set. He enters Madison Square Garden with the grace of a seasoned prize fighter. The set is worth the money just to hear the introduction by Howard Cosell.
There is even more but I won’t go on. Sinatra’s art speaks for itself.
Thanks for checking in.