Sings for Only the Lonely
Love Trouble, Made Beautiful
The time, as the classic taproom ode "One for My Baby" tells us, is quarter to three. In the thick haze of this album, though, it feels later. And lonelier. These are the wee small hours when Frank Sinatra, world's greatest saloon singer, is in his element, presiding over a kind of barstool catharsis that spreads the hurt around. He tells about the great love that has crumbled (or is crumbling). His voice trembles, and every tick is part of the portrait of a brave former romantic in defeat. He plays this type with great empathy, as a wounded Everyman—one of so many characters who lurk in the lounge nursing their disappointment, bending the ear of the barkeep, seeking consolation in the woozy hues of jazz and cocktails.
The sad songs come one after another on this album, Sinatra's definitive ballad collection. They include grand rushes of futile hope ("What's New?"), self-pitying realizations ("Guess I'll Hang My Tears Out to Dry"), and moments of delicious, carefully wrought bittersweetness ("Spring Is Here"). Each selection touches on a different aftershock of romance: Following one chorus of "Willow Weep for Me" that catches Sinatra at what sounds like a rock-bottom low point, arranger Nelson Riddle begins the last stanza with a woeful descending string line that plunges the mood deeper into despair. The moment is so heavy you may find yourself actually relieved when the song ends.
This album consists of fourteen downers in a row. Even skilled singers have trouble sustaining that type of spell. Sinatra, though, flourishes. One or two slow weepers is not enough for him. He needs every one of these songs to even begin to address the wonder of romance and the endlessness of its disappointments.
Released: 1958, Capitol
Key Tracks: "Angel Eyes," "What's New?," "Willow Weep for Me," "One for My Baby," "Spring Is Here."
Catalog Choice: In the Wee Small Hours; Sinatra & Strings; September of My Years.
Next Stop: Jimmy Scott: Falling in Love Is Wonderful
After That: Chet Baker: Let's Get Lost
Book Pages: 707–708