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Expanding on the concept of Songs for Young Lovers!, In the Wee Small Hours was a collection of ballads arranged by Nelson Riddle. The first 12″ album recorded by Sinatra, Wee Small Hours was more focused and concentrated than his two earlier concept records. It’s a blue, melancholy album, built around a spare rhythm section featuring a rhythm guitar, celesta, and Bill Miller’s piano, with gently aching strings added every once and a while. Within that melancholy mood is one of Sinatra’s most jazz-oriented performances — he restructures the melody and Miller’s playing is bold throughout the record. Where Songs for Young Lovers! emphasized the romantic aspects of the songs, Sinatra sounds like a lonely, broken man on In the Wee Small Hours. Beginning with the newly written title song, the singer goes through a series of standards that are lonely and desolate. In many ways, the album is a personal reflection of the heartbreak of his doomed love affair with actress Ava Gardner, and the standards that he sings form their own story when collected together. Sinatra’s voice had deepened and worn to the point where his delivery seems ravished and heartfelt, as if he were living the songs.

Originally, Frank Sinatra had planned to record Only the Lonely with Gordon Jenkins, who had arranged his previous all-ballads album, Where Are You. Jenkins was unavailable at the time of the sessions, which led Sinatra back to his original arranger at Capitol, Nelson Riddle. The result is arguably his greatest ballads album. Only the Lonely follows the same formula as his previous down albums, but the tone is considerably bleaker and more desperate. Riddle used a larger orchestra for the album than he had in the past, which lent the album a stately, nearly classical atmosphere. At its core, however, the album is a set of brooding saloon songs, highlighted by two of Sinatra’s tour de forces — “Angel Eyes” and “One for My Baby.” Sinatra never forces emotion out of the lyric, he lets everything flow naturally, with grace. It’s a heartbreaking record, the ideal late-night album.

-Stephen Thomas Erlewine, allmusic.com

DOWNLOAD:
IN THE WEE SMALLS HOURS (1954)
ONLY THE LONELY (1958)
320kbps

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3 Comments

  1. As I scroll through your blog, I'm amazed by the lack of comments. Your blog is right up there with Never Get Out Of The Boat in terms of smart choices, maybe even ahead, and the big cover scans are a welcome touch.I've loved these Sinatra albums for years; melancholia doesn't get any lovelier than this. Even those who thing he's "not for them" will find a lot to enjoy and admire here.(On a different note – I think you'd enjoy Kevin Dunn and the Monstrous Regiment – an obscure electropop album somewhat in the mold of the Trees album.)

  2. Double-dip: your links are swapped (to download one, click the other).

  3. Thanks for the heads up and the kind words, fixed!


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