By 1967, bossa nova had become quite popular within jazz and traditional pop audiences, yet Frank Sinatra hadn’t attempted any Brazil-influenced material. Sinatra decided to record a full-fledged bossa nova album with the genre’s leading composer, Antonio Carlos Jobim. Arranged by Claus Ogerman and featuring Jobim on guitar and backing vocals, Francis Albert Sinatra & Antonio Carlos Jobim concentrated on Jobim’s originals, adding three American classics — “Baubles, Bangles and Beads,” “Change Partners,” and “I Concentrate on You” — that were rearranged to suit bossa nova conventions. The result was a subdued, quiet album that used the Latin rhythms as a foundation, not as a focal point. Supported by a relaxed, sympathetic arrangement of muted brass, simmering percussion, soft strings, and Jobim’s lilting guitar, Sinatra turns in an especially noteworthy performance; he has never sounded so subtle, underplaying every line he delivers and showcasing vocal techniques that he never had displayed before. Francis Albert Sinatra & Antonio Carlos Jobim doesn’t reveal its pleasures immediately; the album is too textured and understated to be fully appreciated within one listen. After a few plays, the album begins to slowly work its way underneath a listener’s skin, and it emerges as one of his most rewarding albums of the ’60s.
Watertown is Frank Sinatra’s most ambitious concept album, as well as his most difficult record. Not only does it tell a full-fledged story, it is his most explicit attempt at rock-oriented pop. Since the main composer of Watertown is Bob Gaudio, the author of the Four Seasons’ hits “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You,” “Walk Like a Man,” and “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” that doesn’t come as a surprise. With Jake Holmes, Gaudio created a song cycle concerning a middle-aged, small-town man whose wife had left him with the kids. Constructed as a series of brief lyrical snapshots that read like letters or soliloquies, the culminating effect of the songs is an atmosphere of loneliness, but it is a loneliness without much hope or romance — it is the sound of a broken man. Producer Charles Calello arranged musical backdrops that conveyed the despair of the lyrics. Weaving together prominent electric guitars, keyboards, drum kits, and light strings, Calello uses pop/rock instrumentations and production techniques, but that doesn’t prevent Sinatra from warming to the material. In fact, he turns in a wonderful performance, drawing out every emotion from the lyrics, giving the album’s character depth.
-Stephen Thomas Erlewine, allmusic.com