In these days where artists like Ash are forsaking the album and saying that they’ll only be releasing singles from now on, here’s the top ten albums from a man who did as much as anyone to introduce the idea of an album as a cohesive work of art, Frank Sinatra.
1 – In The Wee Small Hours
You can’t ever really say that one album was the very first to do something, but this is as close as you’ll get to the first great concept album, taking a collection of songs along a theme and putting them together, rather than just sticking in a bunch of singles with a bunch of other songs. It’s also one of the best albums ever made, of course, with Sinatra apparently brooding over his break-up with Ava Gardner and well in the mood for some heartbreaking torch songs, while Nelson Riddle (as ever) was on fine form with the understated arrangements.
2 – Songs For Swingin’ Lovers
Sinatra had cheered up by the time his next album came out though. From the opening jollity of You Make Me Feel So Young, this is a delightful album that demonstrates everything that was great about his voice and Riddle’s arrangements.
3 – Sings For Only The Lonely
Along with In The Wee Small Hours, this is a classic mood album and the kind of record that has probably got lonely people through many a hard night. The title track, Ebb Tide and One For My Baby (And One More For The Road) would make a great album on their own.
4 – Songs For Young Lovers
The album that changed everything. Having released a handful of patchy LPs while at Columbia, Sinatra moved to Capitol and was given free rein by Voyle Gilmore to make the extra efforts required to produce albums that was as important, if not more so, as singles. This classic was the first step in that direction.
5 – September Of My Years
Here’s another awesome concept album, based around the fact that Sinatra had reached 50 and was starting to look back upon his life and career. It’s all great, but the title track and the timeless It Was A Very Good Year sum things up perfectly.
6 – Come Fly With Me
The idea of a travel-themed album became very popular after this, with the likes of Sam Cooke copying the concept, but Sinatra pulled it off best of all, helped by the instant classic that was the title track. Apparently he hated the cover art, but it’s got its charms.
7 – Come Dance With Me!
A sequel of sorts came in the form of this record, arranged – like Fly – by Billy May, and it’s the perfect Sinatra party album, full of songs about dancing (obviously) but so much more than the kind that had gone before, which tended to be half-heartedly based around crazes like The Twist.
8 – Francis Albert Sinatra And Antonio Carlos Jobim
Well into his career and long past the point of being deemed relevant, Sinatra chose the summer of love in 1967 not to hook up with Jimi Hendrix or Janis Joplin but Antonio Carlos Jobim for a classy and restrained collaboration that brought the best out of both of them.
9 – Watertown
For possibly too much of his time on his own label Reprise, Sinatra was willing to coast a little, but every now and then he stretched himself. Watertown is one of those times, a completely uncommercial concept album based around the story of a man whose wife has left him. It didn’t do well, but has emerged as an underrated gem.
10 – She Shot Me Down
Sinatra’s final classic, featuring his version of the song made more famous by his daughter Nancy, this came out in 1981 and was a return to the torch song days of yore.