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Ol' Blue Eyes has a mixed reception for his music. Many believe that his acting was first and foremost and that his singing wasn't all that: the charisma and stage presence, along with his ties to the Kennedys and rumours of fishy business underneath the surface, were the reasons his music had so many fans.
However, I disagree, and I think this combination of two of his 1950s albums showcases just how his vocals and the certain little tweaks he puts on the notes can combine to make lovely sounds. It's the sort of album I love listening to on a beautiful sunny day, any time of the year, sunroof open on a country road. Swing Easy is the first album, originally split onto 2 sides on a 10 inch LP, four tracks on each. Songs For Young Lovers is the second, with the same number of tracks, making 16 in total for the album. By today's standards, this is about average for an album, and it's strange to think that even with the relatively short songs here, there were only 8 of them for one album at the time.
Despite a rather morose start with 'Just One Of Those Things', the catchy, upbeat and rather lengthily titled 'I'm Gonna Sit Right Down And Right Myself A Letter' makes you think back and that Sinatra doesn't do morose. Pensive, yes, thoughtful, yes, but not morose. At times, there are elements of the tracks that you would think are rather downbeat, but all it takes is the slight change of tune at the end of a note at the end of a line, and you realise that that twinkle he used to get in his eyes is probably sitting right there.
That's not to say it's all a joke. There is immense seriousness and thoughtfulness in his music, and I think this is what comes across in these tracks. When I'm down, I think of 'Wrap Your Troubles In Dreams' and my spirits seem to lift. The line 'just remember that sunshine always follows the rain' makes me smile. 'Get Happy' has a similar effect, although there's more of a frantic nature about it, to be honest. Further on, in Songs For Young Lovers, there seems to be a more romantic nature to proceedings, which is not a surprise, given the title of this part of the album, but the feel good factor for me still remains, with tracks such as 'I Get A Kick Out Of You'. This one has had a number of different versions, with words substituted as deemed appropriate, but this features a few lines that suggest drug usage, with Sinatra applying some lengthy drawn out notes and hard consonants to imply this, such as lengthening the 'f' on sniff and giving a comic air to the track. It's easy to sing along to and makes me feel good.
I guess my favourite tracks on here are 'A Foggy Day', about London, which whisks me away there when I close my eyes; and 'Sunday', about a man's working week and how the subject of his singing is what keeps him going, the line 'Sunday is my day with you' saying it all. At the time I got this album, I was working a lot of weekends and rarely got time with my family, and this was like a dreamworld being sung about for me. Now, it's a reality, and I relish every Sunday with my wife and son.
So, 16 tracks and not a bad egg in sight? Well, not quite. It's not perfect. No matter how relaxing and soothing it tries to be, 'Violets For Your Furs' irks me more than makes me want to smile. It's the very last track on the CD, and I regularly turn off before it finishes. Nor am I that much a fan of 'Little Girl Blue'. For some reason, the track just doesn't flow very well.
This double album came as no surprise with its combination of swing songs and love songs. Sinatra is known as a crooner, and this is exactly how he goes about singing these songs. Towards the end of his career, he faded somewhat and became rather generic, but this early example of his singing shows a lot of character that he carried through well into the 60s. My favourite moment of him is playing and singing 'Someone To Watch Over Me' in the film Young At Heart, and while this track isn't here on this album, its style and cheekiness very much reflects this time in Sinatra's illustrious career.
The cover art matches the songs, something which I feel is missing in a lot of modern albums, irrelevant of the artist or band. It shows Sinatra gazing at an elevated angle, arms crossed, wearing a suit, on the front, and turning it over, the back has an old fashioned streetlight, a city at night in the background providing the smooth and relaxing setting that helps make me smile just as much as some of the tracks on the disc this cover art protects. It's a very well worked album, and with a number of different songwriters involved, it's perhaps worth thinking about Sinatra's ability to turn any song from any writer into something that sounds just like it was his own doing. Everything is very similar in some way that you can't quite put your finger on. However, you know it's something to do with Sinatra's crooning voice and the way he puts his own stamp on these songs. Who knows whether he has provided any rearrangement to the songs or not, but it all sounds tailor made for him, and very similar.
Swing Easy & Songs For Young Lovers is a fantastic CD featuring two albums, and one I don't feel let down by just because I don't like a couple of the tracks on it. I find it a good thing, as it's rare that one can truly say they really like every song on an album. There is difference on here, and this is reflected in the fact I love some of the tracks but am not too hot on others. It's one I'm extremely fond of having accessible in the car and at home all the time, and will no doubt continue to keep a hold of for years to come.
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Just One Of Those Things
2 I'm Gonna Sit Right Down And Write Myself A Letter
4 Wrap Your Troubles In Dreams
5 Taking A Chance On Love
6 Jeepers Creepers
7 Get Happy
8 All Of Me
9 My Funny Valentine
10 The Girl Next Door
11 A Foggy Day
12 Like Someone In Love
13 I Get A Kick Out Of You
14 Little Girl Blue
15 They Can't Take That Away From Me
16 Violets For Your Furs