Frank Sinatra – Strangers In The Night
I know, I know – the first thing you’re going to say is why is there a review for a Frank Sinatra reissue on a website called Rockandrollreport.com. You’re thinking about how his career started in the 1940’s about a decade or so before rock and roll, all the jazz, standards and American Songbook stuff he recorded, one of his famous quotes that called rock and roll music for cretinous goons, his tailored suits. I get it, I get it, I get it. But think about this – rock and roll has always been about rebellion, women, and substance abuse – not necessarily in that order, by the way. Well, even though he was a singer and not a bandleader don’t think for a minute Sinatra didn’t call all of the shots and do things his own way, traditions be damned. He made a hit out a song called My Way for chrissakes. As far as women go, he fucked just about every woman between Hollywood and Atlantic City including Marilyn Monroe and he drank as if there wouldn’t be any more alcohol left after he ate breakfast. In other words, Sinatra embodied rock and roll before there was rock and roll, which is no mean feat. The world saw the man’s attitude and had to create a whole genre of music based on it. Take that Motley Crue!
By the time Sinatra recorded Strangers in the Night, Sinatra had been a famous crooner and movie star, a has-been down on his luck, and had famously resurrected his singing and acting careers thanks to a huge amount of talent but an even bigger sense of self and an inhuman amount of willpower. Consider, if you will, a man who so believes in himself, believe he deserves to have all the wealth, adulation, fame and pussy in the world, that he pulls himself out of the gutter and makes himself more famous than ever before. And then, finds a way to keep doing it. First, in 1955 (after a five year slow period) when he found himself at the top of the charts and more popular than he had ever been in the 40’s. Then, once again when Strangers In The Night was released, giving him his first number one hit in over 11 years and causing the album to sell over a million copies thanks to his newfound strategy of embracing his elder statesman status.
More than anything else in his career at the time, this album marked a comeback of sorts for Sinatra, and it propelled him to the top of the charts once again after a drought many thought would extend for the rest of his career. Though the Rat Pack deal he had going was big, it didn’t really help his singing career much. Many in the business thought Sinatra had finally become a has-been or, at least, an artist who had seen better days. On the contrary, though Sinatra would never ring up the hits like he had a decade earlier, this was the beginning of another notable run of hits, albeit small, and served to both further cement his legacy and show his critics he was still able to make hits if the songs were right and if Sinatra felt like it. Most recognized for the title track and the masterful, glorious Summer Wind, this album would be Sinatra’s last with sympathetic arranger Nelson Riddle, but it’s success inspired Sinatra to expand on the album’s thematic approach for many years and many albums afterward. One of his very best, for sure.
You might ask yourself, ‘so what, the guy’s a legend – should I bother listening to this?’ but bloody hell, it’s Sinatra for chrissakes, arguably one of the best singer’s ever. I mean, shit, the guy’s been dead for years and I still feel somewhat nervous about writing anything about him for fear of repercussions. Or concussions, for that matter. Like I sort of alluded to earlier, I have always personally considered Sinatra the King of Rock and Roll and always felt Elvis Presley was sort of a very distant runner-up in that department. Sinatra may have not had the dance moves, but he had more swagger than anyone before or since. Though this album features a more sedate Sinatra, one that has realized his mortality and has reconciled his advancing age, Sinatra knew switching his game from fast-player to wizened veteran would give him a longer life at the top of the heap and make him even cooler as his old fans advanced in age themselves. He managed to morph from star to legend in a way only a true veteran would be able to make happen. For that alone, anything he did during this time period would be required listening. That this album is fucking great only makes it that much easier to enjoy.