SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews

Frank Sinatra – No One Cares – Capitol Records (1959)/ Mobile Fidelity

SACD reissue showcases Sinatra’s lonely take on life.

Published on May 8, 2013

Frank Sinatra – No One Cares – Capitol Records (1959)/ Mobile Fidelity UDSACD 2111 stereo-only SACD, 40:30 ****: 

(Featuring the vocals of Frank Sinatra; orchestra conducted by Gordon Jenkins)

In the 20th Century, Frank Sinatra was the greatest pop singer. His artistic bravado and cool persona elevated him to iconic stardom. There were many nicknames (The Chairman Of The Board, ‘Ol Blue Eyes), but he was originally known simply as “The Voice”. His first break came as a singer with Harry James’ orchestra. When he switched to Tommy Dorsey’s band (allegedly “documented” in The Godfather), he became a romantic troubadour with an enthusiastic female following. In the early forties, Sinatra began his solo career, which equaled Elvis and The Beatles in intensity.

His late 40s fall from grace portended doom for the cocky kid from Hoboken. Voice problems and a changing musical scene seemed to discard the popular singer. However, after his Oscar-winning role in From Here To Eternity, Sinatra roared back. From the mid-fifties through the early sixties, he was unequivocally the most renowned musical artist in the world. His deep, emotional vocal timbre and finger-snapping cool captured the imagination of a generation. His catalogue at Capitol Records is considered to be some of the greatest pop music, ever. Among his achievements was his ability to work with top-notch arrangers like Billy May, Nelson Riddle and Gordon Jenkins (who worked with Nat “King” Cole on four albums). These arrangements meshed Sinatra’s fluid baritone with orchestral backgrounds.

Mobile Fidelity has re-mastered the 1959 Sinatra album, No One Cares to glorious SACD stereo fidelity. With Jenkins’ lush arrangements, the melancholic ambiance that the duo explored on their 1957 collaboration, Where Are You? is revisited. Opening with a counterpoint of strings and reeds, Sinatra eases into this emotional cover of a lesser known Cahn/Van Heusen gem (“When No One Cares”). Digging further back into the minor American songbook, the singer continues his restrained vocal on “A Cottage For Sale”. Like he has done with Nelson Riddle, Sinatra is able to modulate his singing to complement the orchestra. Moving into more familiar territory, “Stormy Weather” is sentimental, but has an ominous intro. While this is soulful, this song has better results in the hand of female artists. However, the vaunted Sinatra “breathing technique” (learned from Tommy Dorsey) is on full display.

The album feels darker, beyond melancholy. “I Don’t Stand A Ghost Of A Chance With You” has some dirge-like music passages. “Here’s That Rainy Day” is equally somber. But the minor key changes in the first verse flow with the string section. Here, Sinatra adds some nuance to the interpretation. The singer is all business, perhaps too serious. At this stage of his career, he was redefining hip, jazz singing. His whimsical rhythmic improvisation (in songs like “Witchcraft” and “I’ve Got You Under My Skin”) would have provided some missing vitality. But if you listen closely, he does add a meager dose of sauciness on “I Can’t Get Started”. “Just Friends” is moody and resonant, and utilizes the string/reed chemistry. He does reprise the hit with Dorsey, “I’ll Never Smile Again”. Without the saccharine Pied Pipers, this is one cut that improves with a modern interpretation. Sinatra’s voice is unique and warm, and a string interlude is more than suitable replacement for template backup singing. The final track, “None But The Lonely Heart” (from the 1944 movie starring Cary Grant) is purely romantic. Based on a composition by Pyotr Illych Tchaikovsky, the solemn tone wraps up this unusual album.

While this is not Frank Sinatra’s greatest work, the SACD engineering is masterful. Despite the layered orchestral instrumentation, the tones are clear and not dense. The silky, mellifluous voice displays both warmth and command. The original liner notes by the iconic critic, Ralph J. Gleason, are informative and descriptive.  (Mo-Fi also has a similar version on vinyl.)

TrackList: When No One Cares; A Cottage For Sale; Stormy Weather; Where Do You Go?; I Don’t Stand A Ghost Of A Chance With You; Here’s That Rainy Day; I Can’t Get Started; Why Try To Change Me Now; Just Friends; I’ll Never Smile Again; None But The Lonely Heart

—Robbie Gerson




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