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John Marks' Vault Treasures: Frank Sinatra, 'Where Are You?'

07-21-2016 | By John Marks | Issue 86

This week, John Marks touches on one of the truly great popular singers of the 20th Century, Frank Sinatra. Where Are You? comes to us from the later 1950s, and shows Sinatra maturing in his mastery. It also shows us just how great the recording arts had already progressed by this time. With his "Vault Treasures" series, John continually raises the question, "Some older recordings make you want to ask, 'How much have we really learned in 50 or 60 years?'"

Amen to that! So many recordings now are "nixed in the mix." 

Ignorance of history, including audio history, is always murder....

Meanwhile, we have the blessed privilege of access to our musical past through the gift of the audio arts. And ain't that grand?

Dr. David W. Robinson, Ye Olde Editor

With Gordon Jenkins and his orchestra
SACD/CD Mobile Fidelity Original Master Recordings 2109 / Monaural
Originally released on Capitol Records, 1957

Last week's "Vault-Treasure" feature was Clifford Brown With Strings, from 1956. Sticking to that same part of the century, here we have, from 1957, Frank Sinatra's Where Are You?, in a truly remarkable monophonic remastering by Mobile Fidelity Sound Labs.

The Haiku version is: this album of "weepies" is one of Sinatra's best. Where Are You? was Sinatra's first album with Gordon Jenkins as arranger and conductor. They struck the perfect emotional balance, avoiding both bleak despair and superficial hipness. And Where Are You?'s narrative arc makes it the perfect bookend for Clifford Brown With Strings.

The sound's being in mono subtracts nothing, in my opinion. Further, one would expect a monophonic master tape from that era to have more signal and less noise than a stereo master tape of the same width. The sound quality of the MoFi release is shockingly good—real hi-fi demo material.

(Though I fear that if you listened to both albums back-to-back, you'd end up thinking that if humans were like amoebas, and multiplied by dividing, there would never be any need for sad songs about love and loss.)

The set list (again) reads like a "Best of the Great American Songbook" cheat-sheet, the first five tracks being "Where Are You?," "The Night We Called It a Day," "I Cover the Waterfront," "Maybe You'll Be There," and "Laura." "Laura" also appearing on Clifford Brown With Strings. Another precious moment in time, frozen in amber. A true Vault Treasure.

To hear a sample track from Where Are You? please go to http://thetannhausergate.com/index.php/2016/02/16/frank-sinatra-where-are-you/#more-167.

Click here to buy the SACD/CD Where Are You?