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THE CONCEPT ALBUM13 February 2009
I'm missing Paul this week. The feature article I've been working on is about the upcoming Citizens Who Care show, an annual fund-raiser for an organization which provides support for the frail elderly and their family caregivers. Walt is on its board, coincidentally.
Each year they feature the music of a composer or lyricist (or both). This year is the first year that they are featuring the music of a performer, Frank Sinatra.
Sinatra was one of Paul's idols and, in fact, we attempted to get tickets for him to see Sinatra in Reno or Lake Tahoe as a birthday gift. As it turned out, it would have been Sinatra's last concert, but in the end he was ill and had to cancel, so Paul never did get to see him perform live, but he sure loved Sinatra and his music. I would love to be able to discuss this article with him -- and he would love to be working in the theatre for the concert, as he did many of those annual concerts.
I always thought of the photo on the left as Paul's Sinatra photo. He was the M.C. for his friend Kag's wedding.
The problem with putting together a show that features the music of Sinatra is that Sinatra recorded just about every popular song ever written during his 60+ year career.
Stephen Peithman, who writes and arranges the shows. decided to ignore the early years, and to start his story about the time Sinatra took control of his own career, around the time of From Here to Eternity, just after his divorce from Ava Gardner (the show only runs 2-3 hours, after all!)
He chose that start point because in 1955 he recorded the first "concept" album and invented a whole new genre of music in the process. The "concept" album was a collection of a bunch of songs around a central theme, and then hiring songwriters to write a couple of new songs to fill out the list. The title of the album generally was the title of one of the new songs. More often than not, the albums went to #1 on the charts.
Research for the article brought back a number of memories. One thing that I had forgotten...the first concept album, "In the Wee Small Hours" was one of the first 12" LPs. In these days we don't even remember when LPs were only 10". I had a whole bunch of them at one time and sold them all to Peach because I was trying to raise money to fly to Phoenix to see Sister Anne (I never did make the trip, and never bought my records back.)
I remember my father coming home with a 12" LP, all excited at the new technology that allowed more songs to be put on an album. He was excited about something called "high fidelity." (He died before CDs came on the market. He would have been amazed at the advances in sound quality!)
We had many of Sinatra's concept albums, including "In the Wee Small Hours." I probably still have them all. Some of the others included "Only the Lonely," all "she done me wrong" songs.
"Come Fly with Me" was all about other places ..."Around the World," "Isle of Capri," "On the Road to Mandaly," "April in Paris," "London by Night," "Blue Hawaii," etc.
"Come Dance with Me" is all dance music -- "I Could Have Danced All Night," "Cheek to Cheek," "Dancing in the Dark," "Same Old Song and Dance"... etc.
There were 16 in all that he recorded for Capital Records, and more that he recorded on his own Reprise Label. One that has been out of print for years was called "Watertown," described as "...conceived and co-written by The Four Seasons' house songwriter Bob Gaudio, and following the misery of a divorced father left stranded in a small town with his kids. Sinatra is in fine, morose voice, brightened just a little by the tastefully kitschy late-'60s contempo-pop arrangements."
Sinatra has more than 1000 recordings to his credit, including some lesser known works he did in Brasil with Antonio Carlos Jobim. Trying to trim that down to about 35 songs was a real challenge for Stephen. His first list, covering just the period of time after 1954, was more than 300 songs.
It's going to be interesting to see what made the final cut (I'm told "My Way" did).
I just wish Paul could be here for the show...
PHOTO OF THE DAY
(Yes, I remember this was the Photo of the Day on Paul's birthday)
MILES TO NOWHERE: 96.5 miles