Sinatra Vs. Other Male Interpreters of the Great American Songbook

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by ShockControl, Jan 19, 2014.

  1. ShockControl

    ShockControl Forum Resident Thread Starter

    When it comes to female jazz and pop singers of the so-called "Great American Songbook," I think there are so many good and great female vocalists that it's virtually impossible for me to rank them in any kind of order of quality or preference.

    But when it comes to male jazz/pop standards vocalists, I think there is a very sharp drop from Sinatra at the very top to the next level. Even other male vocalists whose work I adore, notably Tony Bennett, do not compete with Frank for this distinction. I feel that he is truly in his own category.

    I'm curious if any other enthusiasts of jazz/pop vocal standards share similar views, or if my characterization is unusual.
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  2. rxcory

    rxcory mastering connoisseur

    Portland, Oregon
    Very different vocal style from Sinatra, but I would place Nat King Cole in the same league. Plus they both recorded for Capitol, worked with many of the same people (arrangers, producers, etc.) and even sang a lot of the same songs. And yet no two of their songs ever sounded the same. I love both for different reasons.
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  3. JRM

    JRM Forum Resident

  4. Jackson

    Jackson Forum Resident

    MA, USA

    Nat King Cole
    Tony Bennett
    Mel Torme

    Then there's everybody else.
    belardd likes this.
  5. moople72

    moople72 Forum Resident

    Bing Crosby influenced Frankie and is woefully under appreciated!

    Some tunes Frank recorded were given better treatments by Dick Haymes, Perry Como, Tony Bennett, Dean Martin (in my limited listening experience).

    Frank may have more soul than those blokes but he's not peerless-----Nat King Cole (as mentioned) is right up there. And on occasion Frank sounds glib

    and that turns me off.
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  6. SixtiesGuy

    SixtiesGuy Forum Resident

    You neglected to mention the one singer of the last century who wrote the book that was followed by everyone who came after him, including Frank: before any of them, there was Bing. Each of the great vocalists of the last century started by emulating him, with the greatest of them eventually developing their own distinct style. I have great respect and admiration for Frank, who was probably the best of them, but to say that he was in a league all by himself does a disservice to the other members of the top tier: Bing, Nat, Dean, Perry and, someone who has become sadly neglected over the years: Sammy Davis, Jr.

    It's perhaps an odd comparison, but Bing was to American standards what Elvis was to rock and roll. John Lennon famously said "before Elvis there was nothing." In the same vein, it could be said that before Bing there really was nothing (with slight apology to Rudy Valee).
    Last edited: Jan 19, 2014
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  7. MLutthans

    MLutthans That's my spaghetti, Chewbacca! Staff

    Marysville, WA
    Any of these guys made good and bad recordings, but when it comes to "how good the good is" and how often they were good, I place Jack Jones Rod Stewart Frank Sinatra at the top, Nat Cole just a hair below that, then it's a more pronounced step down to guys like Dean Martin, Perry Como, Tony Bennett, Matt Monro, et al -- all of whom I still very much enjoy.

    I guess I'm kind of the opposite of the OP, in that I can think of several male singers who really float my boat, and many female singers who make me wince every time they get near a microphone.

    For some reason, it always strikes me that the men and the women fall short in different ways. Have you heard "You Know My Name, Look Up the Number" by the Beatles? You know that section where Paul starts to go "Bahbah bah bum," in an ersatz lounge-jazz way? Whenever male singers hit that fraudulent delivery, it's a real turnoff for me. On the other side of the coin, I think there are too many (especially contemporary) female singers who perform with jazz combos and try too hard to "be the jazz," when I think the record would be better served by a singer who is singing the song (fairly straight) while the instrumentalists provide the pure jazz element. It may be exciting on-stage, but on-record it often strikes me as falling utterly flat and contrived.

    I'd name names, but I know they have fans here, and I don't want to insult anybody, but let me tell ya: Ain't many modern singers who can do either what Ella Fitzgerald did or what Billie Holiday did, so many, many modern female singers really should stop trying. I think they'd make better, more durable (in terms of historical longevity) recordings if they quit trying to force jazz through the vocal mic. ("Plastic Soul" was bad enough; "plastic jazz" is painful.)

    As far as Bing goes, I think that he was unquestionably, on the whole, "Entertainer of the Century" (sorry Frank; sorry Beatles; sorry Elvis), but as far as his raw skill at conveying a lyric in song, while he was certainly very good, he was no Frank, IMO.
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  8. ShockControl

    ShockControl Forum Resident Thread Starter

    And lyrics may be the key element. Frank gets inside of a lyric in a way that the other singers either cannot do or cannot convey.
  9. wildroot indigo

    wildroot indigo Well-Known Member

    Bing said something similar about Louis Armstrong...

    "I'm proud to acknowledge my debt to the Reverend Satchelmouth. He is the beginning and the end of music in America."

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  10. alexpop

    alexpop Power pop + other bad habits....

    Scott Walker
    Fred Astaire
    PJ Proby
  11. SixtiesGuy

    SixtiesGuy Forum Resident

    I'm not afraid of insulting anyone: there is no one today who even comes within a few miles of Ella. As far as male singers are concerned we have a few wannabes who are, at best, posers. In the heyday of the standards era Michael Buble and Harry Connick, Jr. would reach their peak as lounge singers somewhere in the Midwest. And of course there's the musical chameleon Rod Stewart, who would put out a rap album if there were a few dollars in it. But I won't get myself started.
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  12. wildroot indigo

    wildroot indigo Well-Known Member

    At their best, I'd say Frank, Nat, and Louis are unbeatable... Frank and Nat were perhaps a bit more dependent on strong songs than Louis was. Armstrong could famously spin a memorable vocal performance out of relatively slight material, although he made many early records of Great American Songbook tunes, circa 1929-1932. All three singers are ingenious original stylists, Armstrong and Cole instrumentally as well.
    Last edited: Jan 19, 2014
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  13. realgone

    realgone Well-Known Member

    I tend to agree with TS. I really don't enjoy Tiny Bennett or Perry Como but Nat is ok.
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  14. dbacon

    dbacon Forum Resident

  15. MLutthans

    MLutthans That's my spaghetti, Chewbacca! Staff

    Marysville, WA
    Who is TS?
  16. ronton99

    ronton99 Forum Resident

    As far as Ella, I adore her but some consider her technically amazing but emotionally distant. She is quite playful with melody and words - less driven by the meaning of the lyrics than by the pure joy in the melody and syntax of the lyrics.

    Franks greatest strength, beyond his vocal abilities, is his ability to inhabit the persona of a lyric, to identify with it and inhabit it and convey the emotion he finds in it. He's can be brash, sensitive, broken, defiant, bewildered, you name it. His performance adds to the song in ways that others rarely do. At his best, his interpretations are emotionally charged in a way that Bing, Dean, Mel, etc. can not and do not achieve. That's why so many of his versions of the standards are truly definitive.
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  17. Scott S.

    Scott S. Indie Music Curator

    Walmartville PA
    I don't really like this style of music much, to be honest, but I am curious what those who do think of Rod Stewart's foray into this style of music?
  18. realgone

    realgone Well-Known Member

    Thread starter.
  19. aoxomoxoa

    aoxomoxoa I'm a "Citizens For Boysenberry Jam" Fan

    Ohio USA
    Best thread so far this year. I agree on almost every point. I still place Frank before Bing as "EOTC".
  20. realgone

    realgone Well-Known Member

    Spot-on assessment of Frank vs others :thumbsup:.
    I also love Ella for the sheer purity of her voice and diction but I like Sarah Vaughan a bit more for her ability to bring emotion into the song.
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  21. Spaghettiows

    Spaghettiows Forum Resident

    Silver Creek, NY
    Who said Rod Stewart? ROD STEWART?!?!?!?

    Come on. I love his rock singing but this genre is not his strength.

    Also, Dean Martin was a great lounge singer and had a fine voice but he is not in the company of Bennett, Sinatra and Cole. And he probably would have told you that himself.
    rangerjohn likes this.

    RLPATTON Well-Known Member

    Louis Armstrong should be number #1. He basically laid the foundation and influenced top tier singers of the likes of Crosby, Billie, Sinatra and Ella.
  23. Jackson

    Jackson Forum Resident

    MA, USA
    One word LAME.
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  24. kennyluc1

    kennyluc1 Well-Known Member

    Rod Stewart YUCH.....When it is said ... EOTC, for me that is more than just recording artist. Onstage Bing was very under par, with Sinatra many use the word Electrifying on stage.

    Recording wise. For me, Sinatra, Nat King Cole, Billy Eckstine, Bobby Darin, Mel Torme.
  25. MMM

    MMM Forum Hall Of Fame

    Lodi, New Jersey
    I agree, though I'm with the "some consider her" people on Ella. At times she can dig into the song emotionally. For instance, in the last few months on Sirius, I've heard a few later period tracks that connect emotionally which I liked a lot. Too often though, I find her sort of gliding over the material. As great as many feel she was, I think (with her obvious talent) she should have been better. I actually sold off quite a bit of the Ella I have/had.

    It's interesting, in Frank's 1967 TV special when he's singing with Ella, Frank is sort of gliding over things too to me. He seems more to be basking in the glow of her performance and presence and enjoying it more than anything. However, when he's singing with Jobim, he totally inhabits the emotional content of the songs (like on the the album), and that segment is the highlight of the show to me.

    I hear it - and to me more importantly feel it - as Frank standing out as first in this sort of thing, with Nat and Tony basically tied for second. I probably play Tony more than Nat, though can't say one is really better than the other overall to me. I could pick certain songs from other artists in the genre where I feel they've given standouts performances, etc., but as a whole encompassing singing career it's these three singers for me, with Frank by far my favorite artist period.
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