Sinatra / Capitol Sound Quality (and general discussion): Singles, Soundtracks, Etc.

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by MLutthans, Aug 10, 2013.

  1. MLutthans

    MLutthans That's my spaghetti, Chewbacca! Staff Thread Starter

    I've been thinking about how to address sound quality comparisons for all of Sinatra's "other" Capitol stuff, i.e., singles, compilation, orphaned tracks, EP tracks, soundtrack cuts, etc., and since so many songs have been compiled and recompiled in the LP and CD era, the logical way seems to just be to go through the tracks in chronological order, and let the cards fall where they may, so although we won't be doing a comparison that is dedicated to This is Sinatra, for instance, once we've looked at all the tracks that happen to appear on that particular compilation album, you should be able to figure out a good way to hear that compilation in the best-possible sound.

    No, I am not going to start at April 2, 1953, and work on this day and night (Night and Day?) until we reach "I Gotta Right to Sing the Blues" in 1962. Rather, this will be a sort of "Long and Winding Thread" that we'll revisit and update from time to time. Sound like a plan?

    Also, there is no way in heck that I'm going to compare 10 pressings for every track! I think we'll have to use some degree of "groupthink" to save time along the way. For instance, we are pretty-well agreed (I think) that the mono cuts on the 3-CD The Capitol Years set are very well mastered by the Furmanek/Walsh team. That being the case, I'm not going listen to three different Duophonic versions of "Song X" that came out on LP between 1961 and 1966 just so I can "declare" them to be no good! However, if there are other good-to-excellent CD or LP transfers, they need to be thrown into the hopper for consideration, no? Plus, I'm hoping that somebody out there has a decent collection of the original Capitol D-series 78s and 45s, as I think there's always a bit of a "standard" that is inherent in the original release. (Going into this endeavor, I doubt that many 78s or 45s will wind up being "the best" version of those releases, but those versions still stand as the first way most people heard many of these songs, and that's important. Plus, there may be a surprise or two along the way!)

    How about if we go one session at a time?

    First up, then, will be these four songs from April 2, 1953:
    1. Lean Baby
    2. I'm Walking Behind You
    3. Day In, Day Out (The actual Stordahl version)
    4. Don't Make a Beggar of Me

    I've got:
    •The Capitol Years (3-CD set)
    •Capitol Collectors Series
    •Like Never Before (Longines)
    •Larry Walsh's "Point of No Return" CD
    •Alan Dell "Swing Easy" LP from 1984 (non-DMM version)
    •The Sinatra Touch (6-LP mono set)
    •Sinatra 80th: All the Best
    •The Rare Sinatra (1978 analog-mastered LP)

    I probably have a few of these tracks on some oddball Aussie and UK CDs and LPs, too, that aren't popping into my mind at right this moment.

    Looking for (among others):
    •Original 78
    •Original 45
    •The Great Years (mono LP version)
    •Just One of Those Things (mono LP version)
    •Complete Capitol Singles
    •Forever Frank (mono version)
    •Selections from "Come Fly Away"
    •The Rare Sinatra (Digitally-remastered LP)
    •These tracks as they appear in the 21-CD UK Boxed set
    •Norberg's "Point of No Return" CD

    If you are able to share, please PM me, and we'll figure out how to get this ball rolling (slowly). Also, if you have any of those (or any version, for that matter), and you know for a fact that that a particular version is EQd weirdly, or brickwalled, or defective in some way, please go ahead and post that info here so we can start to compile some sort of database, maybe (!) along the lines of the Sinatra Scorecard that we have for the LPs. (We'll be making things up as we go along, at least initially, but I'm sure we'll get workable solutions figured out.)

    Thanks, Sinatra nuts! (That's a term of endearment, by the way.)

    Also, if Bob F or somebody else would like to post photos (etc.) from the sessions as we get to them, that's always right up my alley, and makes for a more varied thread, too. :)

    --Matt, the glutton for punishment
    Last edited: Aug 10, 2013
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  2. Bob F

    Bob F Senior Member

    Massachusetts USA
    Many years ago, I authored threads at the Sinatra Family Forum containing session-by-session details, posted on the anniversary dates of the Capitol recordings. As best I can, I'll try to resurrect those posts here as appropriate to the discussion.

    [ Unfortunately, some of the content has been moved or removed by the SFF admins or mods (along with my byline), and I no longer have editing privileges for my own contributions on the other website. So please excuse any broken links or missing photos. ]

    This was my introduction to the SFF thread, The Early Capitol Days (or: 54 years ago TODAY, Frank recorded...), dated April 2, 2007...

    Somewhat over one year ago, I began a thread devoted to documenting each Frank Sinatra recording session, on its exact anniversary date, using a diary format:

    FIFTY YEARS AGO TODAY, Frank Recorded...

    An early post in that thread stated:

    If I had been around and thought of this three years ago, we would have the Capitol recording history documented from its very start. Depending upon how this thread fares, I may go back and fill in the missing years at a later date. In the meantime, I think it is less confusing to stick with one time sequence, and fifty is a nice round number of years to consider.​

    On this anniversary of Sinatra's FIRST Capitol recording session, I'm starting a similar thread as mentioned above. This one is devoted to the preceding years beginning in 1953. Hopefully, I'll be able to keep up with both threads, and—in four years time—we'll have a complete reference guide to the entire Capitol era.

    ON THIS DATE in 1953, Frank Sinatra had not been in a recording studio for more than six months. Since his final session for Columbia Records—the label he had joined as a solo vocalist a decade earlier—his future as a recording artist seemed uncertain. (See: September 17, 1952 - "Why Try To Change Me Now?")

    Capitol Records, founded in 1942 by songwriters Johnny Mercer and Buddy DeSylva, and Hollywood businessman Glenn Wallichs, was not as established as Sinatra's former record company. His recently inked contract with Capitol was a tenuous venture for both Sinatra and the label. Frank's career was at a low point, as Capitol vice president Alan Livingston describes:

    "Sinatra had hit bottom, and I mean bottom. He couldn't get a record contract, and he literally, at that point, could not get a booking in a nightclub. It was that bad—he was broke, and in a terrible state of mind. I received a call from Sam Weisbord, at the William Morris Agency, who told me that they'd signed Sinatra, and asked if I'd be interested in signing him. I said, 'Sure! His talent is still there . . .' And that's how he came to Capitol."​

    Although Livingston had ideas of pairing FS with new arrangers (such as Nelson Riddle), Sinatra wanted to bring along his longtime Columbia arranger and trusted friend, Axel Stordahl, for this first session. At this point in time, Capitol's studio was located on Melrose Avenue in Hollywood (the former KHJ Radio studio). With this brief background, we enter that studio for Sinatra's first Capitol recordings, 54 years ago today...
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  3. Bob F

    Bob F Senior Member

    Massachusetts USA
    Thursday, April 2, 1953

    As was to become customary for FS in future years, it was an evening recording session at Capitol's KHJ Studios. From 8:30 to 11:30 p.m., four songs were recorded with orchestra conducted by Axel Stordahl. Three songs were arranged by Axel; the first was a Heinie Beau chart:

    Lean Baby
    (Music by Billy May; lyrics by Roy Alfred)
    (Popularized in 1952 as an instrumental by the Billy May Orchestra)

    Features alto sax solo by Ted Nash. Reminiscent of the pop material of the day, this tune was used for the B-side of Sinatra's first Capitol single. It reached #25 on the Billboard chart. It did not appear on LP until 1962, as an extra track on the expanded reissue of Swing Easy! (where it really didn't belong with the other standards).​

    I'm Walking Behind You
    (Music & lyrics by Billy Reid)
    (Popularized by Eddie Fisher in 1953)

    Sinatra's cover failed to achieve the success of Eddie Fisher's hit, but it did reach #7 on the Billboard pop chart, when issued on the A-side of Frank's first Capitol single. It was also released on an obscure 10-inch LP titled Today's Top Hits, Vol. 10 (Capitol H-9115), but the song then remained in the vaults for twenty years, until it appeared in the 1973 LP collection put out by Longines Symphonette, Sinatra Like Never Before.​

    Both of the above tracks have appeared together in various CD compilations and box sets, such as The Complete Capitol Singles Collection (disc 1 of 4) and Sinatra 80th: All The Best (disc 1 of 2).

    Day In–Day Out
    (Music by Rube Bloom; words by Johnny Mercer)
    (Popularized in 1939 by Helen Ward singing with the Bob Crosby Orchestra)

    This was the only standard of the evening. Sinatra would go on to record this song twice more for Capitol with other arrangers (Nelson Riddle in 1954, and Billy May in 1958), but this Axel Stordahl ballad version remained one of the rarest of Sinatra's Capitol tracks. It was NEVER released on vinyl, and its first appearance on compact disc was in the 1987 reissue of Point Of No Return (see below).​

    Don't Make A Beggar Of Me
    (Music & lyrics by Al Sherman)

    Although written for Sinatra and intended as a contemporary pop song, this tune was not released. It remained in the vaults until the 1966 compilation LP, Forever Frank.​

    This evening would be Sinatra's last collaboration with Axel Stordahl until late 1961, when the arranger charted Frank's final Capitol concept album, Point Of No Return. Because of the connection to Stordahl, all four of these recordings first appeared on compact disc as extra "bonus" tracks in the 1987 CD reissue of the 1962 LP.

    Musicians (20): Rubin "Zeke" Zarchy (trumpet); Vincent DeRosa (French horn); Heinie Beau, Arthur "Skeets" Herfurt, Ted Nash, Leonard Hartman (saxophone/woodwinds); Mischa Russell, Harry Bluestone, Alex Murray, Paul Nero, Irving Prager, Murray Kellner (violin); David Sterkin, Paul Robyn (viola); Cy Bernard (cello); Ann Mason Stockton (harp); Bill Miller (piano); George Van Eps (guitar); Phil Stephens (bass); Ray Hagan (drums).

    This first Capitol session 54 years ago was only to be the start of something big. For his next set of recordings in late April, Capitol producer Voyle Gilmore persuaded Frank to work with a young new arranger, Nelson Riddle. More about that in our next installment...

    NOTE: There is an unavoidable amount of overlap between this post and other threads. For additional discussion about this session and its recordings, see the following:

    Sinatra's Capitol Anniversary
    Day By Day - April 2
    Significant FS Anniversary Dates (April 2, 1953)

    From the latter post, we duplicate the photo below which was taken at this recording session. See that post for photo and source credits.

    [EDIT] Sorry: Both the post and photo have been deep-sixed by the SFF. I think it was a scan from Chuck Granata's book, IIRC. —Bob F
    ~ Frank's Albums
  4. MLutthans

    MLutthans That's my spaghetti, Chewbacca! Staff Thread Starter

    Great stuff, Bob. Thanks (then, as now) for posting.

    Here's the first 30 seconds of Billy May's original version of "Lean Baby," released as a single for Capitol:

    Shots of that first Sinatra/Stordahl session, held downstairs at Capitol/Melrose:
    SinatraStordahl040253Capitol.jpeg [​IMG] SinatraCapitol53RCA44SHTV.jpg

    A couple little things:

    •Note that in one shot, Frank appears to be singing into a U47, and into an RCA44 in another.
    •I like the fire extinguisher next to the U47 preamp in the bottom shot.

    I'm not sure if it's well-known or not, but Sinatra literally signed his Capitol contract (Capitol contract #1849) the day before this session, and it must have been a short-term affair, as on December 8, 1953, he signed a supplement which altered some of the terms and was a two-year agreement "retroactive to April 1." Here's his signature on that supplement:
    Last edited: Aug 10, 2013
  5. Bob F

    Bob F Senior Member

    Massachusetts USA
    For those who may not know, the gentlemen in the second photo are (left to right): Axel Stordahl (arranger/conductor), Alan Livingston (Capitol A&R head), Voyle Gilmore (producer), and some other guy (boy singer).
    Last edited: Aug 10, 2013
  6. MLutthans

    MLutthans That's my spaghetti, Chewbacca! Staff Thread Starter

    In the top photo, the sax player at far left is Heinie Beau, no?
  7. Bob F

    Bob F Senior Member

    Massachusetts USA
    I'm going to guess Ted Nash, not Heinie:

    ted-nash-poster.jpg heinie_beau-hollywood_jazz_quartet.jpg
  8. MLutthans

    MLutthans That's my spaghetti, Chewbacca! Staff Thread Starter

  9. hodgo

    hodgo Tea Making Gort (Yorkshire Branch) Staff

    East Yorkshire
    Wonderful thread Matt, the knowledge of you guys never ceases to astound me.
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  10. MMM

    MMM Forum Hall Of Fame

    Lodi, New Jersey
    I think that might be a "staged" shot. However, I never thought to ask John Palladino if they tried a few different mics on Frank at first before using the U47. I figured Capitol had settled on that mic for lead vocals around that time as basically their standard for pretty much any singer, though it was pretty new then. They'd still use a 44 on a vocal group though, at least for a while. I'm pretty sure that's a 44 on the vocal group heard in "Don't Change Your Mind About Me", for instance.
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  11. SinatraFan

    SinatraFan Well-Known Member

    Great idea, Matt! There's so many excellent recordings that weren't on the concept albums. I'm glad they'll be getting some attention. And nice to have sessions photos that give a glimpse into how these songs were made.

    I'm Walking Behind You is my favorite from this first session. These four are similar in style to what Frank had been recording at Columbia.

    Capitol signing Sinatra was the best move in musical history.
  12. Bob F

    Bob F Senior Member

    Massachusetts USA
    There is some debate as to which song was intended as the A-side. Ron Sarbo believes I have them reversed (which would normally be the definitive word ;)). So does the Hoboken Historical Museum, which places "Lean Baby" as the A-side. There are prominent discographies which list them the other way around.

    Some early blurbs from Billboard...

    April 25, 1953:


    May 16, 1953:


    [​IMG] [​IMG]
    Last edited: Aug 11, 2013
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  13. MLutthans

    MLutthans That's my spaghetti, Chewbacca! Staff Thread Starter

    For "Lean Baby," we can throw out the The Sinatra Touch mono LP from 1968, which is very compressed. The Alan Dell LP has wide dynamics, as does the 1987 Walsh CD.

    Anybody have the above, for any of these four songs?
    1. Lean Baby
    2. I'm Walking Behind You
    3. Day In, Day Out (The actual Stordahl version -- never on vinyl, so a moot point)
    4. Don't Make a Beggar of Me
  14. MLutthans

    MLutthans That's my spaghetti, Chewbacca! Staff Thread Starter

    As you know, all the shots at Capitol were staged. ;-)
  15. Bob F

    Bob F Senior Member

    Massachusetts USA
    AFAIK, the only releases of the Stordahl "Day In–Day Out" were: (1) Point of No Return CD bonus track (1987 Walsh and 2002 Norberg [2000 Concepts box equivalent]); (2) Frank Sinatra Sings the Select Johnny Mercer (1995); and (3) The Rare Sinatra disc in the UK 21-CD box set (1998).
    Last edited: Aug 11, 2013
  16. Tina_UK

    Tina_UK Forum Resident

    You know Bob, you and Matt could be twins in your Avatars :D

    Good read chaps, thanks.
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  17. MLutthans

    MLutthans That's my spaghetti, Chewbacca! Staff Thread Starter

    Our mother used to say the same thing!
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  18. Bob F

    Bob F Senior Member

    Massachusetts USA
    She always said I was more colorful!
  19. MLutthans

    MLutthans That's my spaghetti, Chewbacca! Staff Thread Starter

    SinatraOKAY Avatar.jpg
    "Yeah, okay."
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  20. howlinrock

    howlinrock Forum Resident In Memoriam

    SF Bay Area
    + 1 and my brain is a sponge to your guys knowledge.
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  21. MLutthans

    MLutthans That's my spaghetti, Chewbacca! Staff Thread Starter

    Quick little update on Lean Baby:

    Sinatra 80th: All the Best re-uses the mastering from The Capitol Years 3-CD set.
    •The 1984 UK "Dell" LP uses reverb-added tapes. :thumbsdow
  22. MLutthans

    MLutthans That's my spaghetti, Chewbacca! Staff Thread Starter

    This 1954 ad from Billboard uses yet another photo from this first session, April 2, 1953:
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  23. MLutthans

    MLutthans That's my spaghetti, Chewbacca! Staff Thread Starter

    re: Lean Baby

    Here's a quick little clip to illustrate the difference between the 1962 "wet" tapes and the original, "dry" tapes. Try to listen to the reverb behind the vocal on the word "starts." The first one is from the 1984 Dell LP (wet), and the second from the 1987 Walsh POINT OF NO RETURN CD (dry).
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  24. rangerjohn

    rangerjohn Forum Resident

    chicago, il
    Its funny: he had reason to smile by the time the ad came out--but not so much when the picture was actually taken.....
  25. rangerjohn

    rangerjohn Forum Resident

    chicago, il
    Thanks Matt. Nice that Walsh left it dry. Would you say the tone on the bonus track is better than the album tracks, proper, on his PONR CD?

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