All arrangements by Nelson Riddle.
3,7,11,14 recorded on 8 February 1955.
2,6,9,12 recorded on 16 February 1955.
1,4,8,16 recorded on 17 February 1955.
10 recorded on 1 March 1955.
5,13,15 recorded on 4 March 1955.
Expanding on the concept of Songs for Young Lovers!, In the Wee Small Hours was a collection of ballads arranged by Nelson Riddle. The first 12" album recorded by Sinatra, Wee Small Hours was more focused and concentrated than his two earlier concept records. It's a blue, melancholy album, built around a spare rhythm section featuring a rhythm guitar, celesta, and Bill Miller's piano, with gently aching strings added every once and a while. Within that melancholy mood is one of Sinatra's most jazz-oriented performances - he restructures the melody and Miller's playing is bold throughout the record. Where Songs for Young Lovers! emphasized the romantic aspects of the songs, Sinatra sounds like a lonely, broken man on In the Wee Small Hours. Beginning with the newly written title song, the singer goes through a series of standards that are lonely and desolate. In many ways, the album is a personal reflection of the heartbreak of his doomed love affair with actress Ava Gardner, and the standards that he sings form their own story when collected together. Sinatra's voice had deepened and worn to the point where his delivery seems ravished and heartfelt, as if he were living the songs.
All Music Guide
========= from the cover ==========
Like several other of the albums on which he collaborated with arranger-conductor Nelson Riddle during the early to middle 1950s, Frank Sinatra's In The Wee Small Hours has come to be regarded by fans of the singer - as well as knowledgeable commentators on American popular song - as one of the finest, most perfectly realized and deeply satisfying recordings of his long career. An album of unparalleled beauty and unfeigned emotional sincerity, it has occupied a special place in the singer's discography from the time it was first issued in 1955, and over the years since its stature as a classic Sinatra album has become even more clearly evident When Sinatra joined Capitol Records in the spring of 1953, the long-play record was just beginning to come into its own. Although it had been introduced as early as 1948, it took the LP some years to establish itself with the record-buying public as an alternative to the 78 and 45-rpm single. By the early 1950s, however, the LP's convenience and superior sound quality had been widely recognized, production of LPs and the phonographs on which to play them were accelerating at ever increasing rates, and "high fidelity," as it was then termed, was beginning to gather momentum.
At first, LPs simply were viewed as single-disc substitutes for the bulky, inconvenient album in which anywhere from three to six single recordings by a performer had been packaged. (The term "album" to describe the LP was in fact a holdover from the days of these repackaged singles.) And like the albums they replaced, LPs generally were little more than randomly compiled collections of hits by performers of the day.
Sinatra, however, changed all this. Recognizing the real potential of the LP both in terms of allowing performances to be extended beyond the time limitations of the conventional single recording, as well in conveying a consistent, uniform emotional mood, Sinatra and his producers reassessed the recording process and began working towards the production of albums that were true, complete musical entities in themselves, linked by shared or similar emotional and thematic consistencies among the songs comprising the LP.
The singer's first 10" Capitol albums, Songs For Young Lovers and Swing Easy, each containing eight selections, were unified by common musical-conceptual goals, and were later successfully combined onto a single 12" album. In The Wee Small Hours, on the other hand, carried this ideal of focused emotional consistency much further than either of these earlier efforts, all the songs having been chosen and their orchestrations designed to convey a uniform mood of wistful melancholy that is almost elegaic in character, sad without ever being merely cloying or suggesting desperation, and all carried forward with a touching, unaffected beauty of expression that owes as much to Nelson Riddle's spare, understated writing as it does to the deep emotional persuasiveness of Sinatra's all-but-perfect singing throughout this lovely program. Nor, for that matter, can the selection of songs be faulted. It is a well nigh perfect album in every respect.
From a technical standpoint," critic John Rockwell observed of these recordings, "Sinatra's voice had deepened and darkened slightly, coarsening the mellowness that had marked his recordings from the Dorsey days. At the same time, the slight insecurity in the area just above middle C became more pronounced, and Sinatra was masterful in exploiting that frailty for expressive purposes... His ballad singing had improved as well, on both musical and emotional terms, lending him a new vulnerability that mirrored the cocky aggression of his upbeat material. Ava Gardner may have left scars, but as happens so often with great artists, personal pain translated into artistic achievement. As proof, one need only turn to... In The Wee Small Hours, the first side of which offers the following sequence: In The Wee Small Hours Of The Morning, Mood Indigo, Clad To Be Unhappy, I Get Along Without You Very Well, Deep In A Dream, I See Your Face Before Me, Can't We Be Friends? and When Your Lover Has Gone. A public that had at first been titillated, then offended, by the Gardner-Sinatra relationship was now ready to recognize its validity once they heard it expressed as poignantly and painfully as this. At the same time, Sinatra himself seemed to have gained a new, deeper dimension by this harrowing affair"
Seen in this light, the performances in the album might be said to comprise something of a personal statement, a pain-etched commentary on lost love, of love gone wrong, for while Sinatra is no songwriter himself but rather the interpreter of songs written by others, he is never merely or simply an interpreter. No, his artistry is such that he literally makes these songs and the sentiments they articulate his and his alone. In voicing them he transforms them, leaves his mark on them, personalizes them and, through this, makes them newly real to us, no matter how many times we may have heard them before. And that's his power as a singer; it's what has made him the single greatest interpreter of popular song we've ever been privileged to hear. It's what makes In The Wee Small Hours the single finest collection of mood songs ever recorded, as moving today as when we first heard it.