Originally released 1956.
Track 8 recorded 17 October 1955.
1, 4 & 10 recorded 9 January 1956.
3, 7 & 15 recorded 10 January 1956.
2, 9 & 13 recorded 12 January 1956.
5, 6, 11, 12 & 14 recorded 16 January 1956.
After the ballad-heavy In the Wee Small Hours, Frank Sinatra and Nelson Riddle returned to up-tempo, swing material with Songs for Swingin' Lovers!, arguably the vocalist's greatest swing set. Like Sinatra's previous Capitol albums, Songs for Swingin' Lovers! consists of reinterpreted pop standards, ranging from the ten-year-old "You Make Me Feel So Young" to the 20-year-old "Pennies From Heaven" and "I've Got You Under My Skin." Sinatra is supremely confident throughout the album, singing with authority and joy. That joy is replicated in Riddle's arrangements, which manage to rethink these standards in fresh yet reverent ways. Working with a core rhythm section and a full string orchestra, Riddle writes scores that are surprisingly subtle. "I've Got You Under My Skin," with its breathtaking middle section, is a perfect example of how Sinatra works with the band. Both swing hard, stretching out the rhythms and melodies but never losing sight of the original song. Songs for Swingin' Lovers! never loses momentum. The great songs keep coming and the performances are all stellar, resulting in one of Sinatra's true classics.
All Music Guide
========= from the cover ==========
It was Capitol Records producer Voyle Gilmore who had the inspired idea of teaming Frank Sinatra and arranger-conductor Nelson Riddle. The two first joined forces on the singer's second recording session for Capitol, held April 30, 1953, at which were recorded four standards, and from the beginning it was apparent that the rapport between the two was uncanny, even magical. No other orchestrator had served Sinatra as well, with as much taste, sensitivity and wittiness, and over the following decade he acted as arranger-conductor on fully two-thirds of Sinatra's more than 300 Capitol recordings.
The reasons for this are immediately evident in the 15 selections that comprise this classic album collaboration between the two. The product of five separate recording sessions held in Capitol's studios in October of 1955 and January of the following year, Songs For Swingin' Lovers, like the three Sinatra-Riddle albums that preceded it, had been conceived as an integral set of recordings, the song materials having been selected and the orchestrations devised to convey a consistent, unified mood - bright, insouciant, urbane, witty, colored with the smoky pastel hues and easy, buoyant rhythms of jazz.
Riddle was the perfect arranger to frame such effortlessly swinging settings for the singer for he, like Sinatra himself, had come out of the big bands that had ruled American popular music through the 1940s. Starting out as a trombonist, Riddle had played in the orchestra of Tommy Dorsey - the instrumentalist, incidentally, on whom Sinatra had patterned his smooth legato phrasing style when he had been featured with the Dorsey band - to which he soon had begun contributing arrangements in the band's popular jazz-inflected style. Settling in Los Angeles, Riddle sought to establish himself as an orchestrator and quickly gained success with his deft, imaginative writing for horns and strings. Prior to his fruitful association with Sinatra he had written arrangements for a number of Capitol Records artists and had in fact contributed to two of the label's biggest hits, Nat Cole's Mona Lisa and Ella Mae Morse's Blacksmith Blues.
Still, there can be no doubt that his collaboration with Sinatra, the single greatest interpreter of popular song of our time, brought forth Riddle's finest, most consistently resourceful writing. An utter perfectionist when it came to commiting his art to record, Sinatra, if only by example, always drew the best from his collaborators. "Working with Frank was always a challenge," Riddle observed. "Never a relaxed man, as Nat Cole was, for example, he was a perfectionist who drove himself and everybody around him relentlessly... He showed me how to insist on certain things from an orchestra, so I guess you could say I learned from Frank like he learned from me. But we always did things his way. He knows what's good for him and for the music. He expects your best - just that."
And just that's what we have here. Listening tq the marvelously sympathetic, effortlessly swinging orchestrations Riddle provided the singer on these selections, it's easy to understand why the album is rightly considered one of their landmark achievements - as satisfying today as when recorded 30 years ago, and just as fresh-sounding - and why Sinatra described Riddle as "the greatest arranger in the world'.
Riddle's contributions and those of this musicians notwithstanding, it is Sinatra's show all the way and from the opening notes of the zesty You Make Me Feel So Young to the singer's final descending swoop on How About You there's no doubt we are in the presence of greatness. The singer sustains a mood of light-hearted bravado throughout the selections, his nonchalant but, oh, so perfectly controlled singing matched up with an absolutely stunning program of songs that brings out his artful best. With almost two decades of experience behind him, Sinatra was at the very peak of his form on these performances, his voice warm and ingratiating, darker-hued than in the decade preceding his Capitol years and possessing a rich, woody timbre that Riddle likened to that of a viola. But it is his impeccable timing and deceptively easy-sounding phrasing, conversational in character, that make these performances so richly, timelessly rewarding and Sinatra's the ne plus ultra of popular singing, the standard by which all others have been and continue to be judged.
"Sinatra's singing on this album," noted critic John Rockwell in his Sinatra, An American CLASSIC (Random House, 1984), "has a verve and conviction that make his records from the Forties sound bland. He has learned to tease and twist a vocal line without violating its integrity. By now, he knows how to kick forward a song's rhythmic impetus by the percussive articulation of key one-syllable words... The album as a whole breathes with a delightful blend of Riddle's naughty sweetness and Sinatra's witty bravado." Its judicious selection of songs, its consistent emotional mood, Riddle's bracing orchestrations, and Sinatra's flawless, ebullient singing -all combine to make Songs For Swingin' Lovers an all but perfect album, one of the singular achievements in a career marked by numerous moments of greatness. Ars longa, after all.
- Pete Welding