He was called many things during his long career, The Chairman of the Board, Ol’ Blue Eyes and even the somber sounding, The Voice. But to his many fans around the world, including myself, he was just known as Frank.
With a career spanning over 50 years in show business, Frank Sinatra saw and did it all. But for the sake of this column, it’s just one album that we’re going to deal with. In the spirit of the season I would like to brazenly put forth what I consider to be the best Christmas album ever recorded.
The word classic doesn’t even begin to do it justice. A Jolly Christmas from Frank Sinatra is simply – essential.
The album, first released in 1957 by Capitol Records, is the perfect blend of jazz and traditional Holiday music. Take the first track on the CD, Jingle Bells. It’s a song that’s been sung by everyone, yet in this version, his version, Frank manages to transform the Christmas classic into something that could only be called cool Yule. The piece swings and swaggers without ever losing its true identity.
For the rest of the album we are treated to lush string arrangements and chorus work, courtesy of the arranger Gordon Jenkins, that helps to envelope Sinatra’s voice in a rich velvet-like sound. When you listen, really listen, to Frank sing you hear this incredible conviction, an absolute belief in his ability and talent to convey the essential truths of the lyrics.
Hearing Sinatra sing I’ll Be Home For Christmas should be required listening for any vocalist. In this track you hear the bittersweet quality of someone wanting to be with those that he loves for the holidays, but for whatever reason is unable to, except in his dreams. Sinatra uses his unmatched talent for phrasing to maximum effect in this song, and because of this ability he is able to capture an essence and a poignancy that makes the track timeless.
The entire CD in fact has this quality to it. Listening to it always reminds me of the potential that Christmas has to be as a holiday, and in some way, forces me to try just a little bit harder to be that better man.
A gentleman is often a great many things to many people, but the one consistent attribute he should aspire to have is the ability to recognize and appreciate class and quality. Listening to Frank Sinatra’s A Jolly Christmas this holiday season will ensure that you do both of the above with ease.