TBT – Sinatra’s “Songs for Young Lovers” Was a Milestone In Many Ways
When Frank Sinatra was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for 1953’s From Here To Eternity, his career experienced a renaissance. He had witnessed his record sales drop considerably, and Columbia and MCA dropped him in 1952. He was not having the success he had hoped for with the new generation then coming of age.
1953 saw Sinatra signing with Capital Records, which in the long run, was the best possible gift he could have received. At Capital, he worked with the finest composers and arrangers, including the great Nelson Riddle.
By the time he began recording in early November, 1954, Sinatra had won the Best Supporting Actor Academy Award, and in general, everything was looking up for him. For this album, he had a lot of input, and creative control. He had artwork produced that showed him standing under a street light, alone, as young couples walked by. He then told the powers that be he wanted the album built around that. With that, Songs For Young Lovers was born, as perhaps the first concept album.
Another important milestone of this album was that it was the first 10″ record by Sinatra not to be released as a series of 78 rpm discs. In addition, this new format, along with Capital’s advanced studio capabilities, meant that the sound quality would be exponentially improved. This may not seem like a big deal today, but for the time, it was a huge step in the right direction. Sure, the 12″ LP was introduced in 1948, but generally, it had been used by labels for special issues, such as operas, and musicals, etc. According to Wikipedia, “standard 45-minute playing time of the LP was a significant improvement over that of the previous dominant format, the 78 rpm single, which was generally limited to three to four minutes. At around 14 minutes per side for 10-inch and 23 minutes per side for 12-inch, LPs provided a measured time to enjoy a recording before having to flip discs.”
Being issued as an 10″ EP allowed Songs For Young Lovers to contain eight songs with a running time of 21:42. This kept with Sinatra’s vision of the “Young Lovers” concept, and allowed for tightly arranged, higher fidelity tracks.
What glorious tracks they are too! The Rodgers & Hart classic, “My Funny Valentine,” “A Foggy Day,” penned by George and Ira Gershwin, and the Cole Porter standard, “I Get a Kick Out of You” are just a few of the delightfully engaging performances here. The album closes with two stunning examples of why everyone from swing fans, to blues fans, to jazz fans loves Sinatra; George and Ira Gershwin’s, “They Can’t Take That Away from Me,” and the Tom Adair, Matt Dennis standard, “Violets for Your Furs.”
As a concept album, Songs For Young Lovers works very well, and was a huge success for Sinatra. Over the course of a couple more albums at Capital, continuing to work with Nelson Riddle, Sinatra managed to completely remake his image from teen pop idol, to elegant, suave, sophisticated and swinging, man-about-town.
Those who have never heard this album should spend some time with it. Sure, it’s not blues in the purest sense of the genre, but “My Funny Valentine,” and “Violets for Your Furs” are exquisitely blue here, stroked and caressed by Sinatra. The impact this album had on the record industry as a whole is immeasurable; find out why for yourself.