May 19, 1980 12:00 PM

Frank Sinatra

The third record of this three-LP album—Sinatra’s first release in five years—is drivel. A suite called The Future, composed by Gordon Jenkins, is pretentious and full of embarrassingly simple-minded pleas for peace (one segment is called World War None). Sinatra also philosophizes about growing old while a chorus behind him sings, “What now, Francis? What the hell will you do now, Francis?” Try this record once and then turn it into a lamp base. That will allow more time to listen to the rest of the set, which is wonderful. Sinatra has worked his voice back into superb shape at 64, compensating with depth and tone for what he has lost in range and elasticity. The first LP—subtitled The Past—includes ’30s and ’40s standards arranged by Billy May, who did the charts for Sinatra’s memorable 1957 album Come Fly with Me. (That was when Jenkins and, especially, Nelson Riddle were arranging Frank’s unequaled series of records for Capitol.) Some of the tunes are reprises; Sinatra did Street of Dreams with Tommy Dorsey, for instance, and All of You is one of his standbys. But these are his first recorded versions of the underappreciated My Shining Hour, by Johnny Mercer and Harold Arlen, and They All Laughed, by the Gershwins. While The Past is impeccable, that’s hardly surprising; Sinatra has all but branded and put a fence around material from that era. What’s remarkable is the second LP, The Present, a collection of modern pop songs dating from 1957. Though Sinatra has shown lapses in taste in trying such relative schlock as Don’t Sleep in the Subways and Bad, Bad Leroy Brown, the material on The Present LP is thoughtfully chosen; it’s also inventively arranged, mostly by Don Costa, whose flashy creations would overwhelm any lesser singer. There is an invigorating, swinging rendition of Billy Joel’s Just the Way You Are, a jaunty New York, New York (from Liza Minnelli’s movie), a sensibly edited Mac Arthur Park, an understated Love Me Tender, plus Riddle’s arrangement of George Harrison’s Something. If the songs come from a variety of genres, they all sound as if they were written for Sinatra; this is a master artist drawing on all his skill and 40-odd years of experience.

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