November 14, 2006

Backstage at Caesars

The perfect Christmas gift for the Sinatra fan in your life, or perhaps even for yourself, would be the new box set, Sinatra: Vegas. I couldn't wait that long, receiving mine via Amazon this past Saturday (thanks for the heads up Cheryl!). I love Sinatra at the Sands with Count Basie, so I was very excited when I heard this was being released.
It is a four disc, one DVD set featuring live Vegas performances of the Chairman, down through the years.

  • Disc 1 features Frank in the Sands Copa Room, in November of 1961 (the height of the "Rat Pack's" appeal). It's a swingin' affair!

  • Disc 2 also showcases a performance at the Sands, but in 1966 (as Sinatra's era was rapidly being overshadowed). I thought at first Reprise had simply included a reissue of Sinatra at the Sands with Count Basie, because the set list is identical. But when Sinatra walks out and doesn't say, "How did all these people get in my room," I knew it was a different night. He sounds a bit tired (he himself making reference to this fact more than once), and his voice is shot. He was doing five nights a week at the Sands, with Dean Martin ("Ol' Red Eyes") filling in for him on Mondays so he could rest.

  • Disc 3 is a recording of a performance from an entirely different era than on the first two. This is Sinatra, long after he'd burned his bridges at the Sands (the "Never fight a Jew in the desert" incident), playing at his Vegas home of the time, Caesars Palace, in March 1982. A couple of treats are the inclusion of Dean Martin (sitting in the front row) and daughter, Nancy, who duets with her old man on "Somethin' Stupid."

  • Disc 4 has Sinatra as "the old man," at the Golden Nugget, April 1987. It starts with him reprimanding his conductor at the time, Bill Miller, to "stop staring at me at wave your arms" to get the show going. On this, and on disc 3, his voice is actually better than on disc 2, when he was a mere 50 years old, as opposed to 72.

  • Disc 5 is a DVD featuring a closed-circuit television performance Caesars Palace recorded in May 1978. Frank is in one the ebullient moods he would reach on his upswings, and the voice and performance reflect it.

    Here is a portion of it, showing Sinatra backstage, about to go on. The person you hear is the opening act, comedian Jackie Gayle. You will see Sinatra talking to and posing for pictures with a boxer who I don't recognize. Because his father, Anthony, was at one time a professional boxer (his boxing name was "Marty O'Brien"; it was felt Irish boxers could pull in larger audiences in Hoboken), Sinatra always had a soft spot in his heart for them.


    Unknown said...

    Oh how I love my copy of this too. I ripped open that box from Amazon and coulnt' wait to play the DVD. He's in great voice and in a great mood and it makes for a great concert. I love CD's too. Great gift for someone that loves Sinatra.

    Chris said...

    The Caesars performance is vintage, mid-70s Frank, in a swingin' mood!

    Shane O'Neal said...

    Terrific set, but I really don't think his voice was shot in the '66 Sands concert as you say. The original sands release may be a tiny bit better in that area, but not much.

    Chris said...

    programmer1390, I meant to go back and change that after I'd listened to the 1966 show a few more times. Other than during "I've Got a Crush on You," his voice actually is really strong.

    Anonymous said...

    Who was that boxer ????

    Anonymous said...

    Lee Wilkerson