October 17, 2009

Disco Sinatra, or Saturday Night (and Day) Fever

saturday night and day fever
One of the things I find admirable about Frank Sinatra's career was his willingness to try new things (sometimes hilariously so) in order to remain relevant in the fickle business of trying to sell a product to the popular music crowd. Whether it was agreeing to allow electric organ and bass on the Strangers in the Night album (1966) or his sublime recordings he made with Antonio Carlos Jobim (1967 and 1969),

Sinatra was surprisingly flexible when he needed to be. Such is the case when, in 1977 during the final days of his "Ol' Blue Eyes Is Back" phase, the crooner worked with a then 32-year-old producer/arranger named Joe Beck. Allegedly Don Costa suggested to Sinatra that he record some disco material. And the rest, as they say, is history. From Will Friedwald's Sinatra! The Song Is You: A Singer's Art:

In the '60s and '70s, when he tried to reach the youth market, he stooped to their level by dabbling in ephemeral forms that were well beneath his taste and talent. His mercifully brief dalliance in "disco," as it used to be called, represents by far the most execrable example of this trend.

On February 16, 1977, he and Joe Beck recorded vocal tracks on "Night and Day" and "All or Nothing at Al" on top of disco orchestral backings that the producer-arranger had laid down the day before. While "All or Nothing at All" was wisely withheld (released only in 1995 on The Complete Reprise Recordings suitcase), "Night and Day" made it out as a single. (Sinatra also performed this version live, even as late as March 1979.)

I can see why they held back on releasing the Issac Hayes-inflected version "All or Nothing at All", yet I kind of like the update of "Night and Day." Of course, "Night and Day" is a tune Sinatra had sung since the earliest parts of his career.

In 1942, he did it with Tommy Dorsey:

There's the 1947 version he recorded during his late Columbia Records period, which Columbia Records didn't initially release, and apparently sat undocumented in Columbia's vaults until 1993:

Applying the "I've Got You Under My Skin" template to it on the 1957 A Swingin' Affair! album:

My personal favorite, a jazzy, vibe-heavy live recording, captured on Frank Sinatra with the Red Norvo Quintet: Live in Australia, 1959, not released until 1997:

Back to the heavy strings and melodrama on the Don Costa arranged version from Sinatra and Strings (1962):

And finally, disco Frank on the February 1977 recording with Joe Beck:


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