Come Swing with Me - 1961

Album Index     Mono     Stereo

 
 

I’ve never understood why a big band album that Sinatra made with Neil Hefti stole the album title that this album should have had, as this album has nary a saxophone or violin in sight, while the Hefti album features relatively boiler-plate arrangements with a standard jazz band lineup.  This album, meanwhile, is brass, brass, and more brass.


In fact, the idea for the album was supposedly the in reaction to Billy May’s own May of 1958  Big Fat Brass album, as heard here (Clip on the photo):

The real SINATRA AND SWINGIN’ BRASS!

MMMmmmmmmmm, that’s some tasty brass writing.  Too bad they didn’t get Billy May to arrange Come Swing with Me!  According to Nat Cole expert Jordan Taylor (as posted by him at SH.TV, here), the BYU archives indicate that only two or three (depending on which file you believe) of the twelve Come Swing with Me tracks were actually arranged by May, with either three or four arranged by Skip Martin, and the balance arranged by Heinie Beau, who also ghostwrote roughly half of Sinatra’s Come Dance with Me album, also credited publicly to May.


As far as Sinatra’s contributions to this album bearing his name, the performance is pretty good considering that by this juncture Sinatra was solidly into “contractual obligation” mode where Capitol was concerned.  It’s not his best work, but it is still of a very high standard.  To put things into perspective, consider these important chronological details:


•By the time of these late-March, 1961, sessions, Sinatra had already released his first single on Reprise Records, The Second Time Around.

•Ring-a-Ding Ding was already “in the can,” and was only not yet on the shelf in record stores due to a “snarl” (Billboard’s wording) with the cover art.  It would be released about two weeks after the recording sessions for Come Swing with Me.

•Sinatra was burning the recording candle at both ends, presumably to get that pesky contractual obligation monkey off his back.  On March 22 and 23, he would record four songs per day at Capitol for Come Swing with Me, then buzz across town to Radio Recorders and record four more tracks each evening intended for, but not used on, Reprise’s I Remember Tommy album. (That album would be re-recorded later.)


Although Sinatra’s Capitol years were sunsetting, Capitol’s recording quality was arguably at its zenith, with results that remain stunningly good fifty years later.  (Yes, you are old.)  Let’s compare some of the mono releasesNOTE: These brief sample clips mirror those already available free of charge at Amazon.com via the link at the right margin:

To my ears, the early UK pressing is the best-sounding LP of the four sampled above.


Fold-down?


I think the mono mix, when presented well, sounds great, but to my ears, it sounds like a fold down.  Let’s listen:  Two clips, each played twice.  Order:  MFSL summed to mono, UK mono, followed by a brief pause, then MFSL summed to mono, UK mono. 

Click to listen: FoldDownProofMFSLPannedIn-UKMono.mp3

(NOTE: Those brief clips fall within the 90-second sample freely available on iTunes.  To hear that 90-second iTunes sample, click on                 in the iTunes window at right,

then click                             in the next window.)

So, is it a fold down?  Sounds like one to me, and if it isn’t technically a fold down, the effect is the same.  Let’s dig a bit further....

Original UK mono cover.

Sinatra in Swingin’ Mono!

Click the photos below to hear audio.

(Clips mirror the free Amazon.com samples available at right.)

Click photo to hear clip from original D1 pressing.

Click photo to hear clip from original D6 pressing, courtesy SH.TV’s “stevelucille.”

Click photo to hear clip from early Japan pressing, courtesy SH.TV’s “stevelucille.”

Click photo to hear clip from original UK 1N pressing.

Fold down from the original stereo mix?  You be the judge.


Prefer the album in mono?  Having a hard time finding a mono pressing in good shape?  Go find yourself a good sounding stereo version that uses the original mix, and press the mono button on your hi-fi.  There.  You’ve got the mono mix, or something incredibly close to it, and with the poor tone on many of the mono pressings, that’s probably a good move.


Back to that piano mic:

Whether or not the mono mix is a fold-down, it’s still interesting to track that piano mic situation’s eventual resolution.  Bill Miller’s piano winds up being more-or-less unheard for much of the March 21, 1961 session’s 4 songs, recorded in this order:


•Yes, Indeed - heard via leakage and the odd little piano/tape overdub, all in the left channel

•American Beauty Rose - No audible piano?

•I’ve Heard that Song Before - No audible piano?

•The Old Black Magic - The piano returns, via some audible knob twiddling (a rarity at Capitol during this time period), properly miked, this time in the right channel, it’s typical, miked position for the bulk of this album.


Recording Come Swing with Me:

As mentioned above, the genesis of Come Swing with Me can be found in a May 1958 recording by Billy May entitled Big Fat Brass.  It sounds to me as if the studio set-up for Big Fat Brass was along these lines:

The Missing Piano Mic and Overdub


On the first three tracks from the second session (March 21, 1961), the piano mic was apparently not working or not properly hooked up, as three songs, “Yes, Indeed,” “American Beauty Rose,” and “I’ve Heard that Song Before” have a very weak piano sound, with the piano heard only via leakage into a left-channel mic, most likely the “Auxiliary Percussion” mic.  On most of the tracks, this is of minor concern, but on “Yes, Indeed,” it apparently led to an odd overdub* situation that was, based on aural evidence, performed directly onto the stereo mixdown master, not onto a 3-track tape.


Below, note that on the Walsh CD remix, the piano is heard “leaking” into the left channel (when properly miked, it is in the right channel), and that the overdub, taken from the MFSL LP that uses the original mix, also has the piano on the left channel.  (Again, clips mirror those available freely at Amazon.com, linked at right margin.)

I’m not 100% convinced that this is an overdub.  I think it may be a tape-on-tape situation, similar to what was done to boost the piano on the initial bars of the song “Only the Lonely.”   Regardless. listen BELOW to another sequence of examples using the same musical clip, and listen to the 6 piano chords that Bill Miller plays.  You will hear things in this order:  1.) UK mono pressing; 2.) MFSL stereo LP, summed to mono; 3.) MFSL stereo LP in stereo; 4.) Larry Walsh remix.  CLICK ON THE PHOTO BELOW:

*Click the photo of Laurel & Hardy to hear the piano which when miked is on the right, but on this track, the mic was off (or otherwise not properly in use), so the piano is heard leaking through a mic on the LEFT channel, making Bill Miller’s brief chordal solo bit too weak on the 3-track, introducing the need for either an overdub or some sort of tape-on-tape superimposition, quickly faded in and out, to bring the piano part up to acceptable volume levels.

Reel-to-reel audio sample courtesy SH.TV’s “stevelucille.”  Click on photo to listen.

Above, all the blue arrows indicate mics on the left channel, all red arrows indicate mics on the right channel, and the green arrow represents Frank Sinatra’s mic in the center.


Edit Differences on I’ve Heard that Song Before:

Have a listen to the original 7.5 ips reel of the stereo mix, courtesy SH.TV member “stevelucille.”  Click 01 Brassmen's HolidaySHTV.mp3 to listen.  By the time of Come Swing with Me, a more multi-mic, mono-compatible stereo set-up was the norm.  Although the physical seating arrangement was probably very similar to that used on Big Fat Brass, the mic arrangement was significantly different, with probably each mic being directional (maybe not the drum mic), each hard-panned, i.e., assigned to a specific tape track, either left or right, with Frank being alone on the center track, something more like this:

Finally, here is another way to hear the difference, with the left channel from The Capitol Years, and the right channel the original mix.  Click ItSeems FurmanekLeft-MFSLRight.mp3 to listen.


Let’s move on to look at the stereo editions of this album.  Click here to continue, please, and don’t forget to contribute to the discussion at the Steve Hoffman Music Forum.

On the album’s final cut, there is an intercut in the original mix as well as in the Walsh 1991 remix (where its recreation is very well approximated) that is not present on three remixed CD issues that include this track.  According to SH.TV member bob f, the three unedited issues are: 


1990… THE CAPITOL YEARS (US)

1996… THE COMPLETE CAPITOL SINGLES COLLECTION

1996… FRANK SINATRA SINGS THE SELECT SAMMY CAHN


To my ears, the edit appears to start at about 1:27 and concludes at 1:42.


You can hear the likely cause of the splice, a blatant trumpet clam right at the end of the word “me.”  You will hear the unedited stereo mix from the 1990 The Capitol Years 3-disc set (with the clam), then the edited stereo mix heard on all original-mix issues of the complete album, the MFSL pressing in this case.  CLICK TrumpetClam-Furmanek-MFSL.mp3 TO LISTEN.  (Clips are also available free of charge at the iTunes links to the right.  Click “VIEW,” then “View in iTunes.)