Ruminations on 
sixteen Capitol albums, 
The long, long road

...and so, we’ve reached the end of our survey of

Sinatra’s concept albums at Capitol.  I would like to

personally thank all of my friends at SH.TV and elsewhere

who have made these pages possible, and who have added so

much flare to the proceedings.  Not only could I quite literally

not have put these pages together without their input, but the pages

would have been full of uninformed, errant statements, and the

discussion would have been way too academic and way, way less fun.

Not only have these wonderful people shared their recording clips with me, but they have shared their thoughts, opinions, encouragement, and vast wealth of knowledge.  THANK YOU ALL.

I’m a teetotaler myself, but to quote Mr. Sinatra in 1966:

It’s boozin’ time!

Point of No Return - 1962

And the Winner Is....

In sonic terms, Point of No Return has not been treated all that well over the years.  The mono pressing we sampled has poor tone quality and a pretty heavy dose of compression.  The original stereo LPs are a little less compressed, with better, but not truly stellar, tone.  It did not get a 7.5 ips reel-to-reel release.  It was, uniquely among Sinatra’s “concept” albums, not released by MFSL in 1980s.  Also uniquely, It did not get a stereo CD remix.  Only one track was included on the 3-CD The Capitol Years retrospective in 1990.

That said, the recording itself (as opposed to the assorted masterings/releases) is absolutely first rate, and the album does seem to have one edition that sounds truly superior to my ears: the 1984 UK EMI LP in the Alan Dell series.  Technically, there are two editions that sound superior, since the Dell series was released in both the UK and the Netherlands, with slightly different (but both excellent) masterings, the latter being a DMM mastering.  With lack of adjacent groove pre-echo and slightly wider dynamic range, technically the DMM version is the “go to” version, I suppose.

Personally, I’m a “tone” guy.  A mastering can have great dynamics, full bass, wonderful stereo separation, etc., but if the tone is not right, there’s no hope, as far as I’m concerned.  The tone on the Dell LP is rich and warm, with just the right amount of bass and nice clear treble to fill out the full-range sound -- or tone, if you will.  Sinatra’s voice sounds great, and the LP is, on the whole, very pleasing to my ears, tonally.

Then there are the dynamics involved, and the Dell is the clear objectively-measured winner.  On the DR scale, the mono LP scores a 10, as does the surprisingly-compressed Walsh CD.  The stereo “D” LPs I have measure an 11, as does the 1998 UK CD.  Dynamic ratings aside, the Dell LP, to my ears, beats them all in the all-important tone department, and it also scores a 12 on the DR scale.  Since dynamic manipulation can also affect things like tone quality and stereo imaging, I’m not too surprised that the release that has the widest dynamic rating also has, to my ears, the best tone, although such is not always the case, of course.

Original “D” stereo LPs, while not as dynamic as the Dell LP, make for a very pleasant listen on their own terms, and the new MFSL LP exhibits, to my ears, that “original ‘D’” sound, which is a sound that many will prefer to the 1984 LP, which remains my personal preference. 

In terms of CDs, I think the Walsh is too dark (bass-heavy? No-noised?) sounding, and the UK disc is a little thin, with the MFSL disc somewhere in the middle, and probably the best of the three, despite oddly

uninspiring dynamics.

The 2014 MFSL releases, while excellent, and certainly worth owning, don’t sound quite as good to my ears as the Dell releases (largely a matter of audible dynamic differences), and exhibit some tape damage that is not evident on the earlier Dell LPs.  Additionally, there is an odd hum on the first two tracks of the MFSL SACD, so again, while the sound is overall pretty good, there are some technical issues that are of concern.  While other recent Sinatra releases from MFSL have left me wildly impressed, this one remains merely good, and not on the same level as the other releases in the series.

Thank you, gentlemen.  See you at the next session.