Notes on This is Sinatra

While this was the first Sinatra compilation album to be released by Capitol, hitting stores in November of 1956, This is Sinatra was actually the second Sinatra compilation to be completed in terms of recording dates, covering sessions from April 30, 1953 (“I’ve Got the World on a String”) to September 13, 1955 (“The Tender Trap”), shortly behind the span of the Look to Your Heart LP, which was recorded from May 2, 1953-August 19, 1955.

The LP master was assembled from actual session tapes, so sound quality should be of a higher calibre than some other compilation LP titles, notably the poor sounding, overly-processed Look to Your Heart LP (although I’m not alone in thinking that the sound of the original This is Sinatra LPs is not all it should be), and as long as Duophonic issues are avoided, just about any LP of this title will be quite listenable, and some very good.  Compression and mild high-frequency “softness”  are concerns on mono This is Sinatra pressings of the 1950s and 1960s, and, as a result, pressings of that vintage may sound pleasant, but none would rank at the very top, to my ears.

Personally, I don’t view compilation LPs such as this to be sacrosanct in any fashion, as they are merely collections of non-LP tunes made available on LP, so I, personally, feel no need to gather these 12 songs together in a single mastering any more than I feel a need to rigidly gather, say, the tracks from The Beatles’ Hey Jude as a collection unto itself, and since these justly-famous songs have been issued and reissued so many times through the years, the odds that any single release will contain the absolute best-sounding version of all twelve tunes are slim to none, with slim not truly a factor. 

These are merely collections of previously released material, assembled largely in the names of convenience and commerce.  That said, there are many who do feel that these collections have significant merit as collections, and that the songs contained here do, in fact, belong together as a set package, and this album was in print, in true, original mono sound, with all 12 songs, on LP domestically from something like 1956-1968, again on LP by Toshiba/EMI in Japan in the 1980s and EMI in England and The Netherlands in 1984, appearing on CD twice, both times in the UK during the 1990s.  As I write this, it’s also about to be officially reissued on LP and HD download by Universal, hopefully with good results.  (Update: See comments and ratings farther down this page.)

Complete Versions:

Although the system is admittedly not perfect, I have devised a points system to help choose a “best choice” recommendation among these complete, 12-song, mono versions:

•Original USA Capitol LPs

•1980s Japanese ECJ-series LP

•1985 UK “Dell” LP

•1996 UK MFP-label This is Frank Sinatra, 1957-1957 2-CD set (which contains all 12 tracks in LP running order)

•1998 UK This is Sinatra CD (from the 21-CD boxed set)

•2014 HD Download

•2014 Capitol/UMe LP

Each of these sets was considered as we did the “singles” comparison pages (see links farther down this page), and I’ve roughly converted each song’s ratings into a points scale of up to 5 points each:

Using this 1 to 5 scale for each song, then taking the totals and dividing by the number of tracks (12), we get the following results, with 5 being the best possible score:

Now.....before the haters jump in, let me state clearly that I own original mono pressings (one circa 1958, one circa 1968 in the “Star Line” series), and, when carefully A/B’d, they are clearly compressed with a rolled off top-end, but they are still 100% enjoyable and I’m glad I have them, and I like to listen to them.  Regardless, if the quest is to find “the best” version, those pressings are pretty far down the line.  There’s a big difference between not being THE best, and being bad.  Those LPs are merely not THE best, but are still pleasant.

Looking for the “top choices” for each individual track?   See these links:

April 30, 1953 - I’ve Got the World on a String, Don’t Worry ‘Bout Me, South of the Border

May 2, 1953 - My One and Only Love, From Here to Eternity

December 9, 1953 - Rain, Young-at-Heart

March 1, 1954 - Three Coins in the Fountain

May 13, 1954 - The Gal that Got Away

March 23, 1955 - Learnin’ the Blues

August 19, 1955 - Love and Marriage

September 13, 1955 - (Love Is) The Tender Trap

•MFP This is Sinatra, 1953-1957 CD: 4.66 (8 of 12 cuts scored in the “top choice” category)

•1985 UK This is Sinatra LP: 4.17 (6 of 12 cuts scored in the “top choice” category)

•1980s Japanese This is Sinatra LP: 3.33

•2014 This is Sinatra LP: 2.80

•1998 Boxed Set EMI UK CD: 2.33

•2014 This is Sinatra HD downloads: 2.21

•Original Capitol This is Sinatra LPs: 2.08*

•Despite somewhat squished dynamics and a “soft” top end response, which collectively caused the original pressings to lose some points in this grading system, I would personally choose an original “D”  pressing over either of the 2014 releases if I wanted to sit and listen to the album as a whole.  “By the raw numbers,” the originals don’t score very well song-by-song, but by the ears, on the whole, the impression is more positive.