Saturday, November 22, 2008
Frank Sinatra - On the Radio: The Lucky Strike "Lite-Up Time" Shows 1949-1950 CD Review
Written by General Jabbo
The end of the 1940s was a tumultuous time for Frank Sinatra. Waning in popularity, he worked more than ever to keep his name out there. From nightclub appearances to recording sessions to movie making (Sinatra made two films in 1949 alone) to radio shows, he was overworked to the point that by 1950, he suffered a throat hemorrhage. From September 1949 until June 1950, he was the featured performer on the Lucky Strike-sponsored Lite-Up Time, a 15-minute show that aired every evening on NBC radio. It is these shows that are featured on the new Frank Sinatra CD, On the Radio: The Lucky Strike ‘Lite-Up Time’ Shows.
The CD is among the first for U.K. reissue label Acrobat Music’s new U.S. division and is lovingly restored, with a nice slipcase and extensive liner notes detailing the history of the sessions and debunking the mystery of as many recording dates as possible. The music is the important thing though and the CD delivers. With remastered sound, the vocals are warm and the orchestra vibrant, like you were in the room with Sinatra. It’s hard to believe these recordings are over 50 years old.
And what of the music? With Jeff Alexander conducting the orchestra and chorus (time constraints made it difficult for regular Sinatra arranger Axel Stordahl to commit to the show), the band and Sinatra sound in top form, in spite of rumors at the time that his voice was losing it. The shows featured two songs from Sinatra, a solo spot for regular guest Dorothy Kirsten, and a duet between the two. Since this is a Sinatra album, none of Kirsten’s solo spots are included, however an excellent duet on Rodgers and Hammerstein’s ‘Some Enchanted Evening” is part of the CD.
Sinatra’s smooth baritone shines on “I Only Have Eyes for You,” and “All of Me” swings as only he could. On the Gershwin classic, “I’ve Got a Crush On You,” he chuckles at the “big and brave and handsome Romeo” line, but it is a far cry from the sarcastic rendering in the 1966 Sands show in the Vegas box set. This is pre-Rat Pack, pre-Chairman of the Board period Sinatra here, and while his restraint might be due to the nature of the live radio broadcast, it also showcases this great performer at a different stage of his career.
“Body and Soul,” from one of the 1950 shows and not long before Sinatra’s throat hemorrhage, features renowned trumpet and coronet player Bobby Hackett who colors the song with some tasteful licks. Sinatra’s voice shows no signs of the strain it was under.
Completists may lament the fact that this collection is not complete, but with many songs performed more than once, On the Radio presents a nice overview of this radio show and reveals that even at a low point in his career, Frank Sinatra was the consummate professional and his voice never left him.