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Sinatra Croons, Swings and Jokes as 'A Voice On Air 1935-1955,' Legacy Recordings (REVIEW)

By Mike Greenblatt m.greenblatt@classicalite.com on Dec 20, 2015 12:55 PM EST

This might be the grand-daddy of boxed sets: not for its bulk, but for its cultural importance. For it is here where America grew to love Frank Sinatra, A Voice On Air 1935-1955 (Legacy Recordings). Radio was king. Millions listened as Sinatra welcomed guests on his various programs. And what guests! With 91 of 100 songs previously unreleased and not heard since their original broadcast, he welcomes and duets with Nat King Cole ("Exactly Like You"), Benny Goodman" (I Only Have Eyes For You"), Peggy Lee ("You Brought A New Kind Of Love To Me") ,Doris Day ("Take Me Out To The Ballgame" and "There's No Business Like Show Business"), Milton Berle ("It's De-Lovely"), Metropolitan Opera star Dorothy Kirsten ("A Fine Romance") and Louisiana Governor Jimmy Davis (who wrote "You Are My Sunshine"). Most special are his duets with two of America's greatest composers, Irving Berlin ("Alexander's Ragtime Band") and Johnny Mercer ("Ac-Cen-Tchu-Ate the Positive").

Between the era's commercials (sung or read by Sinatra), the elongated song introductions where his winning personality comes to the fore (after all, he was the host of the shows), the "countdown" of hits-of-the-week and the rare cover versions specifically arranged for these radio broadcasts of songs he never ever even officially recorded like "Don't Fence Me In," "I Wish I Didn't Love You So," "Long Ago And Far Away," "Aren't You Glad You're You" and My Ideal," one is magically transported to a different time and place. Close your eyes and lose yourself in a bygone era. American pop culture during World War II has a very distinctive and particular feel. It's the sound of Sinatra singing "I'll Be Seeing You." It's a voice that, in 2015, still succeeds in bringing it all back, even to those like myself who did not live through it. Extremely evocative, the chord struck here is American History 101.

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TagsFrank Sinatra, REVIEW, Nat King Cole, Benny Goodman

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