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Sunday, February 12, 2023

Cycles - Frank Sinatra


Pretty Colors

Frank Sinatra
Arranged and Produced by Don Costa
Conducted by Bill Miller
Engineering: Lee Herschberg and (on Cycles and My Way Of Life) Frank Laico
Recorded in July and November, 1968
Art Direction and Photography: Ed Thrasher
Reprise Records FS 1027
A Division of Warner Bros. - Seven Arts Records, Inc.

From the back cover: Study One at Western Recording in Los Angeles began as a food market in the 30's, became a live audience radio theater in the 40's, home base for panel, quiz and variety shows in the infancy of television, and finally, after extensive renovation, what it is today. Perhaps for historical reasons, the wall are painted pea-soup and canned-string-bean green, and even though these are partly hidden by baffles of white acoustic board, the vegetarian color scheme is heightened by batteries of fluorescent bulbs. But, appetizing in decor or not, Studio One has probably the best sound in Los Angeles. It is warm, flexible with "good isolation"... and is perfect for Sinatra.

7:45 PM and into Studio One is poured the heavy cream of West Coast musicians. Also arranger-conductor Don Costa (energy activated with a Groucho Marx stalk and an insouciant smile that someday deserves to be rendered immortal on the wall of a high-class delicatessen), assorted engineers and record company personnel, approximately 25 visitors (stuffed into the booth and strung around the edge of the studio on near-to-collapsing chairs), and in the midst of it all, in the vortex, the man who told reporters that afternoon that he was giving up Los Angeles because of the smog (a medical clinic at UCLA had issued some hair-raising facts), and who now draped himself across the conductor's podium and announced to anyone, "I'm tired."

(A comment which elicited belly laughs form the boy's in the band because, one, the session hadn't even begun, and two, Sinatra looked terrific in a body-tapered gray suit, red-and-white stripped shirt, open at the collar, and a winey-colored paisley tie, knotted but loose. Except for the Caesar Romero gray that has salted his hair, he was time standing still and the walking-talking image of his old record covers from Capitol days. The only things lacking were a lamp post, two lovers in silhouette, and Peggy Lee, of Mañana and the Vaselined lips, in the next rack. The eternal dangling cigarette was already on hand.)

At 8:00 the session rolls and so does Sinatra. Feeling his way through By The Time I Get To Phoenix as if it were newly written. Belieing the lyric of Cycles. Capping Pretty Colors with a gritty dissonance, breaking into a beam-wide grin, and again flinging himself on the podium with: "Hey now, hey now, baby, what's Stan Kenton?"

The Countess Mara ties and dangling charm bracelets that once accessorized the sidelines of Sinatra sessions are no more. The spectators change with the times, and now there are turtlenecks and chunky chains with chunkier medallions and, on the distaff side: legs. Some very nice, some just okay, but all stretching out from a variety of minis, medium to micro. There is also a new wave of drop-in celebrities: a long blond actress (late arrival) in something like a navy blue crepe gym suit topped with a  blonde mink chubby; the ineffable Tiny Tim (who in a sidelines conversation with Mr. Sinatra became so excited that, lacking a slip of paper on which to write some phone numbers, pulled up one pant leg and penciled them on his ankle); and (heads turning, eyebrows raised) Beatle George Harrison and his wife, Patti, fresh from camera waving and hand shaking at a benefit showing of Yellow Submarine.

Also of note, the lone woman among the musicians, a perky, orange-haired mistress of the harp who whips up a mean glissando but, visually, would seem more at home as pastry lady in a college dormitory.

And the reason for it all: Sinatra. Cranking up the world with a fine-and-dany Moody River. Shifting tempos ever so slightly to make the second take of Little Green Apples the one. Acting, the perfectionist and deciding to scrap a not-quite-right Wait By The Fire. Making it all the way to Nashville and back with Gentle On My Mind. And in the short space of three hours turning asbestos baffles and canned green bean walls into rosewood.

11 PM and the session is over. Sinatra raps with Harrison about the talents of American songwriters, bids all a good night, and vanishes through a side door, followed by friends, assorted, and the long blond adjusting her chubby. It's cold for Los Angeles, and for once a fur looks right.

From Billboard - December 21, 1968: The amazing Sinatra clicks again, in this exciting and breezy and gently caressing LP. He mixes tempos and tunes without the slightest ruffle, whether it's his opener, "Rain In My Heart" or "Gentle On My Mind," flung out with innocent fire. Don Costa's arranging and producing ranks with the best. The title tune, his hit, spells giant sales.

Rain In My Heart
From Both Sides Now
Little Green Apples
Pretty Colors
By The Time I Get To Phoenix
Moody River
My Way Of Live
Gentle On My Mind

1 comment:

  1. The liner notes had to be by the wonderful Stan Cornyn who penned the liner for several of Sinatra's 'Reprise' recordings. This album was actually a bomb; not Sinatra's thing and it should never have been recorded. But, it's worth having just to be able to read and re-read Cornyn's unique literary style.


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