The Sinatra Project

by: Michael Feinstein

Although Frank Sinatra may be considered the king of traditional pop and Michael Feinstein is a successful later purveyor of the same style, the two have never seemed to have much in common. Sinatra, as Feinstein points out in his liner notes to The Sinatra Project, liked to credit songwriters and arrangers when performing their songs, but he also imposed his own style on everything he sang, while Feinstein, ever the musical scholar, prefers to serve the material and seems to take more pleasure in uncovering alternate lyrics and entire lost songs than in actually singing. Thus, for him to record a Sinatra tribute album, he had to plunge into the archives and even do some restoration and revision. The Sinatra Project is full of what for lack of a better word might be called "Feinsteinisms." Working with arranger/producer Bill Elliott, the singer has come up with charts (recorded, naturally, at the Capitol Tower) that ape the work of Nelson Riddle and Billy May, sometimes speculating about what they and Sinatra would have done with a particular song. For example, Sinatra recorded Cole Porter' s "Begin the Beguine" only once in 1946 with an arrangement by Axel Stordahl. But suppose he had decided to re-cut it in the ‘50s. It might have sounded as it does here. Lyricists Alan & Marilyn Bergman and composer John Williams wrote the song "The Same Hello, The Same Goodbye" for Sinatra, who apparently intended to record it but did not live to do so. Feinstein gives it a reading here. Sinatra did record the Latin-styled "How Long Will It Last" to the accompaniment of Xavier Cugat' s orchestra, but never released it. Again, Feinstein sings it here, in a duet with China Forbes. Clearly, the idea was to create a collection of Sinatra-iana, with marginal glosses on the great man's work, rather than just sing a bunch of songs associated with him. Typically, Feinstein brings in barely known or previously unheard lyrics, notably the introductory verse to "Fools Rush In." Less valid are Marshall Barer' s new lyrics for Cole Porter' s "At Long Last Love" (apparently sanctioned by the Porter estate), which are clearly inferior and do not, as Feinstein asserts, replicate the effect of the kind of special lyrics Sammy Cahn used to write for Sinatra and others. So, some of this works, and some does not. And, as usual, Feinstein as a singer, despite having become suppler and expanding his range over the years, never manages to express his own identity through the material, in the way that Sinatra did -- generally within the first phrase. ~ William Ruhlmann

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