Here you can discuss other musicians and CD reissues etc

Frank Sinatra: Lady Day

Mon May 05, 2014 2:23 am

In 1969, Sinatra recorded an album called Watertown. The album, written by Bob Gaudio and Jake Holmes, is a concept piece in which the songs tell the story of a man whose wife has left him and the kids (maybe temporarily) because she has succumbed to the lure of the city. It sold poorly on release but, since its release on CD, the album has become a cult classic and, at the same time, more widely known. There is now an extensive website dedicated to the album: http://www.watertownology.com/, and last year a black and white "silent" film was made around the record: http://www.imdb.com/video/wab/vi1431349529/

One song recorded for the album but not used was "Lady Day," although the song was added to the first CD release. Sinatra had the song re-arranged by Don Costa, re-recorded it, and included it as a tribute to Billie Holiday on the last album released prior to Sinatra's retirement, Sinatra & Company. Many of Costa's arrangements for Sinatra are mediocre, but when he was at his best (as he is here) he was up there with Riddle, May and Jenkins. Costa gave Lady Day a wonderful, sweeping arrangement that is as passionate as Sinatra's vocal. The performance is one of the real forgotten gems of the Sinatra legacy and, oddly, didn't even make it to the 4CD Reprise Collection set in 1990. At that point, however, Watertown hadn't found its audience - a lot can change in twenty-four years.

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Re: Frank Sinatra: Lady Day

Mon May 05, 2014 3:56 am

Whilst I can't agree that most of Don Costa's arrangements for Sinatra were mediocre (I'd say that most were excellent, in fact) I'm very, very fond of Watertown and Lady Day. Both versions, although I do prefer Frank's second recording of this song. Watertown is a nigh-on superlative album, of course -- although its commercial failure, having sold only 35,000 copies, is academic now, it's a shame that a proposed television special was scrapped because of this. This may have been an interesting project in itself, although the narrative structure of the album isn't entirely linear. Which alludes further to the protagonist's mental state as his marriage implodes. This is further realised by the weariness in Sinatra's voice on this album, which was surely by design in some ways, although the schedule he maintained was catching up and leading to his short-lived retirement. The confluence of emotions present in Watertown remains stark, however, with bleak undertones and a streak of melancholy permeating throughout - and towards - a crushing realisation at the end of the album's last track, The Train. Along the way, there's rich new tapestries abound for the 53 year-old Sinatra, whose musical (and film) projects of the late-sixties found him still seeking new challenges. She Says, for example, is striking. Ruminating like an oriental meditation, replete with gagaku-biwa or samisen-informed passages that morph from kabuki to Morricone, these are sounds that wouldn't have been unfamiliar to Sinatra, but remain unique in late-sixties pop. And whilst there's a romantic undercurrent throughout much of Watertown, especially in the beautiful Elizabeth, poignancy is certainly abound next to an unflinching sadness. And that sadness is also present in Lady Day, which Sinatra sings with such affection and gentleness that the overall effect can be profoundly moving. Watertown does work best sans the inclusion of Lady Day, even if this song was initially recorded for the album, or if the inclusion as a bonus track on previous CD releases seemed warranted. The more recent, and better sounding, CD release of Watertown has rectified this, making it more than worthy of a double-dip for fans of this album or anyone new to this lesser-known Sinatra masterwork.

Re: Frank Sinatra: Lady Day

Mon May 05, 2014 4:10 am

greystoke wrote:Whilst I can't agree that most of Don Costa's arrangements for Sinatra were mediocre (I'd say that most were excellent, in fact) I'm very, very fond of Watertown and Lady Day. Both versions, although I do prefer Frank's second recording of this song. Watertown is a nigh-on superlative album, of course -- although its commercial failure, having sold only 35,000 copies, is academic now, it's a shame that a proposed television special was scrapped because of this. This may have been an interesting project in itself, although the narrative structure of the album isn't entirely linear. Which alludes further to the protagonist's mental state as his marriage implodes. This is further realised by the weariness in Sinatra's voice on this album, which was surely by design in some ways, although the schedule he maintained was catching up and leading to his short-lived retirement. The confluence of emotions present in Watertown remains stark, however, with bleak undertones and a streak of melancholy permeating throughout - and towards - a crushing realisation at the end of the album's last track, The Train. Along the way, there's rich new tapestries abound for the 53 year-old Sinatra, whose musical (and film) projects of the late-sixties found him still seeking new challenges. She Says, for example, is striking. Ruminating like an oriental meditation, replete with gagaku-biwa or samisen-informed passages that morph from kabuki to Morricone, these are sounds that wouldn't have been unfamiliar to Sinatra, but remain unique in late-sixties pop. And whilst there's a romantic undercurrent throughout much of Watertown, especially in the beautiful Elizabeth, poignancy is certainly abound next to an unflinching sadness. And that sadness is also present in Lady Day, which Sinatra sings with such affection and gentleness that the overall effect can be profoundly moving. Watertown does work best sans the inclusion of Lady Day, even if this song was initially recorded for the album, or if the inclusion as a bonus track on previous CD releases seemed warranted. The more recent, and better sounding, CD release of Watertown has rectified this, making it more than worthy of a double-dip for fans of this album or anyone new to this lesser-known Sinatra masterwork.


Thanks Greystoke, I was mostly referring to Costa's work in the "soft-rock" vein (and the 70s albums) which, sadly, are greater in number than superb albums arranged by Costa such as Sinatra & Strings.

Re: Frank Sinatra: Lady Day

Thu Jun 19, 2014 10:39 am

Wonderful posts, gentlemen.

That's some film. A music video to tell the story of each song on the album. I enjoyed it although I wish it were set in the period.

Re: Frank Sinatra: Lady Day

Fri Jun 20, 2014 10:42 am

This was one of the very first Sinatra albums I gave a spin and thought it was a bore. :wink:

Maybe I should nowadays give it another chance.

Re: Frank Sinatra: Lady Day

Fri Jun 27, 2014 6:53 pm

luckyjackson1 wrote:This was one of the very first Sinatra albums I gave a spin and thought it was a bore. :wink:

Maybe I should nowadays give it another chance.




Me too

Re: Frank Sinatra: Lady Day

Fri Jun 27, 2014 8:43 pm

Definitely not for everyone, but I hope those who try it will have the patience to let it sink in. I don't listen to it often but when I do, it tends to stay with me for a few days. I love FS but none of his albums haunt me the way this one does.

Re: Frank Sinatra: Lady Day

Fri Jun 27, 2014 10:16 pm

zane7570 wrote:Definitely not for everyone, but I hope those who try it will have the patience to let it sink in. I don't listen to it often but when I do, it tends to stay with me for a few days. I love FS but none of his albums haunt me the way this one does.


That's a fair summation. It's certainly not an album for background listening; it demands your attention in order to get anything from it. It's great to see it getting so much love these days, but I also understand why some people don't like it.

Re: Frank Sinatra: Lady Day

Sat Jun 28, 2014 8:12 am

I watched the short film mentioned above and my opinion is essentially the same as with the others. I watched it as a series of music videos, but do wish they could have made it a period piece.

Re: Frank Sinatra: Lady Day

Sat Jun 28, 2014 8:47 pm

It would be interesting to find out what Sinatra's initial plans were for the TV special he was going to make to tie in with the album.