Sunday, June 5, 2011

Frank Sinatra: "Ring-A-Ding Ding!" (2011 re-issue) CD Review

Ring-A-Ding Ding indeed! The first time I put on this album, it was late at night, which was frustrating because this album just demands volume (and I'm a considerate neighbor). Seriously. When you put it on, you'll understand. You'll want it loud. This is the quintessential Sinatra - at the height of his powers. And it was with a renewed vigor that he set to work on this album, after leaving Capitol.

This was his first album on Reprise, Sinatra's own label, and so of course he poured his heart into the project. And all the excitement and joy of this venture is heard on every track. This album swings. And Sinatra's voice is simply perfect. Ring-A-Ding Ding! reached #4 on the Billboard chart.

This is the 50th anniversary edition of the album, and includes two bonus tracks, including a previously unreleased ten-minute outtake of "Have You Met Miss Jones?" Enjoy.

Title Track

The album opens with the title track, "Ring-A-Ding Ding," and the first line of this album is "Life is dull/It's nothing but one big lull." This is totally not the case when you have this Sinatra album playing. This track is bursting with joy, as is this whole album. Life just feels good when you're listening to it. Really, if you need your spirits raised, this will do the trick. This track features some great jazzy piano playing, and also wonderful work on drums.

"Ring-A-Ding Ding" was written by Jimmy Van Heusen and Sammy Cahn.

"Let's Fall In Love"

"Let's Fall In Love" is another fun tune, with a bizarre and delightful pause a minute in. I love the vocal pattern of this song - the rhyme scheme, and what Sinatra does with it. Listen to lines like, "I have a feelin'/It's a feelin' I'm concealin'/I don't know why/It's just a mental, incidental, sentimental alibi." (And there's a Shakespeare reference in the line, "To be or not to be, let our hearts discover.")

"Let's Fall In Love" was written by Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler.

"A Foggy Day"

One of the coolest songs on this release is "A Foggy Day," a song written by George Gershwin and Ira Gershwin. This song features a great bass line, and a delightfully playful horn. And of course Frank Sinatra's voice is particularly excellent on this track. He seems to find more places to vary his delivery on this song than the others. It seems like he's really just having a great time on this song, and that translates easily to a fun time for the listener.

"A Foggy Day" was originally featured in the 1937 film A Damsel In Distress.

Cole Porter Songs

"In The Still Of The Night" is sort of the hit from this record. Certainly it's its most popular song with listeners and radio, and it's easy to see why. What a wonderful arrangement by Johnny Mandel of this excellent Cole Porter tune. It's got this great energy that builds and explodes with wonderful work by the horn section. And dig that bass line. And I love the way Sinatra sings the last line: "In the chill chill chill chill still of the night."

A live version of this song was included on Sinatra's 1995 release Sinatra's 80th: Live In Concert. "In The Still Of The Night" was written for the MGM film Rosalie (1937).

Sinatra also includes a cover of Porter's "You'd Be So Easy To Love" on this album. This song was written for the 1936 film Born To Dance.

"The Coffee Song"

"The Coffee Song" is kind of a silly song, but Sinatra somehow gives it an air of class. He also really belts it out. But check out these lyrics: "The politician's daughter/Was accused of drinkin' water/And was fined a great big fifty dollar bill/They've got an awful lot of coffee in Brazil." And these: "You date a girl and find out later/She smells just like a percolator/Her perfume was made right on the grill/Why, they could percolate the ocean in Brazil." This is silly stuff. But it's fun.

And for those who don't like coffee, the very next track is "When I Take My Sugar To Tea," which has a great easy swing rhythm. It's a wonderful tune written by Sammy Fain and Irving Kahal.

"Let's Face The Music And Dance"

"Let's Face The Music And Dance" is one of my favorite tracks from this album. It's a fantastic tune written by Irving Berlin. It has a catchy rhythm and a great feel. It was originally featured in the 1936 film Follow The Fleet, which starred Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. Here is a taste of the lyrics: "Before the fiddlers have fled/Before they ask us to pay the bill/And while we still have the chance/Let's face the music and dance."

Bonus Tracks

There are two bonus tracks included on this special re-issue. The first is an outtake of "Zing! Went The Strings Of My Heart." At the beginning of the track, you can hear, "Okay, we're rolling."

Sinatra really gives us everything on this one, and I love the way he sings the line, "You came along when everything was wrong and put a song in my heart." And the little lone bell after the first line, "Never could carry a tune," makes me smile every time.

A different version of "Zing! Went The Strings Of My Heart" was included on Frank Sinatra's The Reprise Collection box set (1990). "Zing! Went The Strings Of My Heart" was written by James Hanley.

The second bonus track is "Have You Met Miss Jones?" and at the beginning of the track you can hear some fooling around, "Maybe you got the wrong arrangement." And then when the song begins: "This sounds like a different album." Yes, it does. This song was originally slated to be included on Ring-A-Ding Ding!, but it was felt it didn't quite fit. The album is all fun swing-type tunes, with no ballads. So this song was bumped.

About a minute and a half in (no vocals yet), it stops, and adjustments are made. It's great hearing the studio chatter, and Sinatra testing things out, snapping out the rhythm. Approximately three and a half minutes into the track, the song starts. During the second take, Frank stops the song, saying it's the wrong notes. And then, "I guess it's me."

"Have You Met Miss Jones?" was written by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart for the musical I'd Rather Be Right. Frank Sinatra included it on his 1962 release Swing Along With Me.

CD Track List

  1. Ring-A-Ding Ding
  2. Let's Fall In Love
  3. Be Careful, It's My Heart
  4. A Foggy Day
  5. A Fine Romance
  6. In The Still Of The Night
  7. The Coffee Song
  8. When I Take My Sugar To Tea
  9. Let's Face The Music And Dance
  10. You'd Be So Easy To Love
  11. You And The Night And The Music
  12. I've Got My Love To Keep Me Warm
  13. Zing! Went The Strings Of My Heart
  14. Have You Met Miss Jones?

This special re-issue of Ring-A-Ding Ding! is scheduled to be released on June 7, 2011 through Concord Music Group. The album was originally released in March of 1961.

Frank Sinatra died on May 14, 1998.

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