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Frank Sinatra: No One Cares (1959) February 16, 2009

Posted by sjroby in Music.
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No One Cares

Frank Sinatra: No One Cares

Having been born a few years after this album came out, I became aware of Sinatra in a later phase of his career: one in which it seemed he was supposed to be revered because he was a legend, not because he could still sing the way he used to, not because he was picking great material, not because he was working with the right people. He was a larger  than life persona with an easily parodied style, and it was hard to figure out why he was such a big deal.

No One Cares is not considered his best album, or even in his top ten, but it’s part of his run of albums for Capitol Records in the 1950s — considered his best era — and it’s the first Sinatra album I ever sat down and listened to. And it made a believer out of me.

The album begins with delicate woodwinds and lush strings playing a melodic phrase, and then a subdued Sinatra sings “When no one cares, and the phone never rings, the nights are endless things….” The music is dramatic but subtle, never taking attention away from Sinatra’s perfectly phrased singing. This was so far removed from the bombast I thought he was about that I had to keep listening.

The other songs continue in the same vein, with Gordon Jenkin’s orchestral arrangements feeling almost like the soundtrack from a movie, the album’s cover photo letting you picture the story of a broken romance. The song titles are enough to give you the arc of the story: “When No One Cares,” “A Cottage for Sale,” “Stormy Weather,” “Where Do You Go?,” “I Don’t Stand a Ghost of a Chance With You,” “Here’s That Rainy Day,” “I Can’t Get Started,” “Why Try to Change Me Now?,” “Just Friends,” “I’ll Never Smile Again,” and “None But the Lonely Heart.” (I also have a CD reissue with some appropriate bonus tracks: “The One I Love (Belongs to Someone Else),” “This Was My Love,” “I Could Have Told You,” and “You Forgot All the Words (While I Still Remember the Tune.”)

As I eventually learned, reading about Sinatra, that consistent theme was very much intentional, and Sinatra is credited with creating the concept album, selecting and sequencing a set of songs on a particular theme. No One Cares is one of his saloon albums, as he called them; the kind of album that tells you the story of that man alone at the bar, drink in hand, downcast, surrounded by happy couples. Sinatra recorded four albums of ballads like this for Capitol in the 1950s. No One Cares was preceded by In the Wee Small Hours (arranged by Nelson Riddle, 1955), Where Are You? (Gordon Jenkins, 1957), and Frank Sinatra Sings for Only the Lonely (Nelson Riddle, 1958). Critics seem to prefer the Riddle-arranged albums, as Jenkins seems to be considered more tasteful middle of the road stuff, with Riddle apparently more in tune with the jazz side of the music. They’re all good albums, especially for those late nights when you’re wondering where it all went wrong.

Sinatra also did several equally strong albums of upbeat, swinging tunes in the ’50s; strangely enough, what got me to start buying those as well was the character of Vic Fontaine, the Vegas lounge singer, on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. James Darren, who played Fontaine, released an album of the kinds of classic songs he sang on the show, many of them famously recorded by Sinatra, and I wanted to hear more. But that’s a story for another day.

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