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The Unavailable (until now) and Best Sinatra CD

She Shot Me Down, a collection of ballads, ones that Sinatra called saloon songs, was released on LP in 1981.  It didn’t sell well, which may be one reason that the album wasn’t widely released on CD until recently.

In his mid sixties when he recorded it, Sinatra never sang better on a studio album.  And by that time his baritone voice had deepened and become more resonant.

This certainly isn’t the greatest collection of songs, though there are at least a couple legitimate classics.  Most are hard to sing well, but the man sings them very well.  A couple of these songs are schmaltzy, especially with the string accompaniment, but he keeps them from being too schmaltzy.

Sinatra opens with perhaps the hardest to sing, Sondheim’s “Good Thing Going.”  The singer avoids the show tune interpretation and frequent Sondheim cynicism and, most impressively, finds the melody and an underlying acceptance of the story he’s telling.

Hey Look, No Crying” and “A Long Night” are masterfully written songs.  Here, Sinatra is unflinching.  He owns these.  His version of “Thanks for the Memories” is more bittersweet than sentimental as he uncovers much more than may first be apparent in other interpretations.  There’s one embarrassingly bad song here, Sonny Bono’s “Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down).”  It’s a worth a listen here, though, if only to hear how generous Sinatra can be toward a song like this.

“Monday Morning Cornerback” is one of those schmaltzy tunes, but it’s hard to get away from it.  His voice and phrasing are just so good.  “I Loved Her” likely was written for him (by his arranger Gordon Jenkins).  It’s sad and witty at the same time.  The CD ends with an Arlen/Gershwin & Rodgers/Hart medley of songs that Sinatra had sung for decades, but he probably sings them better here.  And that’s the thing about this album: The man just sings better.

Is it his best album? Well, it’s difficult to compare it with his Live at the Sands, and some of his other live albums, but among his studio albums, She Shot Me Down is primo.

She Shot Me Down is available in a couple CD versions.  Go for the Japanese release from CDJapan.  If you’ve never heard a good SHM-CD, you’re in for an additional treat.  You’ll get a higher-fidelity, lower-noise, more musical version.

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