Your Sister’s (Record) Rack: Frank Sinatra
How about a little change of pace today? Okay, here’s Strangers In The Night by Frank Sinatra. When this album was released in 1966, rock and roll had pretty much taken over -but there were still plenty of older listeners around who dug Andy Williams, Perry Como and the Rat Pack. That’s kind of what made the era’s AM radio so cool: you could hear the Beatles, then Aretha Franklin, then the Byrds, then Sinatra, then Bob Dylan … and that’s also why many car radios came with buttons so you could bail on a station playing a “bad” song.
By this time Frank Sinatra had already left Capitol Records and started his own label, Reprise. He recorded Strangers In The Night with long-time arranger/conductor Nelson Riddle and his orchestra. Sinatra had started a comeback of sorts in 1965, playing tons of shows and cutting the hit album September Of My Years. The new album, Strangers, built on that success with the title track, which was the first song recorded for this album. Although Sinatra later claimed he disliked the song, it still stuck to the core of his sound and put him on the radio. One of the most memorable and recognizable features of the record is Sinatra’s scat improvisation of the melody with the syllables “doo-be-doo-be-doo” as the song fades to the end. Some fans said the song fades too early (how would they know?), cutting short Sinatra’s improvisation. The greatest-hits CD Nothing But The Best corrects that: the song was remastered and the running time clocks in with an extra nine seconds of Sinatra’s scat singing.
The rest of the album tossed together pop hits of the day (“Downtown,” “On a Clear Day [You Can See Forever],” “Call Me”) along with show tunes and standards, attempting a balance between big band and pop instrumentation. Nelson Riddle constructed the album with swingin’ strings, horns and other traditional instrumentation that nevertheless found a foothold on pop radio. Sinatra’s singing is loose and confident, as he riffs on the melody of “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World” and delivers a knockout punch with the killer “Summer Wind.” Although he would not record another album with Riddle again, Sinatra would go back to the well and draw from the strengths of Strangers in the Night for the rest of the decade.
The album marked Sinatra’s return to No. 1 on the pop album charts in the mid-1960s, and in 1967 the album would win two Grammy Awards: Record of the Year and Best Male Vocal Performance for the the title track. Sinatra won a third Grammy that same year, Album of the Year for A Man and His Music. Strangers in the Night has been certified platinum for 1 million copies sold in the United States, and it is the only “regular” Sinatra album to achieve this mark (the others to do so have been greatest hits/compilation albums, Christmas albums, or the end-of-career “Duets” albums. Earlier this year, Warner Bros./Reprise released a remastered/expanded version of the album with three bonus tracks, two live and one alternate take.