Frank Sinatra – Best of Vegas (CD review)

Frank Sinatra – Best of Vegas (Concord) CD review – Frank Sinatra was not only one of the greatest singers of all time, but also a tremendous all-around entertainer.  The problem is, most of what’s available on CD covers only his studio output, which only tells part of the story.  That’s what makes Best of Vegas such a delight: here is “The Chairman of the Board” in his element – king of his domain (literally, if you consider that Sinatra owned stock in several Vegas resorts).

In 1951, Sinatra entered Southern Nevada a has-been; his records had stopped selling and he was without a movie contract.  Yet, his mere presence lent credibility to an area known just for their casinos at the time.  Over some long-standing engagements, the singer was able to develop a reputation and reinvent himself, showing off his sharp wit and vocal prowess only hinted at on his records.  In the process, he created a hunger for entertainment in that area that has grown exponentially over the years, due in large part to him.  Truth is, there were different rules in Las Vegas, and that looser vibe permeates this disc.  What other place could he get away with comments like “pardon me, drink here, but don’t eat the food.”

Best of Vegas culls together live dates from 1961, 1966, 1982 and 1987.  The first thing you notice is how relaxed the singer is; cursing “Moonlight in Vermont” for being too difficult to sing, or adlibbing new words into “The Lady is a Tramp.”  His comedic timing is on display in his extended “Monologue,” which totals almost nine minutes, taking jabs at buddies Sammy Davis Jr, Dean Martin, and even the Vatican. Sinatra could still play it straight, and when he does, you’re in awe, as in “The One I Love Belongs to Somebody Else.”  The disc goes in chronological order, with the first nine cuts coming from the Sixties, when the singer was turning everything on the Strip into gold.

Yet, as the disc closes with performances from 25 years later, he still dazzles.  Especially good is his signature “Theme From New York, New York,” where he plays around the melody and spoofs other towns.  Even for those who own very little from the legend, Best of Vegas makes an excellent introduction, with songs sampled from his entire career: from the very first song he ever recorded (with Harry James) “All or Nothing At All,” to standards like “Fly Me to the Moon,” “I’ve Got You Under My Skin,” and “I Can’t Get Started.”  Best of Vegas offers further insight into the genius of Frank Sinatra.  –Tony Peters