Sessions with Sinatra by Charles Granata: a review

Nearly entirely about Sinatra’s recording work. This is an excellent survey of changing technology, of Frank’s mastery of his voice and the technical recording details, of his relationships with his arrangers and technicians, of the characteristics of sound studios, and similar stuff.

The book essentially begins with Sinatra’s move to Columbia Records after splitting with Tommy Dorsey. His big band work gets only a cursory look–both because these were actually Dorsey or James recording sessions, and because they’re not so well documented. In fact, it’s clear that the level of documentation improves as Frankie ages. The Columbia and Capital sections of the book are excellent; the Reprise section seems weaker, perhaps because the sessions themselves were weaker. The author does note the irony that Sinatra launched the Reprise label to gain better control of his recording sessions, then surrendered that control to his staff. Life can be strange.

Book lives mostly at a moderately high level. Granata occasionally dives fairly deeply into a specific session, watching as Sinatra and his collaborators work out a song or assemble an album.

Interesting, and very readable. Sinatra’s life is discussed only as it impinged on his work, and then only in generalities. If biography’s what you’re looking for, this is not the book to read. On the other hand, his changing relations with the Victor, Columbia, and Capitol recording labels are discussed in some detail. Nonetheless, the book’s mainly about the technicalities of the recording studio, and/or how Frank worked in the studio. If you’re interested in those things, this is a very good introduction.

Oh, yes: Great pictures, too. Almost worth buying just for the photographs.

This review was originally published on LibraryThing.