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Ultimate Sinatra [4 CD][Centennial Collection]
4 CD, Digipack
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Ultimate Sinatra presents key recordings for Columbia, Capitol & Reprise, together for the 1st time and boasts 100 tracks celebrating 100 years - all on 4 CDs. Ultimate Sinatra opens with 1939's "All Or Nothing At All," from Sinatra's 1st studio session and closes with a previously unreleased version of 1979's "The Surrey With The Fringe On Top." Features an 80-page booklet; with rare photos & quotes from Ol' Blue Eyes himself. Every track reinforces Sinatra's well-deserved moniker: The Voice.
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The album artwork is beautiful. On the inside when you open it up to reveal a photo of Sinatra in studio singing with his band behind him. The sound of the record has that old school feel to it that makes you feel as though you have traveled back in time when you play it.
This is a must own for any record playing enthusiasts, old and young!
“Ultimate Sinatra” is available in several different editions, the most extensive being the four disc collection that covers 1943-1979. This is the first time material from all three of Sinatra’s labels (Columbia, Capitol, and Reprise) are included on the same collection, and it’s also the first time many of these tracks have had any significant remastering efforts, so that alone makes this a worthy purchase.
The collection is certainly not perfect; as pointed out in at least one other review, the Capitol years are especially missing some essential performances (“Lonely Town” from “Where Are You,” “Grenada” from “Swing Along with Me,” “Prisoner of Love” from “Sinatra & Strings,” and “Soliloquy” from “The Concert Sinatra” come to mind immediately), and in some cases inferior versions of song Sinatra did better later on somehow made the cut (“Night and Day” and “The Song is You” both should’ve been represented by the Reprise takes). Also, I know it’s almost written in stone that every career spanning collection should end with “New York, New York,” but Frank still made new music right up until 1988, including one album of superior quality (“She Shot Me Down”) that deserves to be represented, as well as a wealth of orphaned tracks that are hard to find nowadays (“Searching,” “The Girls I Never Kissed,” “My Foolish Heart”). Any of these would be a worthy addition, especially since the bonus track, the 1979 rehearsal outtake “The Surrey with the Fringe on Top,” isn’t anything to write home about (though Frank sounds quite good vocally on it.)
The remastering is fantastic; the Columbia tracks sound better than ever, and the Capitol cuts don’t have the treble turned all the way up like on the 1998 remasters (really, though, can Sinatra’s entire catalog from that period be remastered with this much care and attention?). The packaging, on the other hand, leaves something to be desired: it’s quite flimsy, and the booklet is largely just a collection of quotes.
“Ultimate Sinatra” isn’t perfect, but you can’t fault the great music on here, and the sound is more than commendable enough to make it a worthy purchase.
This review refers to the CD collection. The mastering is loud if not compressed. The average dynamic range value might be good/great for a modern pop/rock album in light of the "loudness war", but not so much for a classic orchestral & vocal album. It is also a bit uneven - listening levels that were OK up to the end of CD 3 segued into a an orchestral blast at the beginning of CD4 that was startlingly loud and required me to turn down the volume - and that is not a quality you'd typically want to associate with this music genre.
The included booklet is nice, but the cardboard case was already falling apart when I took it out of the shrinkwrap. The CD 2 sleeve was completely unglued resulting in the CD falling out when I unfolded the case, the CD 3 one almost as well.
Most importantly, 2 out of the 4 CDs had SCRATCHES, and a 3rd one some sticky residue. I managed to clean & polish them to the point that my software & CD drive's error correction eventually got one clean & accurate rip off them so I didn't have to return them.
So my advice is to -immediately- check ALL the disks upon receiving this! (and not put them aside for a while like me and risk finding out at or after the return window ends)
Top international reviews
The gatefold presentation is brilliant with track lists and info from composers / bands present with a nice picture of the chairman with the band behind him.
The tracks go from Frank's early recordings (side A is mono I think) to his later recordings in a fairly chronological order.
As far as the quality goes, it's a pretty good pressing. I heard barely any pops or cracks. Due to side A having older tracks there was a bit of background 'hiss' present, but this did not distract or get in the way. Side B to D had wonderful separation, Frank's singing prominent above the mix, the various brass sections rising and falling around a solid well produced percussion / rhythm section. Overall an enjoyable listen.
It was a nice way to spend a Sunday afternoon listening to these records. A good collection and probably a good introduction for anyone looking to get into Frank.