Is this CD really Frank’s Best of the Best? Well …

… yes and no. It sort of depends on where you fall on the Frank Sinatra listening experience and collector scale.

If you’re  just finding your way to Frank Sinatra this is a clear winner … these recordings are truly from Frank’s prime  years and the chance to snag a CD with Frank’s “best” from both Reprise and Capitol record labels is solid goodness.

It gets a bit more complicated if you’re already steeped in Sinatra … though even if your collection is already fast and wide with Frank’s best, this release STILL may require your attention.

Let’s get into into the review and I’ll explain.

This brand spanking new Capitol Records release comes in two editions …

The base version of Sinatra: Best of the Best album is a single disc that for the first time combines Frank’s seminal recordings from both Capitol and Reprise record labels — 13 of Sinatra’s finest from his Capitol years, and 10 tracks from Sinatra’s foray to his own Reprise Records label.

All the expected standout numbers are here from both labels (see the complete track list below) … in a generally well rendered production. The overall quality/mastering is solid … not as good in my opinion as the job Concord Records did with the recent Sinatra-Basie studio recordings rerelease, but Capitol has done a good job for the most part. There’s the tiniest sense of flattening to my ear but it’s not substantive and should not dissuade you from picking up this album.

The basic release is a “winner-winner chicken dinner”…

SINATRA: Best of the Best is an obvious “win” for standards and/or Sinatra newbies. This is a cream of the crop compilation of Frank’s signature songs  … lovingly pried from the vaults of Capitol and Reprise Records. For folks relatively early in their Sinatra collection effort, SINATRA: Best of the Best is indeed aptly billed.

For the Sinatra aficionado the base version offers nothing especially interesting — you probably already possess all of these numbers several times over in your Sinatra stash. But it’s a different ballgame with the deluxe version however.

In this case “deluxe” is truly deluxe…

Frank Sinatra: Best of The Best (Deluxe Edition) starts with the basic CD described above and adds the accouterment we’ve come to expect in a “box edition” release … in this case an amazingly snug cardboard box (it took me a full 15 minutes to get the top off the box without ripping the thing in half — which I thought seriously about doing at minute 8 or 9!)

It’s all pretty cool stuff to be sure … liner notes (written for the eyes of a teenager) with interesting historical comments and anecdotes from Frank Sinatra Jr. on each of the 23 base CD tracks; five photos (5×5’s) of Frank that are kind of neat, but the real find … what really makes the deluxe edition deluxe is the addition of the  SINATRA ’57 In Concert album.

’57 was a great year…

Not only was it the celebrated year of my birth, but it was also the year Frank Sinatra performed with Nelson Riddle onstage at a concert in Seattle. Strangely it was relatively rare for Sinatra and Riddle to appear on stage together making this truly a bonus. In fact, for me the ’57 CD is the meat course of the deluxe spread.

Nelson Riddle arrangements and stage band, Frank’s piano man (Bill Miller) and a 41 year old Frank Sinatra delivering an hour of his personality and a set list of 19 songs that form the basis of his most popular albums … awesome. Sinatra tosses out Rat Pack-ish comments and some funny dialog through out the gig; and it’s hilarious that he drops a line on “The Tender Trap” (it’s sad when Frank can’t remember lines when he’s on stage late in life but I find it fun here).

’57 In Concert is exceptionally well produced too. It’s live and 1957 but they laid it down very nicely — maybe the best live recording from that era I’ve heard … on par with the Basie performance in Vegas which was recorded in 1966.

This ’57 In Concert live session was originally released in 1999 as a Gold CD that is now out of print. It’s not available as a digital download that I can find, and the CD will run you north of $60 (as much as $100) IF you can find one … again, this is truly THE gem nestled into the deluxe version of SINATRA: Best of the Best.

If your one of the lucky buckaroos (or buckarinas) that already possess the ’57 In Concert album then you can cruise right past this release, there’s nothing here you don’t already have in your iTunes cloud. BUT if you’re like me and I’m guessing many other Sinatra fans that don’t have the ’57 gig in hand … warm up your Amazon prime account and snag SINATRA: Best of the Best (Deluxe Edition)!

SINATRA ’57 In Concert…

1 Introduction / You Make Me Feel So Young

2 It Happened in Monterey

3 At Long Last Love

4 I Get a Kick Out of You

5 Just One of Those Things

6 A Foggy Day

7 The Lady Is a Tramp

8 They Can’t Take That Away from Me

9 I Won’t Dance

10 Sinatra Dialogue

11 When Your Lover Has Gone

12 Violets for Your Furs

13 My Funny Valentine

14 Glad to Be Unhappy

15 One for My Baby

16 The Tender Trap

17 Hey Jealous Lover

18 I’ve Got You Under My Skin

19 Oh! Look at Me Now

SINATRA: Best of the Best track list…

1.I’ve Got the World On a String (Capitol)

2.My Funny Valentine (Capitol)

3.Young At Heart (Capitol)

4.In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning (Capitol)

5.Love and Marriage (Capitol)

6.You Make Me Feel So Young (Capitol)

7.I’ve Got You Under My Skin (Capitol)

8.Lady is a Tramp (Capitol)

9.Witchcraft (Capitol)

10.All the Way (Capitol)

11.Come Fly With Me (Capitol)

12.Angel Eyes (Capitol)

13.Nice ‘N’ Easy (Capitol)

14.Night and Day (Reprise)

15.Way You Look Tonight (Reprise)

16.My Kind of Town (Reprise)

17.Fly Me To the Moon (In Other Words) (Reprise)

18.It Was a Very Good Year (Reprise)

19.Strangers In the Night (Reprise)

20.Summer Wind (Reprise)

21.That’s Life (Reprise)

22.My Way (Reprise)

23.Theme From New York (Reprise)