Frank is a man of mystery…

I think his 80th birthday is today, but I can’t get quite lock down on the actual date. No worries though … I know it’s close; happy birthday Mr. D’Rone!

As I mentioned in my review of Frank’s recent Double Exposure album release … this guy cooks at 80 and I need to tuck into some of the early D’Rone catalog and hear the sound that caught the ear of Nat Cole, Tony Bennett, Dean Martin, Sinatra, Ella and the many other classic era artists that waxed rhapsodic with praise for Frank D’Rone.

With that in mind, I snagged a copy of Frank’s 1960 Mercury Records LP release — After The Ball. Verve Reissued this twelve track LP on CD in 2003 and though I never listened to the original material, this remaster is extremely well mixed with the early edition of FD’R and the amazing Billy May Orchestra beautifully captured.

We’re talking 52 years…

…between the release dates of After The Ball and Double Exposure. Fifty-two years … I mean, add a couple of years (OK, three) and that’s pretty much my time on this earth (thus far anyway). When I listen to these two D’Rone albums — again, released more than a half century apart — I am amazed by the talent that is Frank D’Rone … and dumbfounded that he did not achieve the mega stardom of his contemporaries.

Fine young Frank D’Rone…

…in 1960 possessed a powerful vocal style that many fans and critics likened to Bobby Darin. I can hear that in some of the After the Ball tracks — especially on “Let Me Love You” and a bit on the title track “After the Ball”. I still feel his base vocal style is more reminiscent of Jack Jones or Vic Damone with some Mel Tormé edging, but the more I listen to FD’R the more I hear him as a distinct vocalist … solid in his own right.

Every vocal performer’s voice changes with age … but very few of them actually get better. Don’t get me wrong, I adore “young Frank” on After The Ball with his rich tones, range, power and dexterity. However, “today’s Frank” brings a sonorous, deep mahogany intonation that underpins his still amazing control and balanced power. Both “Franks” are impressive — bookends on an amazing vocal career that is still in motion.

After the Ball

What a great album … whether you’re a FD’R fan that hasn’t picked up this LP (unlikely) or new to Frank D’Rone’s catalog, if you’re a fan of the Rat Pack era standards spend the $10 and download this album. Twelve superbly produced songs (full track list below) — FD’R accompanied by the classy and brassy Billy May Orchestra — make this album just a joy.

The arrangements from Nat Goodman strike Billy May’s typical brass-tastic up tempo style, but there are a few numbers that lean more on elegant string charts and the vocal purity of a young Frank D’Rone (“Now I Know” maybe the best example) … oh yea, this is good stuff.

A standard issue D’Rone release, there is not a bad track on After The Ball, but there are some standouts. My favorites beyond the songs already mentioned … Frank’s intro to “You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To” is just so pure and set’s up an ever-building Billy May Big Band number … more May Band toe tapping comes through with “Will You Still Be Mine”.

Nat Goodman’s pen sketches more of a Tommy Dorsey-esk mood with “Warm All Over” that nicely tosses you back to the early 40’s. The elegant strings reappear with one of my absolute favorite numbers … Hoagie Carmichael & Frank Loesser’s “Two Sleepy People” — a perfect song selection for Frank’s melodious style.

Then there’s the closing track — “We’ll Be Together Again”. Frank elegantly renders the perfect sentiment for wrapping up After The Ball as well as my hope for catching up with Frank in Chicago this summer and for many years to come.

Have a wonderful birthday Frank…

Whatever day it falls on!

Track List for: After The Ball – Frank D’Rone

(VS_Guy ratings: “+++” pluses are good; “~” for meh to middling;  “- – -” minuses are not good)

1. After The Ball 2:13 +++ You can see where the Booby Darin love comes from on this number
2. Oh! Look At Me Now 2:25  ++ Almost a Bobby D signature but here Frank carves his own swing’n version
3. My Melancholy Baby 2:19  ++ great string charts …
4. You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To 1:58 +++ great build and fabulous FD’R vocal intro
5. Now I Know 2:20  ++++ Matt Monro-ish … lays great for Frank
6. Let Me Love You 1:40  ++++ “if that’s not enough, I’ll buy you the 1st of May.” what a song
7. Will You Still Be Mine 2:03  +++  Billy May tempo fare … Frank keeps up!
8. Warm All Over 2:17  +++ Frank stands up in front of the band and turns 40’s crooner
9. It’s You Or No One 2:00  ++
10. Two Sleepy People 2:52 +++ I love this song and Frank adds to the love.
11. Why Can’t This Night Go On Forever 1:58 ++
12. We’ll Be Together Again 3:13 ++++  … charts, vocals … it’s just so pure