Review: In the Wee Small Hours (1955) - Frank Sinatra

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"..and I can't win, but here I am - more than glad to be unhappy"

Sinatra is golden. For the last handful of decades he has managed to be known as one of the few superstars of the music industry. As innovative as Lennon, as vogue as Astaire and as charming as Presley - Sinatra represents the embodiment of stardom that few, if any, can rival.

However the immortality of Sinatra has not, as many believe, existed for long. After being labelled as the most hated man of the 40's, weathering more slack from American GIs than even Hitler - Sinatra's career began to decline. As the intriguing and devastating decade of the 1940's halted to a stop, Sinatra's long road of failures and controversies began to creep up on him. The rope of fame he so quickly scaled previously had been cut, and so too was his career.

After being dumped by Columbia and MCA Records in 1952 and suffering a messy and slow break down of his scandelous romance with Ava Gardner - many critics placed Sinatra at rock bottom.

This was all until Sinatra, battling with depression, bit back with one of the most revolutionary albums of all time. The first concept album, and arguably the first mainstream album to show genuine suffering and melancholy emotion; In the Wee Small Hours was a record that allowed Sinatra to dash back into fame and popularity - and remains one of the most thought provoking and personal albums ever produced.

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As soon as the introspective, almost lullaby like, bells of the opener In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning sound - it is evidently clear that Sinatra is suffering. As his weathered and suddenly vulnerable voice croaks:

"When your lonely heart has learned its lesson, you'd be hers - if only she would call. In the wee small hours of the morning, that's the time you miss her the most of all."

As one darkly beautiful song rolls into the other, listeners are placed right beside Sinatra as he opens his heart and tells of his struggles. For the first time in his career - he seemed like a man. His charm filled arrogance almost disappears as his suddenly aged voice softly inflects his emotional fragility.

Sonically, In the Wee Small Hours is superb. A feeling of midnight is carried through the record with lazy horns and sleepy bells chiming almost reluctantly across a dreamy sound scape. Songs such as Can't we be Friends? possess dark stilted piano - as if written by a jazzy Beethoven - with Sinatra's voice jumping from octave to octave while he struggles beautifully with his own message.

With understated production, the arrangements do just enough to engulf the listener - without taking anything away from the real star of the production - Sinatra himself. Sinatra's inflection is simply unrivaled. In his delivery of particular lyric, especially those within I Get Along Without You Very Well, he seems as if he is attempting to convince himself - attempting to heal himself - as he exclaims:

"I've forgotten you just like I should. Of course I have. Except to hear your name - or when someone's laughs the same.. But I've forgotten you just like I should"
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In the Wee Small Hours is a testament to music as an artform. Possessing the acclaim of being one of the first concept albums, it revolutionised the music industry perhaps more than any other album. With this record, Sinatra and Capitol Records single handedly introduced the emphasis on creating records and treating them as art - in an era where "albums" were simply compilations of various well known songs from various recording sessions, utterly devoid of any complex emotion.

The record is a glaring reminder of the importance of humanity in music. Sinatra's unashamed and heartbreaking message of loneliness, midnight, lust and regret transcends his own spirit and touches others, for perhaps the first time in the Twentieth Century.

"I cry my heart out - it's bound to break. Since nothing matters - let it break. I'll ask the sun and the moon, the stars that shine: What's to become of it, this love of mine?"

Very nice. A very well written review and it definitely covers all the relevant topics and more.
Overall, a damn good review.

:3

mParadox:
Very nice. A very well written review and it definitely covers all the relevant topics and more.
Overall, a damn good review.

:3

Thanks Paradox! :D Glad you enjoyed it!

XxRyanxX:

..You sure know how to use meaningful words at the right times cause this makes me feel inspired somehow, the way you expressed him opening up, setting forth his true nature- his characters in general.

Overall, this review was astounding plus I got to learn about someone famous which I didn't come across before. Most of his songs are about healing himself, recovering from the struggles that life throws at him. You made such a grand review that I shall thank you personally for it :) really like learing things especially interesting factors like these ones.

Thanks so much for the kind words! :)

XxRyanxX:
.. I seriously couldn't imagine a man being hated more then Hitler. I'm not saying you're wrong, but for me just thinking of doing/being someone that is despised more then Hitler is a horrible, fatal life of sheer misery. Just wanted to point that out because if I was hated more then Hitler- wow.. my life would be over..

I know, it's shocking. This has been widely publicised though - I can get a few sources if you please :).

To the American GI, he was hated.

'Active-duty servicemen, like journalist William Manchester, said of Sinatra, "I think Frank Sinatra was the most hated man of World War II, much more than Hitler"'

He also was found ineligible for duty in the military (probably because of his mental illnesses) and the GIs hated him for it. Whilst his older rivals such as Astaire and Crosby were sweating out in Europe performing and raising money for the troops - Sinatra was acting like an immature little punk back at home. Their criticisms of him were valid - he didn't grow up until the 50s and after he failed a few times. I think his story is really inspirational.

Wow. This is actually quite an amazing review.
Perhaps I'm simply stunned that someone has actually reviewed such a tremendous album, but you've managed to pull it off wonderfully.
Reviewing things of this caliber is quite difficult yet you've reviewed it in such a way that seems, not only professional, but does the media you're reviewing justice in itself.

Needless to say, this is one of my all time favourite albums and I agree wholeheartedly with the review itself as it does indeed portray such a melancholic atmosphere that i don't believe has truly been matched since. Always something nice to listen to when in the same mood.

Regardless of my opinion of the album, this was an absolutely sublime review. Great job! Keep up the fantastic work ^_^

Julianking93:
Wow. This is actually quite an amazing review.
Perhaps I'm simply stunned that someone has actually reviewed such a tremendous album, but you've managed to pull it off wonderfully.
Reviewing things of this caliber is quite difficult yet you've reviewed it in such a way that seems, not only professional, but does the media you're reviewing justice in itself.

Needless to say, this is one of my all time favourite albums and I agree wholeheartedly with the review itself as it does indeed portray such a melancholic atmosphere that i don't believe has truly been matched since. Always something nice to listen to when in the same mood.

Regardless of my opinion of the album, this was an absolutely sublime review. Great job! Keep up the fantastic work ^_^

Thanks a lot Julian! :)

And I'm incredibly pleased to see another Sinatra fan! Props to you!

 

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