Songs for Swinging Lovers Delivers
by Kristin Battestella
Frank Sinatra's quintessential 1956 album Songs for Swinging Lovers gets the toe tapping sentiments off to a quick, familiar start with You Make Me Feel So Young, and the spring in one's step continues in It Happened in Monterey. Though this lyrical story is bittersweet, the memory being retold makes us want to raise our glasses and spend the day upon the coast. It can be frustrating when the charm is over so fast thanks to the mid century shorter track times on Songs for Swinging Lovers. However, the one swanky after another tone makes it easier to listen to the entire forty forty minute album on repeat. You're Getting to Be a Habit with Me provides that wistful cheek to cheek – putting us in Ol' Blue Eyes' clutches indeed – and the mellow brass interludes of You Brought a New Kind of Love to Me make more excuses for a breeze across the rug.
It's interesting for contemporary audiences like us to realize how the tunes comprising Songs for Swinging Lovers were already well known standards from films and the decades prior before Frank's swanky and the arrangements by Nelson Riddle revitalized their charm. The catchy crescendos and complimentary word play layers Too Marvelous for Words, and although it's the first slightly slower and longer ballad on Songs for Swinging Lovers, Old Devil Moon doesn't brood and maintains the danceable mood as the orchestra smoothly ups the pace. Of course, it's easy to sing along to the more famous Pennies from Heaven or sway with the Gershwins and Love is Here to Stay. Songs for Swinging Lovers feels like each melody pours another cocktail, letting the dinner candles burn down to the wick while you're getting lipstick on your collar.
Honestly, who doesn't like I've Got You Under My Skin? No one can ever be tired of Cole Porter, much less Frank Sinatra singing Cole Porter. It's an intimate, whisper in your ear to start before blossoming into a full blown itch that needs to be scratched. I Thought About You likewise carries a jovial mix of sweet crooning and peppy notes. Some listeners may dislike that many of these songs are somewhat the same – I feel as though I reuse the same superlatives sometimes, too. However, that privy concert mood is the point of the album. Songs for Swinging Lovers becomes like one whole song that ebbs and flows over the evening's flirtations. The dalliance, a withdrawal, the sweeping moments through the final hold her tight. Whew! At four and a half minutes, We'll Be Together Again is the longest track on Songs For Swinging Lovers. This mellow ode may seem out of place amid the otherwise up tempo sway, but a brooding breather is needed before another bottle is finished and a new waltz takes things to the next level.
We may laugh at the dorky politeness of the phrase, but Makin' Whoopee has some delightful lyrical wit and a bemusing wink at the consequences of the night. Swingin' Down the Lane continues the will they or won't they dance with persuading talk of the moon, and Anything Goes reinforces the humble romantic Porter pleas. There's a hint of scandal and it's all so subtle yet remains no less rhythmic and catchy. At first, the wartime balladry of We'll Be Together Again seems like it should be the send off to Songs for Swinging Lovers. However, How About You? wonderfully concludes the session with a suave, shrewd encapsulation of the evening. Though recorded at the heights of a past we perceive as a “Honey, I'm home!” Cleaver chastity with pearls, Songs for Swinging Lovers is a giggly and giddy listen thanks to its nudge nudge naughty intentions and behind close doors baby boom results.
Songs for Swinging Lovers followed the melancholy spectacular of In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning yet nonetheless ingrains our collective consciousness with the quintessential Frank Sinatra hip. Sure, it doesn't have some of the bigger staples yet to come, but Songs for Swinging Lovers does what it says in delivering smooth, sexy charm. When you hear complete albums such as this, it makes one wonder why jazz standards and American songbook recordings ever fell out of mainstream favor – especially compared to today's inferior machine generated pop and controversial for the sake of it contemporary artists. With Songs for Swinging Lovers, modern fans can cleanse their palette, drink champagne, and repeat for all the sweet lyrics, big notes, and swift orchestrations. For longtime listeners upgrading their vinyl collection (like me!) or for those looking for a place to begin a Sinatra hobby beyond the frequent compilation sets, Songs for Swinging Lovers is the place to start. Simply put, this definitive 1956 Frank Sinatra album still makes for the perfect sophisticated party soundtrack or a classy, intimate denouement at home.