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Music Review: Frank Sinatra – September Of My Years

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Concord Records has been reissuing the Frank Sinatra catalogue on the Reprise label with excellent results. The latest release is his classic 1965 album, September Of My Years.

Sinatra started Reprise in 1960. He wanted a place for artists to have complete artistic control over their recordings and, as the owner of the label, he was called “The Chairman Of The Board.” He would record 34 studio albums for the label but it was losing money and in 1963 he sold controlling interest to Warner Brothers. Reprise continued to release albums by Sinatra and his pals but moved more in a pop direction, signing such artists as Neil Young, The Kinks, Jethro Tull, The Beach Boys, Gordon Lightfoot, and Jimi Hendrix.

Reprise was deactivated during the period 1975-1989, but Young and Sinatra in particular insisted their new albums be released on the label. And so as the label reissued older material by various artists Young and Sinatra remained its only active artists for over a decade. Reprise was ultimately resurrected in 1989 and today is the home for such artists as Green Day, Enya, Eric Clapton, Fleetwood Mac and, of course, Neil Young.

SinatraSinatra was approaching fifty in 1965 and decided to release an album to reflect that event. He and arranger Gordon Jenkins began assembling songs that were mature, meditative, and what could be described as self remembrances that he could interpret as his own. This album of mid-life tunes resonated with the record-buying public upon its release, reaching number five on the United States album charts and receiving a gold record for sales. Sinatra, Jenkins, and the album would all win respective Grammy Awards. And it remains one of Sinatra’s best and most popular releases.

The most memorable song was the hit single, “It Was A Very Good Year,” which followed a series of relationships through life with the summary being like vintage wine. Originally recorded by the folk group The Kingston Trio, Sinatra turned it into a pop classic.

The twelve other songs from the original release reflect similar themes quite well. “Last Night When We Were Young” was a Judy Garland favorite to which Sinatra gave a smooth performance. He reached back to 1951 for “Hello Young Lovers,” while other key performances included “How Old Am I,” “Once Upon A Time,” “When The Wind Was Green,” and the title track.

For this reissue the music has been digitally remastered and the sound is superior to any versions that have been previously available. The original liner notes have been included as well as an excellent essay on the making of the album. Two bonus tracks are also included, a live version of “This Is All I Ask” and the single version of “How Old Am I.”

September Of My Years was a poignant album of aging and reflection for the Sinatra generation. It was released during the rock era when the younger stars of the day were immortal. Forty-five years later the album now resonates with a new aging generation as it begins to face, rather than ignore, its mortality. Sinatra, Jenkins, and all of the album’s songwriters save for Erwin Drake, who wrote “It Was A Very Good Year” and is now in his early nineties, are gone.

One of Frank Sinatra’s best and lasting creations, this album examined the season of fall in the lives of us all.

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