Very few artists could inspire a retrospective called Best of the Best that actually lives up to its title; that actually comprises the creamiest cream of the crop. Then again, very few artists compare to Frank Sinatra.
Marking the first time such a compilation includes material from both Sinatra’s years at Capitol Records and at his own Reprise Records, the primary disc offers a most-gratifying overview of what is arguably the legend’s most fruitful periods. Twenty-three songs, this has, and not a dud in the bunch.
What makes this deluxe edition the one to get, though, is its second disc, '57 In Concert. Originally released as a live album and long since out-of-print, it boasts a complete performance recorded on June 9, 1957 at the Seattle Civic Auditorium. With Nelson Riddle conducting the orchestra, Sinatra is exquisite, delivering one highlight after another — “It Happened in Monterey,” “One For My Baby,” and “The Tender Trap” are but a few outstanding moments — with supreme cool and command. To say the man could work a room is an understatement; and listening to him here, engaging the audience with off-the-cuff asides between songs (and sometimes during them), is a real treat. That the gig sounds so well-preserved and pristine now only makes it all the more essential.