Frank Sinatra’s Ring-a-Ding-Ding! first hit records stores fifty years ago. Thanks to Concord Music Group, this swinging classic is back, with every Johnny Mandel arrangement sounding fresh thanks to a spiffy remastering job. The concept for the album was to keep everything mid-to-uptempo, so the original tracklist consisted of a dozen toe-tappers. Sinatra’s legendary interpretative skills are fully evident as he glides through these standards.
The original album clocked in at barely more than thirty minutes, quite normal for the time period. Only two tunes out of twelve break the three-minute mark, making for a brisk listening experience. Highlights include “Let’s Fall in Love,” with its deliciously pregnant pause at the one-minute mark. Bob Hilliard and Dick Miles’ playful novelty “The Coffee Song” features Sinatra’s most vigorous vocal on the album. “I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm,” one of only two non-Mandel arrangements (Dick Reynolds in this case), closes the album with especially meaty-sounding horns.
The real treat for Sinatra buffs is the inclusion of a previously unreleased outtake, “Have You Met Miss Jones,” which clocks in at more than ten minutes. Rather than a finished take, the listener gets to sit in on the recording session that produced this ultimately unused ballad. The strings kick in and Sinatra immediately states, “This sounds like a different album.” Over the duration of the track, we hear Sinatra and his production team hashing out the arrangement in fits and starts. It’s a fascinating aural snapshot of Sinatra at work, picking apart an arrangement and correcting errors.
The other bonus track, “Zing! Went the Strings of My Heart,” is not denoted as “previously unreleased,” having been included on a previous reissue. Interestingly, an additional bonus track from that 1991 reissue, “The Last Dance,” is nowhere to be found on this new version. The CD booklet includes Ring-a-Ding-Ding’s original liner notes, as well as song-by-song commentary within a newly written essay by Frank Sinatra Jr.