With this week commemorating what would have been the 73rd birthday of the dearly departed Frank Sinatra, JR., we take a moment to remember a unique recording project he took on some eleven years ago. Covered previously in a biographical installment of “The Sinatra File,” the 2006 album “That Face!” would serve, literally, as the swan song of the younger Sinatra’s recording career, a spread of five studio albums and several guest vocal appearances over a course of more than forty years.
Laid down when Sinatra, JR. was sixty-two and captured over the course of a few days at the renowned Capitol Studios in Hollywood, “That Face!” is an enjoyable listening experience. Produced by Sinatra Enterprises associate Charles Pignone with an orchestra led by JR.-confidante Terry Woodson, the album captures a man who is still on the way to reaching his vocal peak while sounding several years younger. When considering the news that the singer wasn’t feeling up to par during the recording sessions, it makes experiencing the performances all the more remarkable.
While his previous album, the wonderful “As I Remember It,” was created as a tribute to his father, the senior Sinatra, this time, it’s all Junior’s show. Backed by an all-star orchestra of the finest musicians in Los Angeles along with great arrangements by Torrie Zito, Nelson Riddle, Billy May, Bill Rogers, and Sam Donahue, the recording almost serves as a culmination to the singer’s career up to that point, having worked extensively with each of the arranger’s over the previous years.
Sam Donahue was orchestral leader during JR’s first stint with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra in the 1960s, he recorded two albums featuring the arranging of Nelson Riddle in the 1970s, recorded vocals for a Billy May tribute album in the 1980s, and partnered extensively with Bill Rogers throughout in both music arranging and live performances.
The album gets off to a roaring start with the driving brass of the title tune, arranged by Zito, with the vocalist holding the note of the final “face” against the brass section to perfection. Other notable performances include a delightful ballad arrangement by Rogers of the Barry Manilow composition “I Was A Fool (To Let You Go).” Among the extensive liner notes packaged with the disc, a thank you note from Manilow is included.
“Spice,” a tune originally performed on his second album with Nelson Riddle in 1971, is given a fresh update as well as a new verse not present on the original recording. “Girl Talk” partners JR. with the great vocalist Steve Tyrell, with sound effects mimicking the two singers having met at a bar during a cocktail party. Reminiscent of the elder Sinatra and Bing Crosby meeting up for a drink and a song in the film “High Society,” the Sinatra- Tyrell duet is a highlight.
Two other songs have a connection to the elder Sinatra as well. The arrangements of “Cry Me A River” and Softly, As A Morning Sunrise,” were recorded some eighteen years before anyone added vocals to them. When Sinatra SR. was planning a new album in 1988, an orchestra was contracted to record several arrangements, of which only one, “My Foolish Heart,” with chart by Billy May, was completed. Although the elder Sinatra recorded no further vocals live, instrumentals were completed at the same sessions for the singer to dub his vocal onto later. Left in the vault for many years, JR. dusts them off and supplies some electrifying vocals to some great big band sounds.
The standout piece, in both instrumentation and vocal, lies in the performance of “The People That You Never Get To Love.” Written by Rupert Holmes and arranged by Nelson Riddle some years before the creation of the album, this song alone is worth the cost of the disc. The lyrics tell a highly visual story that any ordinary man (or woman, if taken from the opposite stance) can relate to. Explaining it here would be defeating telling you about it, as well as negate the reasons these “Picks” exist in the first place!
As I’m sure I stated my previous article about the younger Sinatra, he’s a vocalist who was somewhat cursed by his namesake but possessed a talent that was supreme and undeniable. With “That Face!” the talent is heavy on display. Sad as it is that it would be his final studio recording, but satisfying to know he was a consummate professional right up to the moment that the music was packed up and the musicians filed out the door. Having seen him twice since the creation of that album, the second time not long before he passed, that talent and professionalism went virtually untarnished.
Sinatra’s kid. The popularity wasn’t just in the name. Highly recommended. 5/5.
Until next time, music lovers!
Jerry Pearce is an amateur singer in the vein of Frank Sinatra, Perry Como, and Dick Haymes and has released two discs of standards music, Crossroads in 2010, and One Summer Night in 2016. Samples of his music can be heard on his YouTube Channel. To purchase his CDs use the form box below.
Comments or questions are welcome.