Nobody says goodbye like Frank Sinatra. For his final album with Capitol, Ol’ Blue Eyes elected to croon an unforgettable selection of farewell songs marked with longing, sadness, and poignancy. To make the occasion even more special, he teamed with arranger Axel Stordahl, the virtuoso that helped launch Sinatra’s star at Columbia during the 1940s. The results amount to one of the finest send-off statements in history.
Mastered from the original master tapes, Mobile Fidelity’s numbered limited edition hybrid SACD presents the songs as they should be experienced: In rich, lush, front-to-back sound in which the strings soar and literally inhale and exhale. Sinatra’s singing, as good as it’s ever been during his career, comes across with unfettered transparency and tonal purity. Such is the fidelity, the music turns into aural poetry, rendering completely fluid and tube-amp warm the rushes of strings, words, and structures.
Sinatra fans continually debate which of the artist’s albums rank as his best, but there’s no doubting the status attached to Point of No Return. Unquestionably the most overlooked effort in the Chairman’s Capitol catalog, it defies common expectation that it was made haphazardly to simply fulfill a contractual obligation. Sinatra’s presence alone guarantees that isn’t the case, yet Stordahl’s involvement ensures this 1961 set is something very special indeed.
The chemistry between the old collaborators is immediately evident. Sinatra inhabits every phrase, feeling, and expression conveyed on the dozen standards, achieving an intimate connection with Stordahl’s instrumental accents. Akin to the downbeat moods he casts on the immortal In the Wee Small Hours and Only the Lonely, the vocalist keeps calm and cool, yearning and reflecting as if he’s strolling a barren downtown after midnight, a man left alone with his thoughts and memories. Somber, wistful, meditative, teary-eyed sentimental—Sinatra paints each song with the emotions they need, nothing more and nothing less.
From regal (“These Foolish Things (Remind Me of You)”) to nostalgic (“I’ll Be Seeing You”), relaxed (“September Song”) to dramatic (“When the World Was Young”), Stordahl’s treatments blush with natural ease and instinct, setting up Sinatra for countless moments of sublime beauty. Vocal pop aficionados, you don’t want to miss this classic.
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