How little we know,
How much to discover
What chemical forces flow
From lover to lover…
Even in the Seventies, when my LP and eight-track tape collection included artists like Neil Young, Elton John, Billy Joel, Emerson Lake and Palmer, and the Doobie Brothers, I always had a soft spot for Frank Sinatra.
I’ve featured his music elsewhere on the site. And I suspect I’ll be featuring it in the future.
Most of my Sinatra recordings are on LP’s. As a birthday present probably 25 years ago, my wife Cathy presented me with the complete collection of Frank’s Capital recordings, which span the years between 1954, and 1961. Compared to the Columbia label recordings (which I have on CDs) which preceded them, they represent a newly energized and confident Frank, fresh from his Oscar (and Golden Globe) winning performance in From Here to Eternity.
I maintain among my audio gear, an excellent turntable, tonearm, and cartridge. Listening to these recordings through good electronics and speakers, the ease with which he sings, and the sheer presence of the recordings is absolutely riveting, superior in some ways to their CD versions (and certainly better than their MP3s). I don’t listen to them often, in part to preserve this rare vinyl, and in part because as it’s easier to slip in a CD or turn on my iPod. Because of this, some of the performances have slipped out of my consciousness.
I regret this.
Among those recordings is this wonderful little composition that I recently re-encountered on You Tube in several different forms.
How Little We Know (How Much To Discover) is a relatively modest song. The lyrics in particular, impress, cleverly scribed by Carolyn Leigh, lyricist for classics such as Young at Heart, and Witchcraft. The deftness of the writing approaches that of composers like Cole Porter or Lorenz Hart.
The melody was composed by Phil Springer, author of hits such as the classic, Santa Baby, made famous by Eartha Kitt.
I offer two versions. Both feature the classic chart as arranged by bandleader Nelson Riddle, one of Sinatra’s frequent collaborators. The first is the studio recording from Frank’s 1958 LP titled: This is Sinatra. The performance is classy, beautifully phrased, near perfectly sung. It’s the version I know best.
The second performance is from a later TV special. I encountered this more recenntly.
It’s likely from the sixties when traditional singers were struggling to remain relevant in the face of new performers such as the Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and even contrived acts such as the Monkees. This probably explains the Nehru jacket and the beads, which look kind of sad on this iconic performer. Nonetheless, whether he realized it or not, at the time, in some ways he was at the peak of his vocal life, and his performance, though brief, demonstrates an utter mastery of the song. To me is much more evocative than the earlier recording.
4/5/12 I apologize, this recording has been scoured from the internet.
If you can find it, it’s wonderful.
In this day and age, Frank’s legacy is carried on by such performers as Michael Buble and Michael Feinstein, both who have very polished voices, and are great entertainers. Neither for me conveys the sense of robust masculinity that Sinatra brought to his music. Harry Connick is a little closer, but not quite there yet.
In the meantime I have only to slip the record from the dust jacket, set it in the turntable and gently drop the needle into the lead in groove in the vinyl, and it is 1958 again.
As the music plays, I look across the room at my beautiful wife, who is busily putting the Thanksgiving decorations away. At that moment I think how perfectly these lyrics convey the feelings of lovers around the world:
As long as you kiss me, and the world around us shatters
How little it matters
How little we know…