Saturday, January 6, 2018

Frank Sinatra - Original Takes From 'The Voice' Box Set (1986)


This is going to be a pretty esoteric post. And a potentially confusing one too. So pay attention if you care about Ol' Blue Eyes.

This is a collection I put together that features eight original recordings that Frank Sinatra did for Columbia Records that have become pretty rare. They were originally released as 78 records, and then were put on the 1986 box set The Voice: The Columbia Years 1943-1952, which brought them to a whole new generation of listeners, including me.

But in 1993, Columbia Records released a more definitive box set called The Columbia Years 1943–1952: The Complete Recordings, and it made The Voice obsolete. Or so we thought.

Turns out, the 1993 box set contained alternate takes of these eight songs instead of the versions that were originally released. See the track listing below for the titles. In the case of two of the songs, "Nancy (With The Laughing Face)" and "Poinciana," the '93 box set contained two alternate takes of each, neither of which were the originals featured on The Voice. (How do I know for sure? I lined them each up side-by-side in a WAV file editing program and compared them. They're definitely different.)

Not a lot of people have The Voice box set anymore, but I kept MP3s of these rare tracks, so here they are. Over at the Sinatra Family Forum, producer and archivist Chuck Granata says these original takes weren't included in the 1993 box set because they were "unusable" and better recordings were found. He also wrote in a post that the differences between the recordings are "negligible."

I'll agree with that. But I have two points to make. First, even if the sound was substandard, I think these original recordings should have been put somewhere on the 1993 set because they're part of history. People who buy music recorded in the 1940s don't expect state-of-the-art quality anyway.

And second, maybe casual listeners can't tell different takes apart from one another, but obsessive listeners can. And when you become really familiar with a specific recording, differences do become apparent. I played the version of "It Never Entered My Mind" from the '86 box set so much that I could easily differentiate it from the one that appeared in '93. The earlier one has a much more legato vocal and creates a sadder, more mellow mood, which I prefer. I still play it to this day.

All that said, the Sinatra people have done an excellent job keeping his material before the public eye, so if they're reading this, it isn't a slam about their decisions. It's just a way to get some now-obscure takes back in circulation for the people who like this stuff.

The bad news is that I ripped these tracks almost twenty years ago @128 kbps from a CD box set I no longer own. Back then I had limited digital storage, so I kept bitrates low. Funny enough, I kept the vinyl box set, but not the CDs. Still, I don't feel like doing vinyl rips of this, so if anyone has these MP3s from The Voice @320, feel free to get in touch. Update: These files are now @320, thanks to a generous reader of this blog, imwalrus, who shared his high-quality copies. Much appreciated, imwalrus.

Finally, there's a ninth track here: "Someone To Watch Over Me." Both box sets contain the exact same take, but the newer one has some digital distortion starting at around 1:27, so I included the cleaner, older one here.

Related posts:
The De Castro Sisters - Teach Me Tonight (1954-58; 1999 Collection)
Frank Sinatra - In the Wee Small Hours (1955; 1998 UK Remaster)
The Four Grads - From This Moment On (1956)
Eydie & Steve - Cozy (Mono Mix, 1961)
The King Sisters - The Answer Is Love (1969)
Rosemary Clooney - Girl Singer (1992)

Track list:
1. Nancy (With The Laughing Face)
2. Try A Little Tenderness
3. Poinciana (titled "Poinciana (Song Of The Tree)" on the 1993 box set)
4. Mean To Me
5. I've Got A Crush On You
6. It Never Entered My Mind
7. Body And Soul
8. Why Was I Born?
9. Someone To Watch Over Me

9 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  2. Excellent share - thanks for the Franks! (sorry...)

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  3. thanks for this great piece of history

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  4. i have those tracks in 256 vvr if you still want them

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  5. http://www36.zippyshare.com/v/0PhwG8Zc/file.html

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  6. I have "The Voice" box set in cassette form.

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  7. My father had the 1955 album, "The Voice" but as a kid I didn't appreciate it much because it didn't swing enough for me. I easily tired of Frank's smooth orchestral delivery. In my 30s, however, I convinced Dad to give me the record and it was played often in the deep, dark evenings with my wife and a young scotch rocks.
    Thank you for this.

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