Frank Sinatra - Where Are You? (1957), 8/10

Where Are You? is a masterclass in emotionally subversive vocal jazz. Following the upbeat A Swingin' Affair!, it feels like a return to form akin to In the Wee Small Hours, despite being Sinatra's first album without Nelson Riddle, who drove the arrangement and served as conductor for the first leg of Frank's career. Gordon Jenkins, on the other hand, provides much more dynamic and layered orchestral arrangements, both enhancing a poetic intimacy as Riddle successfully achieved on Wee Small Hours, and also introducing a grander, more luxurious and elevated aura that transcends simple closeness. It is certainly a matter of personal taste as to which conductor you drift to, but I find Jenkins' work to be more compelling. The lush sound results in a mature, yet still deeply longing set of songs that tug on your heartstrings. The atmosphere is deeply lonely, depressing and tragic, and it can be unrelentingly emotional, yet that is what makes this record so powerful. Where Are You? is the soundtrack to late nights, feeling deeply alone in a crowded room, losing a lover, or sometimes just feeling so empty there is nowhere to turn but to another lonely soul's poetry. The record itself sounds surprisingly modern considering its 1957 stereo recording (the first of Sinatra to be released in full stereo). Frank's voice itself sounds very intimate which is essential to elevate the narrative of these songs, while the orchestra is not only deeply layered, but also has a considerably wide range. The songs themselves are not only compelling, but flow perfectly from beginning to end. The first three tracks are absolutely breathtaking and perfectly executed, followed by the one two punch of the slow flowing "Laura", then the striking "Lonely Town". We then get one of the most memorable renditions of "Autumn Leaves" you'll ever hear (even considering the length of that list). Finally "Baby, Won't You Please Come Home" perfectly mirrors the title track to bookend this masterpiece. The heartbreak is palpable, its wonderful melancholy unmatched by any other work of our time, providing a sensation of sacchariferous yet besotted indulgence. Sinatra’s vocal performances are consistently graceful and technical; he takes delicate care in caring for every word uttered in each song. In the Wee Small Hours serves as an introduction to Sinatra’s longing recordings while Where Are You? presents a peak of the style, continued with worthwhile efforts later in his career, but never matched in timeless beauty. Pour a stiff glass of whiskey and enjoy. As our other favorite Frank (Reynolds) says "stuff it down with some brown", or in our case some of the Chairman's sad tunes. Best enjoyed by a romantic heart and passionate mind, but anyone can appreciate Sinatra’s stirring performances and poetic wandering.