Frank Sinatra - Watertown (1970), 7/10

One of Sinatra’s strongest albums, both from a standpoint of musical variety and narrative effectiveness, showing progressiveness by focusing on a long-form story of an older man dealing with the departure of his wife and son, rather than the typical song by song story structure of the past. It is tragic and heartbreaking, yet surprisingly tinged with optimism and charmingly poetic lyrics that give it a sad beauty, yet the varied arrangements give it a unique identity apart from his other works as well as his contemporaries. It is very consistently moving apart from the pair of late arriving tracks “What’s Now Is Now” and “She Says” that are tied down by simple melodrama and questionable tonal choices, respectively. The propel the narrative but kill the momentum that up to this point was as steady as the train tracks depicted in its artwork. Sinatra had a voice with significant character at this late point in his career, signaling his original yet short-lived retirement after its lack of success, that gives texture and integrity to his words, accented perfectly by such grandiose instrumentation and accompanying dynamics. The musicians breathe life into the compositions, coming into view in appropriate moments and retreating when needed. It is a fantastic album and story, leaning fully into its concept and theatrical sound, a vital commitment that yields great results when paired with purposefully sentimentally mournful compositions. There have been more consistent projects from Frank and his orchestral works, but Watertown is perhaps his most successfully focused and ambitious album, an impressive feat for a man in his mid-fifties with such a long and lustrous career.