206. Frank Sinatra / In the Wee Small Hours (1955)
Though not as languished as 1959's No One Cares, this album of ballads sets the bar for melancholy, as well as being the first of the themed (and innovative) full-length LP's that Sinatra recorded for Capitol. Gordon Jenkins arranged and conducted on No One, but originally it was Nelson Riddle at the stand. The collaboration is magical. Riddle's restrained treatments underscore the mood of each lyric and magnify their impact. Sinatra expertly uses breath control and different vocal textures to interpret the material while Riddle's charts employ orchestral color at all the right incidental moments. Sinatra sings the passages carefully, sounding deeper and more mature than ever before. The frankness of songs like "Last Night When We Were Young," "I See Your Face Before Me," and "When Your Lover Has Gone" have secured In the Wee Small Hours a permanent place in the hearts of many fans. It remains one of his most satisfying and moving performances on wax. More than a routine set of ballads, it only takes a few notes to know that Sinatra is making these songs his own. At the same time, they're yours too.