Squawk Radio

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Liz Says, "Happy Mother's Day, Mom!"

My mom loves to tell the story about when she and her twin sister, my Aunt Dot, saw Frank Sinatra in concert. They were bobby-soxer teenagers living in 1940s Detroit, and Frank was giving two concerts in one day in a concert hall with first come/first served seating. You could buy tickets to both shows and present them simultaneously upon entry and stay in the theatre between shows if you wanted, BUT you couldn’t bring in any food or drink. So unless you wanted to starve between shows (and there were several hours between shows), you had to leave to replenish yourself. (Hey, swooning for Frank takes a lot out of a girl.)

ANYway. Mom and Aunt Dot had these little box-shaped purses into which they had tucked sandwiches my grandmother made for them, along with jars of tea. So when the security guys came down the looooong line of young women outside the concert hall who had been standing for hours waiting to see Frank and made them all dump their lunches into trash cans, Mom and Aunt Dot just shrugged and held out their hands and opened their coats, indicating they had nothing edible. Then, after the first concert was over, as all the other girls gradually left to get food, Mom and Aunt Dot kept moving closer and cloesr to the stage, sneakily eating their lunches. Ultimately, they ended up with primo seats for the second show.

My mom still loves Frank as only a bobby-soxer teenager can. Needless to say, I heard A LOT of Sinatra growing up. And this, “In the Wee Small Hours,” was my mom’s favorite album by him when I was a kid. I know this album art intimately. I know these songs by heart. My mom played this album constantly when I was little. To be honest, although this is certainly a great album, it’s not my favorite by him. I like a jazzier, livelier Frank, and the songs on this collection are ballads and therefore pretty mellow. Of course, the mellower Frank is, the smoother Frank’s voice is, so maybe that’s why my mom liked this one so much. And since it’s Mother’s Day, this is the album that made the cut for the Sunday Music blog.

There are actually some real gems on this album. In addition to the title track, we have EXcellent versions of “Ill Wind,” “Mood Indigo,” “Last Night when We Were Young,” and “What Is this Thing Called Love?” Well, let’s just say there’s not a bad song in the bunch. It’s a sad album, though, with virtually every song being about loneliness or loss or the surrendering of hope. A lot of people say this album is Frank’s reaction to losing Ava Gardner. Only Frank could make despair sound so good.

Another thing I adore about “In the Wee Small Hours” is the vintage jazz accompaniments, due in large part to the influence of Nelson Riddle, with whom Frank collaborated on several occasions. You’ve got some cool electric guitar and piano, and a lot of those cheesy strings and horns that should sound maudlin but instead zap you right into a dark, smoky bar with red lighting and clinking martini glasses--the height of sophistication. The whole CD just captures beautifully that period of cool lounge jazz.

So, bartender, pour me another. And give my friends here another hit, too. We got a Mother’s Day to celebrate. Cheers, Mom!
Elizabeth Bevarly, 10:43 AM