FRANK SINATRA — Cycles (review)

FRANK SINATRA — Cycles album cover Album · 1968 · Vocal Jazz Buy this album from MMA partners
4/5 ·
Recorded over two sessions in 1968 with the first producing the majority of material. There was no longer a live audience as with many of the earlier recording sessions but still there were guests around 25 in number with Tiny Tim and George and Patti Harrison present. Times had changed but so had the recording equipment and with often parts recorded separately, mixed or even cut from within the songs. The next album release after this would be Frank's smash "My Way" but "Cycles" although did not have anywhere near the succees only getting to 18 on the U.S album chart. There had been a Christmas album released a couple of months before with Frank and family but he really had not recorded for quite a while by his standards with the last one before with Duke Ellington, "Francis A & Edward K" ,10 months prevoius. Don Costa is running the show as usual for this time with his arrangemnts and conducting the eleven songs recorded for the album. Plenty of that Country tinge within "Cycles" as the song list amply shows but these albums by Frank harken back to that late sixties period when this style of music was right up there in the charts with Glen Campbell leading the field. Naturally we have two of Glen's hits given the Sinatra treatment with one written by the great Jimmy Webb, "By The Time I Get To Phoenix" who wrote so many famous tunes and there is also another song that Glen Campbell covered early days being the beautiful John Hartford composition "Gentle On My Mind" and both done quite well by the Chairman of the Board. Still it is not all Country as there is a mix and still some of that old Sinatra swing injected with "Moody River".

"Rain In My Heart" the big finishing ballad written by Randazzo and Pike with the Randazzo side co-writing so many hits from the sixties with "Goin Out Of My Head" most likely being the most famous but the song with its piano intro is pure Frank with great delivery and it is the big finish that is the grip for me with the tune. Joni Mitchell's, "Both Sides Now" is next and Frank keeps it sounding that way but whatever version you prefer from Judy Collins or Joni, Frank has kept the standard up but I do think although it is a beautiful song it is written from a woman's perspective and it is difficult to beat Joni's original version. The follower though is one when I first saw listed thought "oh no" but it is done beautifully with a fairly laid back time and style being "Little Green Apples" with the best take I have ever heard by Frank on this album with that pathos and longing just brought to the fore with his vocals. The ballad "Pretty Colours" is next with the backing vocals singing the title right behing Frank on this dreamy little number. The title track, "Cycles" though is the diamond from the session for me and nobody could do this style of music with such impeccable delivery just listen to when Frank sings the pauses and where he puts those notes that emanate from him with his vocals in this great Country tinged song that produced its own distinct style that was on the radio back in the late sixties. Another ballad with "Wandering" follows but it is back to that late sixties sound with "By The Time I Get To Phoenix" and yes it is great as well with the album closer, John Hartford's "Gentle On My Mind" and what more description would you need for these two classic tunes. The swing is "Moody River" done great and the last song I have not mentioned is one more ballad being "Wandering" with that James Bond sounding intro and big finish.

Might be a bit ballad heavy for some but not so for me with the different styles and influences in the albums construction the variety is maintained. Essential for me as I always like Frank from any period but being so familar with so much of his later material I always have a spot for his Reprise albums even with their hits and misses. Sometimes the misses are just as good in their own way.
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