This is one of Sinatra's many TV-specials from the 1970's. I usually don't like '(Blank) and Friends' specials because they are so contrived, and this is the case here. However, Sinatra is a class act and does his best to make this special work. Some of Sinatra's so-called friends were actual friends, and some were just contemporaries. It's a hit a miss project that features basically duets of Sinatra standards with each 'friend' and then the 'friend' doing their own solo work. Followed by Sinatra doing a mini-concert at the end. I had my doubts going into this, since I knew Sinatra didn't have much of a voice after 1971. Also Sinatra's own smugness sometimes noted his displeasure of doing these types of specials. He seemed happier in his 1981 special than he does here (1977), but he surpasses the dismal 'Main Event' (1974) television special. Let us rate this by song.
Spoilers, kind of -- 'Where or When.' Not one of my favorite Sinatra songs, and not sure when he first recorded it. Know he started using it as an opener in 1975 for some of his shows. This version is unique, and it features all the 'friends' doing a quick verse. Loretta Lynn, Tony Bennett, Natalie Cole, Dean Martin, Leslie Uggams, John Denver, and Robert Merrill. Until this special, I had never heard of Leslie Uggams or Robert Merrill. Typical post 1971 Sinatra. **
'I've Got You Under My Skin.' Did he ever do a bad version of this song? Apparently, this is a short-hauled version of the song, as we quickly segue into the next number. Top-notch as always, however, but still not a good reason enough to buy this disc. ***3/4
'I Get a Kick Out of You.' Natalie Cole and Sinatra duet, and I must say that Sinatra gives his 'Ella Fitzgerald' vibe here. Which means it was enjoyable. Hard to believe anyone else could sing in Sinatra's key. Great job. *****
'I've Got Love On My Mind.' We go the opposite direction, as Natalie sings in here style here, and shockingly I almost think I'm listening to a different singer. ***3/4
'If I Were A Rich Man.' Robert Merrill is some famous opera-type of singer, and he actually hits this song on the head. Infamous song from 'Fiddler on the Roof.' *****
'Oldest Established Floating Crap Game.' I'm not similar with all of 'Guys and Dolls,' but I have seen bits a pieces of it for years, and when I saw Sinatra doing blocking for this, I almost screamed in delight. This has to be one of the greatest stage versions of this song, and Sinatra doesn't throw himself in the lead role either. Dean Martin is basically there to be the 'third man' and to be 'Dean Martin,' as he gets lost a few times. Not sure if it was staged or not, but it was well worth the comedy. *****
'She's Got You.' Loretta Lynn is one of the sassiest old school country singers you could ever find, and yet she was always mild mannered. Her sassiness came more from the idea if you were southern, and you had a crazy old aunt, then it would be said that Loretta Lynn was most like that aunt. Lynn is great at country, so nothing to sneer at here. *****
'All or Nothing at All.' This was total drek. First off, it's a Disco version of the song, that Sinatra barely can carry himself, and second you don't have a country singer try to sing Disco. Sinatra tries to direct Loretta, but he fails and it wasn't like they did this show live. They could have done a re-shoot, and is really one of the worst moments of the night. DUD.
'One.' Next is Tony Bennett, and he is actually sober looking tonight, unlike his performance at 'Sinatra: The First 40 Years.' Another show tune, but Tony hits the marks on the head here. ***3/4
'My Kind Of Town.' Similar styles to begin with, and that helps these two to do a good job here. ****
'I Honestly Love You.' I thought Olivia-Newton-John actually did this one first. This is my first experience of Leslie Uggams. It was okay. **
'The Lady Is The Tramp.' This is more like it! She plays this off like a grand fiddle. Here wording of 'ermine and pearls' is classic. Can't fix the style she was doing there, but this almost beats Ella Fitzgerald's style of the song from 1967 with Frank. *****
'My Sweet Lady.' Rumors have it that Sinatra couldn't stand John Denver, but decided to do the special with him in 1976 anyways, and then they brought Denver back to do Sinatra's in 1977. Denver was a one of a kind Folk singer, and his music was a one of a kind. People, who call themselves Country/Folk singers today, don't know the half of it. *****
'September Song.' Now these two don't really mesh that well, but Sinatra and Denver pull off a good duet with each other. This isn't Bing Crosby and Sinatra here, but they both seem to have a understanding of the song. Still folk and Sinatra don't mix. ****1/4
'Night and Day.' And we pretend it is 1965, and we fail. Sinatra's voice doesn't really hold up here, and is really bored here. **
'Everybody ought to be in Love.' Instead of a simple thank you, Sinatra sings this while the 'friends' come out and kiss him. Another Paul Anka classic song, and Sinatra does this one fairly good. ***3/4
'Put Your Dreams Away.' I always wanted to hear the older Sinatra sing this, and then when I heard this, I wanted to take back that wish. To say it is dismal would be a understatement. Sinatra can't even do a full version, so they sketch it out with Sinatra doing the first half and then closing the show. It was rehearsed to be done this way, but you can understand why they (or Frank) set it up like that. His voice was falling apart in it. The end credits then roll, with Frank dancing to it. **
Overall: If you want vintage Sinatra, check out 'A Man and his Music' (1965), 'A Man and his Music. Ella + Jobim' (1967), Sinatra (1969), Sinatra at Royal Festival Hall (1970/71), or 'Ole' Blue Eyes Is Back (1973). If you want to see if older Sinatra still had it, I would suggest either 'A Concert For The Americas' (1982), or 'Sinatra In Japan' (1985). Other suggestions would be harder to find. However, if you are fans of any of the 'friends' and you want to see a good show, then this is for you.
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