Year of release - 1955
In the Wee Small Hours is the ninth studio album by American vocalist Frank Sinatra. It was released in April 1955 on Capitol Records, produced by Voyle Gilmore with arrangements by Nelson Riddle. The songs on the album deal with themes such as loneliness, introspection, lost love, failed relationships, depression and night-life. As a result, In the Wee Small Hours is generally regarded as one of the first concept albums. The album's cover artwork reflects these themes and portrays a reflective-looking Sinatra on an eerie and deserted street awash in blue-tinged street lights., Sinatra would successfully continue the "concept" formula with later albums such as Songs for Swingin' Lovers! and Only the Lonely. He had been developing the idea since 1946 with his first album release, The Voice. In the Wee Small Hourswas issued as two 10-inch LP discs, and also as one 12-inch record LP, making it one of the first of its kind. It was also issued as four four–song 45-rpm EP discs sold in cardboard sleeves with the same cover as the LPs, not in paper covers like 45-rpm singles.
The album was a commercial success, reaching number 2 on the US charts where it stayed for 18 weeks, being Sinatra's highest charting album since his 1947 release Songs by Sinatra. As of 2002 it has been certified Gold by the RIAA, selling over 500,000 units. The album was also a critical success, and is listed as the third most acclaimed album of the 50s. Rolling Stone called it the 101st greatest album of all time.
By the early 1950s, the singer saw his career in decline, his teen "bobby soxer" audience having lost interest in him as he entered his late 30s. In 1951, he went so far as to attempt suicide. Later that year, a second season of The Frank Sinatra Show was aired on CBS, but failed to receive the same positive reception the first season had, with its host having lost his previous energy. Later, in 1952, Sinatra was dropped from Columbia Records.
Against the wishes of his colleagues, on March 14, 1953 then-Vice President of A&R at Capitol Records, Alan Livingston, signed Sinatra to a seven-year deal on his label. The deal proved to be a success; later that year in August, Sinatra appeared as Private Angelo Maggio in the film From Here to Eternity. The film was highly successful and his performance was highly acclaimed, winning him the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor and the Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor. With this new-found popularity he recorded two albums in 1954, Songs for Young Lovers and Swing Easy!, which both peaked at number 3 on the US charts, and the latter number 5 on the UK Album Charts. Sinatra made another acclaimed performance in February as the lead character, Frankie Machine, in the film The Man with the Golden Arm, which won him nominations for the Academy Award and BAFTA for Best Actor and Actor in Lead Role respectively.
The album was recorded in five sessions at KHJ Studios, Hollywood. These sessions took place on February 8, 16 & 17, and April 1 & 4, and would start at 8:00PM, continuing to past midnight. Sinatra was very tense during the recording of the album, reportedly breaking down and crying after the master take of "When Your Lover Has Gone". Rita Kirwan of Music magazine witnessed one of the sessions, and her account goes thus:
Sinatra takes a gulp of the lukewarm coffee remaining in the cup most recently handed to him, and the he lifts the inevitable hat from his head a little, and plops it right back, almost as if he wanted to relieve the pressure from the hat band. The studio empties fast; just music stands and chairs remain. Sinatra flops onto one of the chairs, crosses his legs, and hums a fragment of one of the songs he's been recording. He waves to the night janitor now straightening up the studio, and says: "Jeez, what crazy working hours we got. We both should've been plumbers, huh?"
Since its release, In the Wee Small Hours has been regarded as one of Sinatra's best, often being ranked alongside Songs for Swingin' Lovers! (1956) and Frank Sinatra Sings for Only the Lonely (1958). It is also considered by many to be one of the best vocal jazz releases of all time. acclaimedmusic.net, a website which aggregates musical accolades, names ...Hours the 3rd most acclaimed album of the 50s (...Swingin' Lovers! being one place behind it), with Kind of Blue by Miles Davis and Elvis Presley's self titled début album in front. It also names the album the 258th most acclaimed album of all time.
Stephen Thomas Erlewine commented in Allmusic that the album had an authentic melancholy mood, and is "one of Sinatra's most jazz-oriented performances". Another critic called the album "...perhaps the definitive musical evocation of loneliness.
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