on February 5, 2004
The 20th Century may be long gone now and Sinatra no longer with us, but one shouldn't forget that the music from his time still remains. I'm 17 years old and I never grew up listening to his material. I'm mostly into guitar-driven rock music, but I still keep coming back to this album over and over. "Only the Lonely" is the perfect accompaniment for those solitary nights and the ballads never grow old. While many are familiar with his swingin' commercial hits, Frank fully showcased his capabilities through his sad concept records and "Only the Lonely" is no exception.
Those who think his songs are boring and cheesy have obviously never been exposed to good music before. From the opening title track to the rhythmic and catchy 'Blues in the Night' to the amazing rendition of 'One for My Baby' until the closing opus of 'Where or When', it will have you hooked from beginning to end. The orchestrations of arranger and conducting genius Nelson Riddle, coupled with Frank's haunting voice and the imagery produced from the lyrics themselves come together to create a masterpiece. If the jewel case art doesn't get your attention, then a first listen certainly will.
You won't receive any disappointment. "Only the Lonely" sets this mood that's nearly impossible to recreate anywhere else by anyone else. Honestly, how often in a lifetime do you come across records like this? Words simply cannot explain it. Even after almost half a century, you'll return to listening time after time.
on January 28, 2004
This album was recorded over several days in late May and June of 1958, and I've been listening to it almost ever since. I've always been a Johnny Mercer fan, too, and a couple of his best songs are recorded on this album: the rueful "One for my Baby;" and the darker, angrier "Blues in the Night."
In my opinion "Only the Lonely" is Sinatra's greatest album. It is a collection of twelve ballads (plus two additions on the CD: "Sleep Warm"; and "Where or When") that Sinatra turns into dramatic monologue supported by music. The individual notes supporting each logical phrase in a song are seamlessly bound together--"He sings with such a beautiful legato!" the music critic Virgil Thomson once remarked.
In general, I'm not a popular music fan, being more inclined toward opera where this singer's reedy baritone would be out of place. But what Sinatra sings, he sings perfectly. Opera singers who attempt to go the other way and record popular ballads generally end up embarrassing themselves, especially if their songs were previously interpreted by Sinatra.
His golden age truly began in the 50s when he signed a contract with Capitol Records, hired Nelson Riddle as his chief arranger, and recorded a series of 'concept' albums that included this album on the loneliness of love.
A singer achieves stardom only to the extent that he succeeds in expressing his personality through music. Sinatra's ability to do this is most especially evident here where he personifies the lover who is unlucky in love. He is by turn rueful, melancholy, self-pitying, and sometimes a little angry---and if you're anywhere above the onset of puberty, I think you will understand exactly what he means. This is his gift to anyone who has ever felt rejected and alone.
Sinatra really deserves to be remembered as, in the words of the music critic John Rockwell, "the greatest singer in the history of American popular music."
on September 21, 2003
"Only the Lonely" is far more than a collection of emotional torch songs by Sinatra: it's a stunning tone poem with remarkable unity and coherence as well as variety. Listen to each of Riddle's introductions to the separate "movements." The opening track employs acoustic piano and strings in the style of Rachmaninoff, inviting all "loners" to a kind of romantic, formal place for jilted lovers. But when that place is examined more closely in "It's a Lonesome Town," Riddle's use of double reeds and string overtones evokes a picture of personal subjectivity and malaise. By the time we get to "Goodbye," the subject's isolation is complete, his irrevocable aloneness portrayed as elegy by English horn and cellos. Next, the ensemble sound of flutes, double reeds, and clarinet introduces "Guess I'll Hang My Tears Up to Dry" and several more songs that explore the subject's relation with nature. In "Ebb Tide" the subject seeks an end to self-consciousness through identification with natural process; but in "Spring Is Here" he becomes acutely aware of his singular exclusion from nature. In each instance, Riddle's orchestral colors paint a vivid picture before the song's narrative unfolds. Far from bathing the singer in an ocean of sound, the strings are used so selectively that we're often unaware of their presence. The singer's resignation to loneliness in "One More for My Baby" is scored so sparingly that the accompaniment seems to offer proof of the meaning conveyed by the lyrics.
This elegiac masterpiece by Sinatra and Riddle may be superficially about loss, but at a deeper aesthetic level it's about the compensating satisfactions made possible through art.
This is one Sinatra album that you don't want to download in pieces or purchase as part of a "Greatest Hits" anthology.
on April 16, 2004
Though Sinatra can be said to have reinvented "swing" in the 1950's with his string of stellar recordings for Capitol, his artistic powers were maximized in his treatment of ballads. Nowhere are these abilities better showcased than in the present offering. Nelson Riddle prepared the darkest, most brooding, and haunting arrangements of his career, framing Sinatra's performances ideally, which combine his richest vocal timbre with interpretations that are thoroughly assured and convincing, but with the vital tinges of fragility suggested in the songs' lyrics. A number of these songs in this collection are, to my mind, the "definitive" vocal versions, amongst these "Angel Eyes", "What's New?", "Spring is Here", "Willow Weep for Me" and "One For My Baby." Some lesser-known songs also score big here, especially "Goodbye" and "Gone With the Wind." Riddle's contribution cannot be overstated here. I believe this to be his finest work as an arranger. All in all, this is a "must" purchase not only for Sinatraphiles, but for those wanting some of the best of the Great American Songbook.
on March 20, 2004
Loneliness is a state we all find ourselves in at some time or another, for many different reasons. If you've ever experienced loneliness in your life, then this magnificent album by the legendary Frank Sinatra is for you. Sinatra's 1958 opus "Only The Lonely" is an achingly beautiful masterwork. With Nelson Riddle supplying the orchestrations, Sinatra magnificently takes the listener on a stroll through 14 songs all having to do with the theme of loneliness. Every single one of them is perfectly & beautifully sung by Frank, with Riddle's orchestral accompanyment the perfect light wind that carries Sinatra's performances along. There are so many outstanding, emotional songs on this album. My personal favorites include the title song, "Angel Eyes," "It's A Lonesome Old Town," "Willow Weep For Me," "Guess I'll Hang My Tears Out To Dry," "Spring Is Here," and, what is one of Sinatra's all-time signature classics, the ultimate saloon song, "One For My Baby." With Sinatra's voice so calm, so rich & so smooth, and Riddle's orchestrations so lovely, "Only The Lonely" simply floors you with it's emotional power. It's as if Frank is sitting right there with you, sharing a drink and patting you on the shoulder, as if to say, "It's okay, pal. I feel lonely sometimes, too." Quite simply, "Only The Lonely" is a most classic, most heartfelt Sinatra album. Thank you, Frank.
on February 21, 2004
It's difficult to place this album in any one category. The orchestrations are classical and elegant. The harmonies used are jazz at its hippest. And Frank pulls it all together. Here is Frank at his sharpest and his saddest. There's so much here to absorb and take in.
Another difficulty is picking a favorite or a 'best-foot-forward'. "Angel eyes", "What's new?", and "One for my baby" have since become standards in the jazz lexicon. It's a mystery as to why "Guess I'll hang my tears out to dry", and "Gone with the wind" haven't fared better. "Goodbye" is just downright sad. The use of Diminished-whole tone scale harmonies here should be looked at as a 'how-to' or a primer for anyone who wants to compose music like this. Generally, it sounds as if they removed all restraints from Nelson Riddle. It's like they told him to just go crazy. It's difficult to determine who comes out as the star here. The arrangements here are that good.
This music is so classy. You are listening to eloquent, well written and arranged music. You have to listen to it more than once. And yet, as sad as it is, there is still a 'joy underneath the tears' that bubbles through.
on August 23, 2003
I am still more than a year away from turning 60, but I consider myself a Sinatra fan of 45 years duration. Even so, I have not heard every non-compilation album the man put out...far from it. It's fairer to say I've heard or owned more than most people have. I love his best swinging records, "Songs for Swingin' Lovers" and "Come Swing With Me", for instance. But I think he achieves the truest magic with the love gone wrong releases, especially this one, and "In the Wee Small Hours" and in third place, "Point of No Return". In fact, "Wee Small Hours" probably edges out "Only the Lonely" for me, but by only a hair. The "Point" CD is ruined by a poor choice of bonus songs. If you buy it, just play the contents of the original LP and you'll be fine. "Only the Lonely" shows Sinatra the singer at the peak of his emotional power. The man doesn't just choose good songs. The guy does not just do a good job with each verse. He doesn't merely labor lovingly over each line. Frank does not just find the exactly right tone and dramatic attitude for each WORD, even. On this recording, and also on "Wee Small Hours", this singer makes each syllable, each pause, each silence, each breath, each beat serve the listening experience. It is amazing. I'm not a singer myself, but I would sure encourage every singer, no matter what category of music, to study this disc. His acting out the meaning of the lyric is so subtle, yet so strong and smart. Read five or six other reviews, then just buy this one. It's probably one of the ten best releases in the history of records, in terms of skill and effectiveness. I find this album, and "Wee Small Hours" to be anything but bleak and depressing, due to how much beauty and talent show through. The songs may be sad, but the performing of them is an event to be celebrated. The material here rewards the mature, emotionally deep, intelligent listener. Can't throw this on the changer as background sound. This singer is in pain, and it needs sharing. When shared, he heals himself and you, too.
on May 25, 2003
I gotta say these reviewers before me laid it all out. This is jus' a haunting, somber, heart-breaking masterpiece to listen to over a bottle'a somethin' really, REALLY strong. It's a testament to what a true artist an' soul-bearing vocalist Frank Sinatra was, that, even when he was on top of the world, he could make you feel his pain an sorrow so vividly while, at the same time, speaking for all the lost an' hopeless souls in the world. I love e'ything that Frank ever recorded, but THIS, this jus' sits in a class all on its own.
The treatment he gives every single number is that of a man who was pouring all his sadness an' broken dreams into that microphone in the recording studio. I wish I coulda been there while this was bein' recorded, jus' to see what the atmosphere in the room was like. I mean, the engineers must'a been reduced to a puddle of tears, fa'real. I need a handkerchief for that title song alone. But then you got 'Angel Eyes' where he encourages us to drink up, 'cause the laughs tonight are on him, then jus' completely buries us with his lovelorn state of mind. This man was working with an amazing, magical instrument. and it was somethin' as simple as his voice. He stirs up an' spreads out the classic 'Blues in the Night', one'a my all-time favorites, making it a smooth, but no less rugged number. He gives us his well-known standards like 'Guess I'll Hang My Tears Out to Dry' with such passion an' feeling, you'll be mesmerized for the duration of the tune. The highlight for me though is 'One For My Baby (And One More For the Road)', my favorite ol' saloon song, that beautiful piano melody an' lyrics that you jus' gotta sing along with. I gotta throw one back every time I hear this song, it's unavoidable. Sinatra takes this simple number an' builds it up into somethin' dramatic by the end, pretty much accentuating to us what a truly, TRULY sad song it really is. I love the way he lets the last line drag out with the piano ("The long... it's so long... the long... oh, very long..."). The road becomes a metaphor for his heartache an' pain.
The truth is, an' I'm jus' bein' real, not everyone is going to like or enjoy this album. You have to know well the loneliness he's speaking of, you have to have been through a tough break-up, and I mean a REALLY tough break-up, not the kind where you boo-hooing one day and goin' to a club to pick up someone else the next. I'm talkin' 'bout the kind when you had someone who you felt you couldn't live without, and you LOST them; the kind that went on for days, weeks, months, even years; the kind where the person is on your mind constantly, from the time you wake up to the time you go to sleep; and the kind that was so painful and shattering to your psyche that you had to be ALONE during that period. You couldn't be around ANYONE. That ain't to say you should get this, but it helps if you are a deep-souled and mature person.
on February 1, 2003
A lonely piano, a lonely voice in the night...Frank Sinatra's recording of "One for My Baby" is arguably the greatest recording by any American popular singer, and the entire album of "Only the Lonely" is a landmark testament of American popular song. This exquisitely dark, profoundly moving CD contains one masterpiece after another--"Willow Weep for Me," "Blues in the Night," "Spring is Here," "Angel Eyes," and of course "One for My Baby." Sinatra's grave, blue-velvet voice plumbs depths of romantic despair that no other singer--with the possible exception of Billie Holiday--ever approached. Nelson Riddle's supple orchestrations caress and enhance Sinatra's singing; among soloists--vocal or instrumental--and arrangers, only Miles Davis and Gil Evans had as remarkable a collaboration as Sinatra and Riddle. The only cut that slips a little below the rest is "Where or When," which feels overproduced. (No wonder it wasn't released with the original album.) This isn't a fun-time album, but one to play at midnight with a glass of whiskey in your hand and a lifetime full of regrets in your head. It's marvelous.
on December 23, 2002
Everyone has a personal favorite Sinatra Album and this one is usually near the top. I do not remember ever reading a list of favorites where this was not in the top five and often in the top two or three. I believe this is Sinatra's best. In fact, let me walk right out on a limb and say this is close to being the best album ever. By anyone. Period. When Sinatra recorded this album he was at the very peak of his powers and Nelson Riddle was the perfect arranger for these songs. They will send a chill down your back and the hair on your arms will stand up straight. After owning this album for over thirty years I still play it, and you just can't say that about too many albums.
I bought this album through a recommendation many years ago, along with the fine In The Wee Small Hours Of The Morning, I put the record on and after a few songs I took it off. It is such a downer album that I could not listen to it through in one sitting. I found that to appreciate this album I had to approach it as if it were an anthology of great short stories. And in a way that is what this album is. This is what I recommend: forget about all the stuff you have heard both good and bad about Frank Sinatra over the years and listen to how he does these songs. Wait until it is late in the evening and you can listen without being interrupted, pour a glass of a dry red wine, turn the lights down low, get comfortable, and listen to What's New or Angel Eyes. Maybe listen to both. Maybe listen to them twice. Then stop and wait for some other evening when you are feeling mellow to hear another song from this album. You will find your own favorites. If you are like me, then thirty years later you will still be listening to this album.