In the Wee Small Hours

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For the Law & Order: Criminal Intent episode, see In the Wee Small Hours (Law & Order: Criminal Intent).
In the Wee Small Hours
Studio album by Frank Sinatra
Released April 1955
Recorded February 8, 1955–March 4, 1955, (except Last Night When We Were Young, March 1, 1954) KHJ Studios, Hollywood
Genre Vocal Jazz, Traditional pop music
Length 48:41
Language English
Label Capitol
Producer Voyle Gilmore
Frank Sinatra chronology
Swing Easy!
(1954)
In the Wee Small Hours
(1955)
Songs for Swingin' Lovers
(1956)

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.,[1][2] 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.[3] In the Wee Small Hours was 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. (See Gramophone records for explanations of these terms.)

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.[4] The album was also a critical success, and is listed as the third most acclaimed album of the 50s.[5] Rolling Stone called it the 101st greatest album of all time.[6]

Background[edit]

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 according to one author.[7] 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.[8] 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[9] 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.

Relationship troubles[edit]

Ava Gardner, Sinatra's second wife, provided inspiration for the album

Despite his new commercial gain, by the time of the recording of In the Wee Small Hours, Sinatra witnessed the messy end of a chain of relationships. He and his first wife, Nancy Barbato, had separated on Valentine's Day 1950. While still married, Sinatra began a relationship with Ava Gardner, which became very controversial. After he and Nancy finally divorced in October 1951, he married Ava just ten days later. However, they were both jealous of the others' extramarital affairs. Despite having considerable influence in getting him his part in From Here to Eternity, Ava broke off from Sinatra two months after the release of the film, divorcing in 1957. She claimed "We don't have the ability to live together like any normal married couple."[10] Critics presume that these events are the reason behind the melancholy atmosphere of the album.

Recording[edit]

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".[10] 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?"[10]

Release[edit]

The album was released in April 1955. It peaked at number 2 on the Billboard 200, where it remained for 18 weeks, the longest time Sinatra had held a spot in the top-ten at the time, and also his highest charting album since Songs by Sinatra. On September 6, 2002, it was certified Gold by the RIAA, meaning it had shifted over 500,000 units.

In the 1980s, the album was reissued on CD with an abridged track listing on Capitol 46571-2. By popular demand a CD was eventually released in complete form on Capitol 96826-2.

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 5/5 stars [11]
Rolling Stone 5/5 stars [12]

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.[5]

Stephen Thomas Erlewine commented in Allmusic that the album had an authentic melancholy mood, and is "one of Sinatra's most jazz-oriented performances".[13] Another critic called the album "...perhaps the definitive musical evocation of loneliness".[10]

Accolades[edit]

Publication Accolade Year Rank
Amazon.com 10 Best Albums by Decade (50s)[5] 1999 3
Gear The 100 Greatest Albums of the Century[5] 1999
Blender The 100 Greatest American Albums of All Time[5] 2002 54
Rolling Stone The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time[6] 2003 100
1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die[8] 2005
Time The All-TIME 100 Albums[14] 2006
Mojo 100 Records That Changed the World[15] 2007 11

Legacy[edit]

The title track, "In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning", has been recorded by a number of artists following Sinatra's version, including Johnny Hartman, Astrud Gilberto, Lou Rawls, Carly Simon, Art Blakey, Count Basie and His Orchestra, Andy Williams, Wes Montgomery, Ruby Braff, Jamie Cullum, John Mayer, Susan Wong, and many others. A cover version of the title track is also featured as the last track on Curtis Stigers' 2009 album, Lost in Dreams. In his autobiography, B.B. King speaks about how he was, and is, a "Sinatra nut" and how he went to bed every night listening to "In the Wee Small Hours." [16] Tom Waits has named it one of his favourite albums.[17] His album The Heart of Saturday Night features cover artwork based on In the Wee Small Hours.[18] Per the biography "Divided Soul," Marvin Gaye cited it as a favorite and an inspiration for his posthumously released "ballad" album Vulnerable along with Billie Holiday's "Lady in Satin."

Track listing[edit]

Side 1[19]
No. Title Writing Length
1. "In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning"   Bob Hilliard and David Mann 3:00
2. "Mood Indigo"   Barney Bigard, Duke Ellington and Irving Mills 3:30
3. "Glad to Be Unhappy"   Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart 2:35
4. "I Get Along Without You Very Well"   Hoagy Carmichael 3:42
5. "Deep in a Dream"   Eddie DeLange and Jimmy Van Heusen 2:49
6. "I See Your Face Before Me"   Howard Dietz and Arthur Schwartz 3:24
7. "Can't We Be Friends?"   Paul James and Kay Swift 2:48
8. "When Your Lover Has Gone"   Einar Aaron Swan 3:10
Side 2[19]
No. Title Writing Length
9. "What Is This Thing Called Love?"   Cole Porter 2:35
10. "Last Night When We Were Young"   Harold Arlen and Yip Harburg 3:17
11. "I'll Be Around"   Alec Wilder 2:59
12. "Ill Wind"   Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler 3:46
13. "It Never Entered My Mind"   Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart 2:42
14. "Dancing on the Ceiling"   Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart 2:57
15. "I'll Never Be the Same"   Gus Kahn, Matty Malneck and Frank Signorelli 3:05
16. "This Love of Mine"   Sol Parker, Henry W. Sanicola, Jr. and Frank Sinatra 3:33

Selected personnel[edit]

  • Frank Sinatravocals
  • Voyle Gilmoreproducer [21]
  • Nelson Riddlearranger, conductor[21]
  • Musicians include: Victor Bay, Alexander Beller, Harry Bluestone, Nathan Ross, Mischa Russell, Paul Shure, Felix Slatkin, Marshall Sosson (violins), James Arkatov, Cy Bernard, Armand Kaproff, Ray Kramer, Edgar Lustgarten, Kurt Reher, Joseph Saxon, Eleanor Slatkin (celli), Arthur Gleghorn, Luella Howard, Jules Kinsler, George Poole (flutes), John Cave, Vincent DeRosa, Joseph Eger, Richard Perissi (French horns), Bill Miller (piano), George Van Eps (7-string guitar), Phil Stephens (bass), Lou Singer (drums), Kathryn Julye (harp).

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Annotated liner notes, Pete Welding. In the Wee Small Hours. Capitol Records, 1998 CD release.
  2. ^ Jim Cullen (2001-06-01). Restless in the promised land. Rowman & Littlefield, 2001. p. 98. ISBN 978-1-58051-093-6. Retrieved 9 April 2011. 
  3. ^ Chris Rojek (2004-09-27). Frank Sinatra. Polity, 2004. p. 43. ISBN 978-0-7456-3091-5. Retrieved 9 April 2011. 
  4. ^ http://www.riaa.com/goldandplatinumdata.php?content_selector=gold-platinum-searchable-database ITWSH riaa certification
  5. ^ a b c d e http://acclaimedmusic.net/ + http://www.acclaimedmusic.net/Current/A1785.htm
  6. ^ a b "500 Greatest Albums: In the Wee Small Hours - Frank Sinatra | Rolling Stone Music | Lists". Retrieved 15 June 2011. 
  7. ^ Kaplan, James (2010). Frank the Voice. Doubleday.
  8. ^ a b Robert Dimery; Michael Lydon (23 March 2010). 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die: Revised and Updated Edition. Universe. p. 22. ISBN 978-0-7893-2074-2. 
  9. ^ http://awardsdatabase.oscars.org/ampas_awards/DisplayMain.jsp?curTime=1335062190222
  10. ^ a b c d Johnny Black; Mark Brend (2008). Classic Track Back to Back: Albums. Thunder Bay Press. pp. 8–12. ISBN 978-1-59223-872-9. 
  11. ^ In the Wee Small Hours at AllMusic
  12. ^ http://www.rocklistmusic.co.uk/rs5star_ed1.htm Rolling Stone review
  13. ^ Stephen Thomas Erlewine. "In the Wee Small Hours - Frank Sinatra | AllMusic". Retrieved 15 June 2011. 
  14. ^ "All-Time 100 Albums". Time. 2 November 2006. 
  15. ^ http://www.acclaimedmusic.net/Current/A1785.htm + http://pub37.bravenet.com/forum/static/show.php?usernum=3172289350&frmid=0&msgid=714055 Mojo's 100 records that changed the world list
  16. ^ King, B.B. and Daniel Ritz. Blue All Around Me, 1999.
  17. ^ Tom Waits (22 March 2005). "Tom Waits on his cherished albums of all time | Music | The Observer". London: Guardian. Retrieved 2012-01-11. 
  18. ^ Art Director: Cal Schenkel Cover Art: Napoleon aka Lyn Lascaro 339) The Heart of Saturday Night : Rolling Stone
  19. ^ a b "Frank Sinatra - In The Wee Small Hours (Vinyl, LP) at Discogs". Retrieved 15 June 2011. 
  20. ^ Sinatra, Frank. Three Original Hit Albums CD, Disc 3. Not Now Music Limited, 2007.
  21. ^ a b "In the Wee Small Hours - Frank Sinatra". AllMusic. Retrieved 2012-01-11. 

External links[edit]