Reviewed by Greg Beets, Fri., Dec. 8, 2006
Vegas (Reprise)Without Frank Sinatra and a handful of enterprising legitimate businessmen, Las Vegas wouldn't be Vegas. While late-stage Elvis best defines Sin City's gaudy excess, the Chairman's swank appeal did a lot more to attract the high rollers. This 4-CD/1-DVD set captures five of Sinatra's Vegas engagements, 1961-1987. Recorded a year after the epochal Rat Pack summit, the 1961 Sands tapes capture Sinatra at the peak of showroom mastery. He squeezes every last sentiment out of "Young at Heart" in one breath while informally jesting with the audience in the next. This is just a warm-up for the 1966 Sands show featuring the Count Basie Orchestra with Quincy Jones conducting. Although Sinatra at the Sands chronicled the high points of this engagement, the Vegas version pieces together a complete show, with flubs and off-color remarks intact. Sinatra's description of the Basie orchestra as a "juggernaut" is illustrated by hard-swinging versions of "Fly Me to the Moon." At the same time, "September of My Years" doesn't lose an ounce of lump-throated pathos. The 1982 Caesars Palace show is highlighted by a rendition of "Hey Look, No Cryinâ" from 1981's She Shot Me Down. The 1987 Golden Nugget set is a straightforward, formulaic affair, but Sinatra displayed the touch even then. Top that off with a DVD of a 1978 Caesars show taped for a CBS TV special, and all you need to complete the package is a couple of comps to the gourmet room.