Sinatra At The Sands – My Introduction to Audiophile Sound

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  • This superb 2 LP set boasts excellent Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER on all four sides! 
  • Truly one of the greatest live albums of all time, recorded late at night in the big room at the Sands Hotel in Vegas
  • This is Basie and Sinatra in their natural habitat and in their prime, putting on the show of a lifetime – quiet vinyl too
  • “Basie and the orchestra are swinging and dynamic, inspiring a textured, dramatic, and thoroughly enjoyable performance from Sinatra … the definitive portrait of Frank Sinatra in the ’60s.” – AMG

This double album presents Sinatra and Basie at the height of their powers, in a setting especially conducive to both men’s music, the big room at the Sands Hotel in Vegas. If you missed it — and I’m sure most all of us did — here’s your chance to go back in time and be seated with the beautiful people front row center. This two disc all tube-mastered analog set is practically the only way you’ll ever be able to hear the greatest vocalist of his generation — in his prime no less — fronting one of the swingingest big bands of the time.

You Are There

The presence and immediacy here are staggering. Turn it up and Frank is right between your speakers, putting on the performance of a lifetime.

The sound is big, open, rich and full. The highs are extended and silky sweet. The bass is tight and punchy. And this copy gives you more life and energy than most, by a long shot. Very few records out there offer the kind of realistic, lifelike sound you get from this pressing.

This stereo LP also has the MIDRANGE MAGIC that’s missing from the later reissues. As good as some of them can be, this one is dramatically more REAL SOUNDING. It gives you the sense that Frank Sinatra is right in front of you.

He’s no longer a recording — he’s a living, breathing person. We call that “the breath of life,” and this record has it in spades. His voice is so rich, sweet, and free of any artificiality, you immediately find yourself lost in the music, because there’s no “sound” to distract you.

Reprise pressings — like every label’s pressings — are all over the map. When you find a good one, you can be pretty sure it’s the exception, not the rule.

What to Listen for

There is some edge on Sinatra’s voice on every side of every copy; it’s so common it’s got to be on the tape. Those copies with less edge and grit on the vocals which are not overly smooth or dull tend to do very well in our shootouts.

Also, richness is very important. We look for a combination of rich, Tubey Magical sound that still maintains a fair amount of clarity and transparency. The originals (always in stereo; the monos are really a joke) tend to be richer and thicker. The second pressings tend to be thinner and clearer. Finding that “best of both worlds” sound is the trick. We manage to pull it off every two or three years here at Better Records.

My First Time

Back in the early ’70s this was actually the album that first introduced me to honest-to-goodness “audiophile” sound.

I was at my local stereo store listening to speakers one day, and the salesman made a comment that the speakers we were listening to (the old Infinity Monitors with the Walsh tweeter) sounded “boxy”. I confessed to him that I didn’t actually know what that meant or what it would sound like if it weren’t boxy.

So he hooked up a pair of Dahlquist DQ-10s and put Sinatra at the Sands on. I was amazed at how the sound just floated in the room, free from the speakers, presenting an image that was as wide and deep as the showroom we were in. That speaker may have many flaws, but boxiness is definitely not one of them.

 

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Come Fly With Me 
I’ve Got a Crush on You 
I’ve Got You Under My Skin 
The Shadow of Your Smile 
Street of Dreams 
One for My Baby (And One More for the…

Side Two

Fly Me to the Moon

One of the best tracks on the album. It can have SUPERB sound!

One O’Clock Jump 
The Tea Break 
You Make Me Feel So Young

Side Three

All of Me 
The September of My Years

Another high point and one of the best reasons to own this album. This is a much better performance than the famous studio version which was such a big hit in its day.

Luck Be a Lady 
Get Me to the Church on Time 
It Was a Very Good Year 
Don’t Worry ‘Bout Me 
Makin’ Whoopee

Side Four

Where or When 
Angel Eyes 
My Kind of Town 
A Few Last Words 
My Kind of Town (Reprise)

AMG Rave Review

In many ways, Sinatra at the Sands is the definitive portrait of Frank Sinatra in the ’60s. Recorded in April of 1966, At the Sands is the first commercially released live Frank Sinatra album, recorded at a relaxed Las Vegas club show. For these dates at the Sands, Sinatra worked with Count Basie and his orchestra, which was conducted by Quincy Jones.

Like any of his concerts, the material was fairly predictable, with his standard show numbers punctuated by some nice surprises. Throughout the show, Sinatra is in fine voice, turning in a particularly affecting version of “Angel Eyes.” He is also in fine humor, constantly joking with the audience and the band, as well as delivering an entertaining, if rambling, monologue halfway through the album. Some of the humor has dated poorly, appearing insensitive, but that sentiment cannot be applied to the music.

Basie and the orchestra are swinging and dynamic, inspiring a textured, dramatic, and thoroughly enjoyable performance from Sinatra.

Grammy Award Winning (!) Liner Notes

For a man so accustomed to appearing before the public, walking on stage this night at The Sands should have caused no more apprehension than you feel walking into your own living room.

Yet Sinatra prepared for this appearance with deliberate ritual. He tends his voice with care. He takes a steam in the late afternoon. He lays off cigarettes. Before going on stage, he works out with his accompanist, Bill Miller, for a half hour. He slips into his tailored tux, still warm from a valet’s iron.

All during dinner, the audience-on-a-fling has been trying to catch the eye of the preoccupied staff, trying to flag down a captain. At the next table, a big man asks if a $10 bill would get him a better table. Scurrying by, the captain sighs “$10,000 couldn’t get him a better seat.” Or, as Dean Martin’s fond of saying, “It’s Frank’s world. We’re just lucky to be living in it.”

The room has that peculiar air about it that only successful clubs have: a combination of cigarette smoke, overheated air, smouldering dust, Lysol Clorox cleaned linen, even the silverware smells different from home silverware. “The crowd” jams every available seat. Two thousand knees with nowhere to go.

As the hour nears nine, the dinner show customers are hustling down their filets. They’ve got to get them down. When those lights go out, they go so far out you’re likely to hustle down your neighbor’s pinky. Why do they go through all this, these normally sane?

• • • • •

The house lights make us disappear and a stage comes alive. A professionally you-asked-for-it voice booms out, “And now…” and onto the stage comes a solidly built, short and seldom-smiling man. So shortand squat it looks as if some monster thumb had been pressing him down toward the earth, gravity having at last done its dirtiest.

But Basie fights back, with the aid of a carefully selected crew and the kind of rhythm section your mother used to call “solid!” Tiny Sonny Payne, Basie’s drummer, perches up near the back of the bandstand, whirling his sticks and thrashing his cymbals and snares like the man who invented drums. Three lines of unbugable horn and reed experts gaze down at their well worn charts. They’ve been traveling with this music for decades. Ask for “One O’Clock Jump” and they’ll bring out a sheet of music that looks like a hunk of Kleenex after a flu epidemic. But they do know how to do what they do. They play jazz, they play it together, and they play it better than most anybody on the planet. And that’s one reason why “the crowd” is here tonight. For this is that moment when time is turned off and rhythm is turned on.

Mr. Basie begins to conduct his orchestra from a seated position, facing his Steinway, hearing his men movin’ without much visible motion. Mr. Cool, but you know he’d rather be doing this than anything else besides breathing. Men like he and his men don’t go through the grinding one-nighters they’ve been through these past eons without some measure of dedication to something besides a buck. They do it because that’s their way of breathing. Their music shows it, from “One O’Clock Jump” to “All of Me,” instrumentals that lift the Sands crowd up to a pitch of romping appreciation. The lousy drinks, the lousier luck at the tables, the pneumonia air conditioning is all gone and forgot.

It happens because Mr. Basie does not consider himself no prelude to nothin! He comes on. He’s got ten quick minutes at the opening of the show that are all his and, by God, they’re his. Forty years of music making jammed into ten prestigious minutes.

During the applause, a dapper young man comes out on stage to adjust his music stand. He faces the Basie band. He’s Quincy Jones, a high-talent young man who could be making a lot more money arranging his own albums or scoring films. But he chooses to be on stage at The Sands, for the same reason everyone else chooses to be there. Because an event is about to happen.

• • • • •

During the wailing of the Basie band, those jammed, perched, squoze to the sides of the room can see an anxious figure peering out at the band from the stage wings. Catching the mood of the crowd, Frank Sinatra. Looking not unlike a young man calculating his audience for his first talent night appearance. The Suave is dropped. The performer is getting himself up for one swinging night’s sing.

Again the amplified voice lets them all know. “And now… a Man and His Music!”

The band ups to the occasion. And he walks on. Doesn’t gallop on, doesn’t wave or jump or hoopla. Just he walks on. His pocket handkerchief folded in there nice. A bit of a vest peeking out from under his tux coat. He pulls the hand mike out of the stand, glances up at the light booth where a thousand pounds of spotlight bear down on him. His shoulders hunch once, like they’re absorbing the beat of Basie. He turns back to Quincy, Count & Co., smiling, extending the vamp. Go. Sonny Payne whacks his drums to stir up more groove. Then Sinatra turns back and sings. It looks effortless, the way he lazily loops the mike cable through his relaxed hands. But his face shows what he’s singing. Eyes closed, head tilted, lips carefully phrasing and elocuting.

And Sinatra runs through his best. The songs are Sinatra’s, like “Come Fly” and “Crush” and “Fly Me to the Moon.” Hip, up-tempo, wailing things.

And then he’ll change the pace on the audience. While his excitement-sated audience of people who’ve been everywhere are just happy to be there, while everyone is forgetting who’s sitting in the next chair, or that down front there’s a row of celebrities running from Roz Russell to Yul Brynner, from Mike Romanoff to Judy Garland, while all of this is being gone and forgot because the man on stage is more than will fill one’s attention, while all of these sounds and sights and impressions are piling up against the pounding beat of Basie, Sinatra switches.

Count Basie walks off stage. A thin, grey-haired man, who looks as if he hides under mushrooms to avoid the sun’s rays, walks to the piano.

This is Bill Miller, Sinatra’s piano player. Sinatra turns to the audience and tells them he’s going to sing a saloon song. And silently you can almost hear the perfumed ladies think “Yeah” and the close-shaved, shiny-cheeked men think “Yeah” and the waiters stop in the doorways and think “Yeah.”

And with just a piano behind him, Sinatra turns actor. The man whose broad’s left him with some other guy and all of the loot. And he sings—and acts—his “Angel Eyes” and his “One for My Baby.” And there is silence all about, for this audience is watching a man become that last lucked-out guy at the bar, the last one, with nowhere to go except sympathy city.

Then more Sinatra-Basie, songs ranging from the subtle “Very Good Year” to the sizzle (“My Kind of Town”). And all the while, Quincy’s at one side, setting the beat, Count’s on the other making the beat, and Sinatra’s center, demonstrating how wide and high the heart of a singing man can range.

And after an almost dozen songs, Sinatra pauses. He pulls forward a stool and a music stand. He takes his tea. Cup and saucer ir. hand, he says his words. Ten, fifteen minutes worth of greeting. His status report on The Arts and The Sands. Commentary ranging from the autobiographical to world affairs, all delivered with the same casual emphasis that marks his singing style. The audience is shifting in its chairs, knowing it has only 90 minutes maybe with Sinatra, loving him talking to them, hoping he won’t stop, and hoping he’s going to sing all night that night.

Then, with a napkin tap at the corners of his mouth, he retires the props. He’s getting no younger, says he, and he’d best sing. And he does. More of the better: “Don’t Worry ‘Bout Me,” “Where or When,” the audience increasingly with it, knowing they’ve never heard anything better, amazed at the number of songs Sinatra’s really associated with.

Finally “My Kind of Town,” starting deceptively with some talk about a nice city, then building choruses of mounting, modulating, upwards excitement.

And then he leaves. Walks right off that stage, just like he was finished. But does the crowd want that? They say no. They yell no and more, one more, ten more, hell a lifetime more, they’ve got nowhere to go, dammit they want more of him.

Mr. Sinatra comes back and bows, not too low, but appreciatively. He makes “the dullest speech you’ll ever have to listen to,” thanking them, not for this one hour, but for a lifetime of applause. He reprises “My Kind of Town.” He does it with authority. Nobody follows that kind of finish, not even Frank Sinatra.

The waiters know it, and start hurriedly distributing saucers with the tabs. The houselights force back up. It’s like dawn, and you don’t turn the sun back. Still, they keep applauding till the feeling gets hopeless.

By now, Sinatra’s probably got a towel around his neck and his toes curled up on his dressing table. So, the audience files slowly out into the smoke-choked casino, meeting once more the hardluck din of reality around the half-empty crap tables. Those huddled masses outside look into the faces of the excited crowds, looking for signs that it was really sumpin!

And what they see is mostly blinking eyes; women adjusting their coats to the onrushing night air, to the silent walk down the concrete paths to an unenchanted evening’s leftovers; men sitting down at the blackjack tables, where the waxen dealers take time during a deal to look up at their faces and ask, “You see the show?”

And the men answer, “Yeah. That Sinatra… he really puts on a show.”

Which may not be the best sum up in the world, but then you can’t expect much more from someone who’s just been through 90 minutes with the best singing man in town.

—Stan Cornyn