Frank Sinatra – Softly, As I Leave You

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  • With two insanely good sides, each with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it, this early stereo pressing was one of the best copies we played in our shootout
  • Big, rich and natural, the newer material for this album was recorded in 1964, with Sinatra’s voice in very fine form
  • This is one of the few Sinatra records where the second label pressings can still sound quite good – that is rare in our experience
  • “The highlight of the record was the hit title song, which featured a subdued but forceful and steady backbeat. The rhythm itself was indicative of Sinatra’s effort to accept the new popular music.”

This vintage Reprise LP has the MIDRANGE MAGIC that’s missing from the later reissues. 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 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.

We know a fair bit about the man’s recordings at this point. As of today we’ve done commentaries for 30 different Sinatra shootouts, and that’s not even counting the other titles that either bombed or were sold off years ago.

What The Best Sides Of Softly, As I Leave You Have To Offer Is Not Hard To Hear

  • The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
  • The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1964
  • Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
  • Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments having the correct timbre
  • Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional studio space

No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the qualities we discuss above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.

Best Practices

If you have five or ten copies of a record and play them over and over against each other, the process itself teaches you what’s right and what’s wrong with the sound of the album. Once your ears are completely tuned to what the best pressings do well that the others do not do as well, using a few specific passages of music, it will quickly become obvious how well any given pressing reproduces those passages.

The process is simple enough. First, you go deep into the sound. There you find something special, something you can’t find on most copies. Now, with the hard-won knowledge of precisely what to listen for, you are perfectly positioned to critique any and all pressings that come your way.

What We’re Listening For on Softly As I Leave You

  • Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
  • Then: presence and immediacy. The vocals aren’t “back there” somewhere, lost in the mix. They’re front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt would put them.
  • The Big Sound comes next — wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
  • Then transient information — fast, clear, sharp attacks, not the smear and thickness so common to these LPs.
  • Tight punchy bass — which ties in with good transient information, also the issue of frequency extension further down.
  • Next: transparency — the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the instruments.
  • Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Emily
Here’s To The Losers
Dear Heart  
Come Blow Your Horn
Love Isn’t Just For The Young
I Can’t Believe I’m Losing You

Side Two

Pass Me By
Softly, As I Leave You
Then Suddenly Love
Available
Talk To Me Baby
The Look Of Love

AMG Review

Softly, as I Leave You was Frank Sinatra’s first tentative attempt to come to terms with the rock & roll revolution, even if it was hardly a rock & roll album.

The highlight of the record was the hit title song, which featured a subdued but forceful and steady backbeat. The rhythm itself was indicative of Sinatra’s effort to accept the new popular music.