Last year around this time, Frank Sinatra fans had a lot to celebrate as they toasted what would have been Ol' Blue Eyes' 92nd birthday. His estate, run in part by his daughter, '60s pop singer/sex kitten Nancy Sinatra, had just signed a deal with Warner Reprise to market Sinatra's name, likeness, image -- and most importantly, his music. Much of Sinatra's recorded output for Reprise, spanning 1960-88, was out of print, and what was left desperately needed a sonic overhaul and spiffier packaging.
As the 12th of December rolls around again and Sinatra freaks gather to toast birthday number 93, we can rejoice in the fact that no less than nine new Sinatra CDs have been issued in the last twelve months. The only problem is, seven of them are the the compilation Nothing But The Best, each with different variations pegged to lure different segments of the declining music-buying audience. And it's now the only CD of Sinatra's Reprise recordings currently available, the rest having been purged from the catalog in the last year.
Each version Nothing But The Best is generally the same -- 22 tracks including a couple of alternate versions for collectors and one unreleased, posthumously-orchestrated track, a 1984 version of "Body And Soul." Different bonus tracks have been appended for different retailers. Buy it at Starbucks and you'll get "The Coffee Song" tacked on. Pick it up at the Post Office, of all places, and the bonus track is "I'm Gonna Sit Right Down And Write Myself A Letter." And so on. If you live overseas or want to spend the extra bucks on Amazon, you can get a version with a bonus DVD or a limited Christmas edition. And if you bought the regular version the day it came out but want the Christmas disc, well, tough. Buy it again, chump.
Nothing But The Best was a huge success, going as high as #2 on the Billboard album charts and selling close to half a million copies in the States. But it's marketing like this that drove people away from CDs and record stores and into the arms of downloading and illegal copying. And it's typical of Nancy Sinatra's focus on short-term profits at the expense of keeping her father's legacy alive over the long haul.
Shortly after the release of Nothing But The Best, Nancy asked fans on the Sinatra Family Forum, the website she runs, what should be done next with her father's recordings. "Put on your business hats," they were told. "If you had just merged with a big company what would you do?" The overwhelming consensus was, reissue Frank's Reprise albums -- some of which are going for as much as $200 on eBay and Amazon -- with remastered sound and expanded packaging.
Apparently, they were wrong. "So you think we should flood the marketplace with FS?" she responded. As a result, instead of striking while the iron is hot and following up Nothing But The Best with the beginnings of a thorough catalog overhaul, we got... more versions of Nothing But The Best.
And for all you fans who are waiting for classics like September Of My Years or Sinatra And Swingin' Brass to be made available again, you'll have to content yourselves with the fourth compilation of love songs to be released in the last six Valentine's Days -- with one unreleased track to bait the collectors, natch. Or the lamebrained iTunes-only collection, Christmas And New Year's Eve With Sinatra, featuring 16 seemingly random songs, none of which have anything to do with Christmas or New Year's Eve. Great way to alienate older music buyers who don't want to pay for a download, Nancy!
What Nancy and the Sinatra estate don't understand is that while reissues of classic Sinatra albums won't necessarily debut at the top of the charts their first week out, they're going to be steady sellers for years and decades to come. Trends may come and go, but Sinatra never goes out of style. Unfortunately, one thing that is going out of style is buying CDs. So for every month that the estate waits to get this material back out there, the size of the marketplace shrinks.
As the custodian of one of the greatest musical legacies of the 20th century, Nancy Sinatra has done a great job of reducing the 450 or so studio recordings made by her father in the 60s, '70s and '80s down to the few dozen tracks available in stores and online. And sometimes it seems like she'd love to whittle it even further, down to the "big three" songs that are on every Sinatra best-of: "My Way," "Strangers In The Night," and "New York, New York."
But no matter how badly Frank's daughter botches this opportunity, we fans still have reason to celebrate. European copyrights, unlike those in America, only last 50 years for sound recordings. And this December marks the 48th anniversary of Sinatra's first sessions for Reprise. So take your time, Nancy. If you don't want to do the job of reissuing your father's records, there are plenty of entrepreneurs across the pond who'll be happy to do it for you.
THE spot for your favorite fan theories and the best Netflix recs. Learn more