The “Listen Again” series went over well enough that your favorite rockin’ record reviewer decided to follow the lead of some TV execs and do a spin-off. In this series we once more examine previously-released albums but the platters we shall peruse in this particular series will be (Rolling Stone magazine) five-star albums. This edition of the series we examine Frank Sinatra’s September of My Years.
For those not up on their pre-rock history, (Francis Albert) “Frank” Sinatra was an American singer and actor who got his start in show business back in the 1940s. September of My Years marked his fifth tuneful team-up with Gordon Jenkins who was his arranger and conductor. They stepped into the studio in April of 1965 and completed the recording process late the following month.
Side one opens on the titular track “The September of My Years”. This one was composed by the award-winning songwriters Jimmy Van Heusen and Sammy Cahn. (It would go on to be nominated for the Grammy Award for Song of the Year.)
The second selection is the first of two Jenkins compositions “How Old Am I?” Also included on this side is Sinatra’s take on singer-songwriter Sunny Skylar’s “Don’t Wait Too Long” and another Van Heusen-Cahn collaboration “It Gets Lonely Early”. It’s followed by the second Jenkins tune “This Is All I Ask” which Jenkins himself considered his “finest composition”.
Sinatra included an encore performance of the Harold Arlen-E.Y. Harburg song “Last Night When We Were Young” which had previously appeared on Sinatra’s 1954 platter In the Wee Small Hours . The side ends on Bart Howard’s “The Man in the Looking Glass”.
The flip side opens on the now famous “It Was a Very Good Year” by Ervin Drake which was first put out by The Kingston Trio. The song recounts all of the singer’s lovers over the years. Sinatra did it in D-minor which apparently helped to distinguish it.
The next number is “When the Wind Was Green” by Henry Stinson. It’s quickly forgotten once Sinatra breaks into his version of the Rodgers and Hammerstein hit “Hello, Young Lovers” from The King and I. “I See It Now” by Broadway writers Alec Wilder and William Engvick is also included here.
The show tunes continue as Sinatra sings “Once Upon a Time” from the 1962 musical All American by Charles Strouse and Lee Adams. The closing cut is the memorable pop standard “September Song” by Kurt Weill and Maxwell Anderson from the show Knickerbocker Holiday. With a running time of over 44 minutes the Reprise release hit the record racks in August of 1965.
It was a mix of pop music, traditional songs and vocal jazz that would mark a surge in Sinatra’s popularity mere months before his 50th birthday. It rose to number 5 on the Billboard Pop Albums chart and garnered a Grammy. “It Was a Very Good Year” also scored a Grammy and Jenkins also won one for the arrangement of the song.
Sinatra would not be forgotten and in 1998 the vinyl was remastered for CD as a part of the Reprise-Capitol Records “Entertainer of the Century” which is presently out of print. 2010 witnessed Concord Records reissuing the CD version complete with two bonus tracks. They were a live version of “This Is All I Ask” and the 1968 single mix of “How Old Am I?”
Frank Sinatra’s September of My Years/ Rep. 1014 is a popular music masterpiece that summarized the punchy sentimentality a generation of men felt. Interestingly, one of the LP’s highlights, “It Was a Very Good Year”“It Was a Very Good Year””It Was a Very Good Year””It Was a Very Good Year””It Was a Very Good Year” “It Was a Very Good Year”“It Was a Very Good Year”, was both an exceptional, eloquent expression of adult sexist nostalgia and a critically-acclaimed cut. For Sinatra it was, indeed, a very good year.
My name is Phoenix and . . . that’s the bottom line.