In 1940, when Jo Stafford, then a vocalist with Tommy Dorsey, first saw Sinatra, the skinny new addition to the troupe, she thought him a pathetic figure not worth a first glance. Then, as the story goes, that pathetic figure opened his mouth to sing—and Stafford almost fell off the bandstand. That response was pretty close to universal during Sinatra's three years (1940-42) with the Dorsey band.
If the release of Sinatra's Duets album last year represented the Voice well past the peak of his powers, The Song is You is the Voice young, not yet in full strength, certainly not yet with the distinctive sound and phrasing that would set him apart. In fact it was by following the flow of Dorsey's trombone that Sinatra learned how to string together long lines of lyrics without taking a breath.
It's fascinating to hear Sinatra's first passes at "Violets for Your Furs," "Let's Get Away from It All," "Everything Happens to Me," songs he recorded again later. Sinatra-philes will no doubt savor previously unreleased versions of "I'll Never Smile Again," and "Marie."
It's unarguable that as an artist, Sinatra still had his best years ahead of him. Yet the innocence and purity that pour through the 120 songs in this vintage collection are a terrific tonic. (RCA)