My first foray into the discography of the immortal crooner, my first impression of “In the Wee Small Hours” is that it could be a sonic companion to J.D. Salinger’s “The Catcher in the Rye”: It’s easy to picture a downtrodden, intoxicated Frank Sinatra subbing for Holden Caulfield, roaming the streets of 1950s New York City looking for companionship or a sympathetic ear, but primarily waxing poetic about his own troubles. Going through a divorce at the time, Sinatra sounds at the end of his emotional rope even as his vocals remain top-tier, and you can practically smell the aroma of stale beer and cheap cigarettes accompanying him around for all sixteen tracks. Classic tracks like “Mood Indigo,” “Can’t We Be Friends?” and “What Is This Thing Called Love?” highlight the album’s themes extraordinary well, and the overall jazz sonic landscape perfectly captures the emotional highs and lows of a night spent wrestling with a heavy heart and a bottle. It’s a legendary classic album, and it continues to hold considerable appeal even for newcomers.
Rating: ★★★★★ (out of 5)