James Lileks is wrong.

I don’t disagree with The Lileks often, but today he’s wrong about something:
I don’t like Sinatra much; I think he’s overrated. I like his earlier material, when he was Frankie, not Frank. (I really don’t have much time for Liza, but her version of “New York New York” taken from Scorcese’s movie of the same name, is the version of the song, period, end of discussion; Sinatra just walks through it.)
Well, no. Sinatra’s not really overrated, though certainly you’re entitled to not like his later material--de gustibus non est disputandem, after all. His voice when he was “Frankie” was a naturally beautiful instrument (though he was never as gifted as Crosby), and after he wrecked his vocal chords in the 50’s it was never the same. To compensate for what he couldn’t do anymore he developing a different style that depended largely on tricky phrasing, and if some of the resulting arrangements were eye-rollingly kitschy and haven’t aged well, some of them were amazing. As for Liza—her mother was a barely-contained force of nature in human form; Liza is just a faint echo. Her version of “New York New York” is all right, but to my ear Frank’s is simply superior. Admittedly I’m probably allowing outside factors to influence my judgment—knowing what Sinatra went through to rehab his career post-vocal-breakdown, knowing that Liza’s pretty much in the top five on the Freak Parade—but that’s just the way it is.

The rest of the piece is excellent, as usual, and “Axis of Elvis” is a phrase I really, really wish I’d coined, damn him.

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