Sinatra At The Sands vinyl review

One of my all-time-favourite Live albums was recorded in 1966 in the Copa Room of the Sands Hotel in Las Vegas. Holding no more than 500 people, it was an intimate venue. Guests sat close ringside - and the sound was exemplary. The Copa hosted many, many of the biggest names in showbiz, including Lena Horne, Judy Garland, Marlene Dietrich, Tallulah Bankhead, Louis Armstrong and Nat King Cole.

This particular album features Frank Sinatra, the Count Basie Orchestra and Quincy Jones. It was Sinatra’s first live album to be released, and what a corker it is!! Featuring most of Sinatra’s most recognizable tunes, the music is fabulous and the sound is fantastic. With Count Basie at the piano, this is an album that has a swing that will get your foot tapping. Quincy Jones as conductor keeps the flow while allowing every performer to feature. Sweets Edison on trumpet has numerous solos that sometimes startle, sometimes caress your ears.

Unfortunately for the music collector, the popularity of this album makes it difficult to find a good copy. There were a huge number of pressings in 1966 when the album was released. Most of these have been played so often that they aren’t in good condition. The Mobile Fidelity re-mastered reissue is not IMHO worth the $250 that most sellers are asking for. One of my friends put it best when we did a quick comparison between a 1966 first press and the MoFi. “Listening to the first press is like looking through a dirty window at Frank Sinatra and Count Basie jiving. Listening to the MoFi is like looking through a pristinely clean window, but you are looking at a colorized B&W movie of Frank and the Count performing. NOT the same!!”

The best issues to look for is the original 1966 first press gatefold - these have the white bars on the top and bottom, and there is no WEA logo on the record label. The DVD-A is also a very good buy for those without a turntable. Nevertheless, there is a very good reason to get the LP even if you don’t own a turntable - the album won the Grammy for Best Album Notes in 1966. Here’s a sample:

[For a man so accustomed to appearing before the public, walking on stage this night at The Sands should have caused no more apprehension than you feel walking into your own living room.

Yet Sinatra prepared for this appearance with deliberate ritual. He tends his voice with care. He takes a steam in the late afternoon. He lays off cigarettes. Before going on stage, he works out with his accompanist, Bill Miller, for a half hour. He slips into his tailored tux, still warm from a valet’s iron.

All during dinner, the audience-on-a-fling has been trying to catch the eye of the preoccupied staff, trying to flag down a captain. At the next table, a big man asks if a $10 bill would get him a better table. Scurrying by, the captain sighs “$10,000 couldn’t get him a better seat.” Or, as Dean Martin’s fond of saying, “It’s Frank’s world. We’re just lucky to be living in it.” 

The room has that peculiar air about it that only successful clubs have: a combination of cigarette smoke, overheated air, smouldering dust, Lysol Clorox cleaned linen, even the silverware smells different from home silverware. “The crowd” jams every available seat. Two thousand knees with nowhere to go.]

Mono & Stereo friend Gary Koh of Genesis Advanced Technologies, Inc.