At the beginning of his career, Frank Sinatra already possessed a large number of the qualities that would make him one of the music powerhouses of the century. His elegance, his warmth, his relaxed yet controlled performing persona, his gift of conveying innumerable subtleties even while singing a song straight -- all of these were apparent in the early '40s, before he began appearing under a solo billing. The Essential Frank Sinatra with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra
doesn't include his first recording, which came in July 1939 with Harry James
, but it does feature two full discs of his early material, previously available on CD via a parade of spotty single-disc collections or the mammoth RCA title The Song Is You
, a five-disc box set for completists only. Some critics think that Tommy Dorsey is responsible for Sinatra's early vocal style -- Dorsey's lyrical, flowing trombone indeed had much in common with Sinatra's singing -- but a far more plausible explanation is that the bandleader appreciated a similar approach to music-making. (After all, Sinatra's early style was nearly intact even before joining Dorsey.) The rewards of their collaboration are evident on this compilation, which include a monster hit from 1940 in "I'll Never Smile Again" as well as many more Hit Parade
entries from 1940-1942: "Our Love," "We Three (My Echo, My Shadow and Me," "Stardust," "Oh! Look at Me Now," and "Dolores." Sinatra fans who already have extensive representation of his Capitol, Reprise, and Columbia periods will want to add this to their collection.