By the time the triple-record set Trilogy
was released, Frank Sinatra had become somewhat of a recluse from the recording studio. An audacious, ambitious way to stage a comeback, each of the album's three records was conceived as an individual work, and each was arranged by one of Sinatra's major collaborators -- Billy May
(The Past), Don Costa
(The Present), and Gordon Jenkins (The Future). As a concept, Trilogy
certainly has its flaws, as does some of the music on the lengthy set. However, the best moments are triumphant, proving that the Voice was still vital in his fourth decade of recording. The Past is easily the best record on the album. For the first time since the early '60s, Sinatra made a record of standards ("The Song Is You," "It Had to Be You," "All of You"), which is the material best suited for his talents. The Present isn't quite as accomplished, concentrating on pop hits like "Love Me Tender," "Something," "Song Sung Blue," "MacArthur Park," and "Just the Way You Are." Some of the material is mediocre, but Don Costa's arrangements are lovely, as is Sinatra's singing. Together, they make mid-level songs like "Theme From New York, New York" into anthems. However good the first two records are, The Future is an unqualified mess. Written by Jenkins, the songs are ambitious, experimental, and self-referential -- in fact, it's more of a freeform suite than a set of songs. Most of the record is devoid of melody, and Sinatra sounds lost singing clichéd, trite lyrics about peace, space travel, and his past. It might be an anticlimatic way to end an otherwise enjoyable set, but The Future doesn't ruin the pleasures of Trilogy
, it just puts them into greater perspective.