Bob Dylan Croons “I Could Have Told You”

Bob Dylan, who has already released two albums of American standards in recent years, is doing it again. But this time, he is releasing a triple-album of such standards called Triplicate. Like the two previous albums, Triplicate will include a number of songs previously recorded by Frank Sinatra.

Bob Dylan surprised some by releasing Shadows in the Night in 2015.  Then, he followed that album with another album of standards, Fallen Angels in 2016. The triple-album announcement illustrates that Dylan is going all-in on this style of music, at least for the immediate future.

Triplicate will include a number of well-known and some lesser-known American standards. The track list includes Sinatra classics like “The Best Is Yet to Come” and “September of My Years.” Also, the set includes “As Time Goes By” and “Stormy Weather.”

The first release from the upcoming album is “I Could Have Told You.” Carl Sigman and Jimmy Van Heusen wrote the song. And Sinatra first recorded it in December 1953 during the same sessions with Nelson Riddle where he recorded “Young at Heart.”

Below is the new recording of “I could Have Told You” by Bob Dylan.

Below is Sinatra’s take on “I Could Have Told You.” The first time Sinatra included the song on an album was on Look To Your Heart (1959).  That collection featured singles and B-sides that he recorded between 1953 and 1955.

Bob Dylan’s Triplicate set will hit stores and the Internet in various forms — including a Deluxe Limited Edition LP — on March 31, 2017.

What do you think of Dylan’s take on the standards? Leave your two cents in the comments.

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    Frank Sinatra: “That’s Life”

    Frank Sinatra was born on December 12, 1915 in Hoboken, NJ. I wish he were still around entertaining us, but that’s life.

    Below, Sinatra sings “That’s Life,” which was released in 1966. Dean Kay and Kelly Gordon wrote “That’s Life,” which was first recorded by Marion Montgomery and released in 1963.

    Over the years, a number of artists have recorded the song. You recently may have heard a current version in a television commercial for Jariance prescription diabetes medicine.

    Sinatra, who passed away in 1998, first heard “That’s Life” in a version by singer O.C. Smith, who had a popular version of the song “Little Green Apples.” Smith, who was born in 1932, passed away in 2001. Below is Smith’s version of “That’s Life.”

    One can hear how Smith’s own excellent version would have attracted Sinatra to the song. Sinatra’s version, which would become the most recognizable version of “That’s Life,” appeared on his 1966 album That’s Life.

    Happy birthday Frank, wherever you are.

    What is your favorite Frank Sinatra song? Leave your two cents in the comments.

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    3 a.m. Albums: Frank Sinatra’s “In the Wee Small Hours”

    In our series “3 a.m. Albums,” we look at albums that are perfect for those nights when you cannot sleep due to sadness, loneliness, despair, or other reasons. We begin the series with an album that is appropriately named, In the Wee Small Hours, which is one of Frank Sinatra’s masterpieces.

    Frank Sinatra recorded most of In the Wee Small Hours in the late night hours in early 1955, releasing the album not long after completion in April of that year. Often considered as an early concept album, In the Wee Small Hours received its main inspiration from the dissolution of the relationship between Sinatra and actress Ava Gardner, who Sinatra had married in 1951.

    The ballads, arranged by Nelson Riddle, features more sparse instrumentation than on many Sinatra classics, allowing the heartache in Sinatra’s voice to bleed through your speakers above the sounds of the guitar, celesta, piano, and strings. The title song, which was new at the time, stands well next to the album’s classics like “Mood Indigo.” The song “In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning” remains one of the great opening album tracks of all time, setting the mood for the entire album.

    Sinatra poured his tears, sweat, and blood into these tracks. The liner notes claim the album creates “the loneliest early-morning mood in the world.” Reportedly, Sinatra broke down crying after recording “When Your Lover Has Gone.”

    The album has stood the test of time. The song “In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning” has stood the test of time, being covered by many singers, including a recent cover by another singer famous for his relationships, John Mayer. B.B. King has talked about listening to the album on many late nights (“I practically put that In the Wee Small Hours album under my pillow every night when I went to sleep”), and Tom Waits lists it as one of his favorite albums of all time, echoing the album’s artwork on his own The Heart of Saturday Night (1974).

    When one thinks of Sinatra, the songs on In the Wee Small Hours may not be the ones you first think of as you run through songs like “Lady is a Tramp” and “Summer Wind.” But it is one of his original albums best heard in its entirety from start to finish rather than as a collection of greatest hits or live performances. And it is best heard at 3 a.m. as you face the demons in your own life, somehow finding comfort knowing that even Ol’ Blue Eyes knew (and somehow survived) the same type of heartbreak. Thankfully, he is there, giving words and music to your feelings like a friend buying you a drink in an empty bar at closing time.

    What is your favorite 3 a.m. album? Leave your two cents in the comments.

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    Bob Dylan Sends Off Letterman With “The Night We Called It a Day”

    Last night, on David Letterman’s next-to-last Late Show With David Letterman, Bob Dylan appeared as the final regular musical guest for the show. Dylan performed the appropriately named “The Night We Called It a Day” from his latest album of jazz standards, Shadows In The Night.

    Some reviewers have claimed Dylan’s performance was “bizarre,” noting the way Dylan stands distant when the retiring host greets him. Other reviewers have labeled the performance “beautiful” and “haunting.” Probably only Bob Dylan, who first appeared with Letterman in 1984, could provoke such a diverse reaction, but in my mind, it was a nice musical sendoff to one of the all-time greats of late night.

    Interesting, after Letterman introduced Dylan as one of the greatest songwriters of all time, Dylan sang a cover song, as “The Night We Called It a Day” was written by Matt Dennis and Tom Adair in 1941. In 1942, Frank Sinatra released the song as his first solo recording.

    What did you think of Dylan’s performance of “The Night We Called It a Day”? Leave your two cents in the comments.

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    Who Was Bruce Springstone?

    Starting in the early 1980s, I haunted the used record stores of Cleveland searching for any music related to Bruce Springsteen. At the time, the Boss had released only a handful of albums, and it seemed like forever between new releases. So, I soon discovered bootlegs with their unusual titles and cheap cover art on the outside and hidden gems inside.

    An Accidental Discovery

    On one occasion, I found a full-sized 45-rpm album with only two songs on it. The record said it was by “Bruce Springstone” and was titled “Live at Bedrock.” But I figured it was a clever bootleg. I took the 12-inch single home and listened to the first song on side one, “Bedrock Rap/Meet the Flintstones.”

    It was definitely in the spirit of Bruce Springsteen. It had a chatty introduction like the ones I had heard on the bootlegs.  And there was the saxophone playing a big part just like it was Clarence Clemons. Plus, the wailing at the end was all “Backstreets.” Yet, I soon realized the voice was not actually Springsteen.  But I still loved it.

    Then I flipped it over to listen to “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” I liked it even better than the A side.

    Who Was Bruce Springstone?

    In those days, we did not have the Internet to answer every question we had.  So it would be years before I found out more about Bruce Springstone.

    The record, which was released in September 1982, featured Tom Chalkley.  He was a Baltimore journalist and editorial cartoonist who also drew the picture on the back of the record showing “Springstone” sliding into home plate carrying his guitar.

    The idea for the record came when Chalkley and some childhood friends were playing music at a party and began goofing on Bruce Springsteen’s style. So Chalkley and his friend Craig Hankin arranged the music and released the 12-inch single with Chalkley singing and Hankin playing rhythm guitar on “Meet the Flintstones.”

    “Take Me Out to the Ballgame”

    Chalkley and Hankin needed a B-side for their Flintstones cover song.  So, Chalkley found inspiration when he saw the 1927 lyrics for the verses to”Take Me Out to the Ballgame” on sheet music in a store.  He thought that the name Nelly Kelly sounded just like a Springsteen heroine (a 1908 version featured the name Katie Casey).

    So, using the little-known verse lyrics to “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” they made the record.  Among others, rock guitarist Tommy Keene played lead guitar and Ron Holloway filled in for Clarence Clemons’s saxophone

    In case you are just used to hearing the chorus of the song, here is how the opening Nelly Kelly verse to “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” sounded when sung by Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra in the movie Take Me Out to the Ballgame (1949).

    Response to the Bruce Springstone Record

    The album was originally released by Clean Cuts, a local jazz label, but today it is still in print by Rhino. At the time of the record’s release, Bruce Springstone’s version of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” and “Meet the Flintstones” received airplay on various radio stations. Reportedly, Bruce Springsteen sent Chalkley a postcard complimenting his work.

    Springstone’s “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” was even featured in the 1995-96 Guinness Book of Sports Records for Longest Continuous Airplay of a Sports-Related Song. It was played more than 57,000 times straight.

    Hanna-Barbara approved the use of “Meet the Flintstones.” But the company complained when MTV was going to show a video that Chalkley and Hanklin made.

    Chalkley did write some other songs in the Springsteen style like one called “Ugga Bugga” (excerpt below), but Bruce Springstone never released another album.

    Ugga Bugga

    A Book About the Record?

    People remain curious about Bruce Springstone, so much so that a few years ago Chalkley launched a Kickstarter campaign with Craig Hankin to raise money to create a graphic comic book about the record.  Or, as they describe it, the book is about “the bonds of friendship, creativity, youthful ambition and, of course, the staying power of a well-crafted novelty hit.” The book will be called, If I’d Known Back Then: A Graphic Memoir.

    Chalkley and Hankin received the money they needed from the Kickstarter campaign to create the book, so it is too late to pitch in now. The book is not out yet, so it appears they are still working on the project.

    Meanwhile, Chalkley and Hankin continue to make music.  Here, in 2015 they created a video for their 1979 song “Jackie” for the Small Guitar in Motion Project.

    But their legacy will always be as Bruce Springstone for me. Who would have guessed that thirty years after its release, we would still be talking about this parody record I purchased by accident?

    Which song by Bruce Springstone do you like best? Leave your two cents in the comments.

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