No, The Beatles, The Kinks, Frank Zappa or any other 60's rock act didn't invent the concept album. Sinatra was doing them way before them, with a run of his very best music in the '50's. Working with arranger Nelson Riddle, he put out an unparalleled run of records starting with 1954's Songs For Young Lovers, followed by In The Wee Small Hours, Songs For Swingin' Lovers, and this gem from 1958, all considered career highlights. Each had a theme, and for Only The Lonely, it was music for the heartbroken and sad, best heard late at night with a stiff drink.
Several of these songs became standards, including What's New?, famously covered later by Linda Ronstadt, Blues In The Night ("My mama done told me..."), and one of his signature songs, One For The Road. It was pure hurt, songs about one thing only, a guy who'd lost that big love, and nothing could change it. And nobody could sing hurt like Frank, with that image of a guy in a crumpled suit sitting at a bar at 2 A.M., with no amount of alcohol able to dull that pain.
This 60th birthday edition is expanded to two discs, with the original mono release on the first, and a brand-new stereo mix on the second. Now, there's not a whole lot that can be done to the original tapes, which were only three tracks, but you do notice a bit wider sound on the orchestra, more space. But given the subject matter, I prefer the more claustrophobic, focused mono. There are four other bonus cuts, including an interesting series of takes on Angel Eyes, with Sinatra bothered by one note. You get to appreciate his control and knowledge, and at one point he quickly realizes he's a semi-tone lower than he should be. He was more than just the voice. Long-time fans are excited by the inclusion of his attempts at Lush Life, which he was considering doing, but couldn't get a good feel for his vocal over several takes. He eventually gave up on it, and never released a version of the classic. It's not done, but it's close.