After decades of keeping Frank Sinatra's recordings era-specific, Reprise and Capitol Records are joining forces for the first time with Tuesday's release of "Sinatra: Best of the Best." The 23-track album opens with 1953's "I've Got The World On A String" and closes with 1980's "Theme From New York, New York."
EMI's Capitol Records is handling the release. "We've been talking about it for seven years," says Bill Gagnon, senior VP and general manager, Catalog, EMI Music North America. "The timing felt right though. It's always grass roots with Sinatra. He's always present, but now we have the Subway Sinatra (Gary Russo), the Twyla Tharp show 'Come Fly Away' touring nationally, (the ABC show) 'Pan Am,' which has Sinatra's presence all over it. It felt like a good time together and one thing that was really important was the support from the U.K. for this package."
The Sinatra estate, which owns his Reprise recordings and has a rights deal with Warner Music's Rhino, wanted the package to reach a new, younger market. Figuring "American Idol" and other competition shows feature Sinatra-related songs and singers who emulate his style, the album helps "broaden kids' understanding of Frank Sinatra," says Bob Finkelstein, co-chairman of Frank Sinatra Enterprises.
The estate helped create a video special for American Public Television titled "Sinatra Sings" that will be used during December PBS pledge drives, and will feature more than a dozen of his old TV performances. Daughter Tina Sinatra handles the narration. She and her sister Nancy will promote the show and album with a screening and Q&A at the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles on Dec. 1.
"Research shows that he indexes off the chart on PBS," Gagnon says. "It never seems to get old. We want to get a groundswell with the next generation, people who love his style and swagger."
"The music speaks for itself," Finkelstein adds, "but adding the visuals makes it much more powerful. Seeing him live was electrifying."
In addition to the TV special, the Christmas tree lighting atop the Capitol Tower in Hollywood will also include the Sinatra family. EMI, which will release a deluxe edition featuring an out-of-print live album from 1957 with Nelson Riddle leading the band, is positioning the album as a holiday gift and will return with a second phase of promotion in February to target Valentine's Day.
On the non-traditional front, the label has partnered with Maggiano's Italian restaurant chain to promote the set, and is also creating ultimate Sinatra playlists for Spotify.
Noting that all of the music has been widely available for years and performances are on YouTube, Gagnon says the goal of the newly struck union with Frank Sinatra Enterprises is better curate material and take advantage of Sinatra's iconography -- whether it's the hats, the Capitol studios or even the microphone he used.
"When presented at its best," he says of Sinatra's work, "it gets out there better."