Frank Sinatra

Band members                             Related acts

  line up 1 (1970)

- Frank Sinatra (RIP 1998) -- vocals


  supporting musicians: (1970)

- Ray Alonge --  French horn

- Wayne Andre -- trombone

- Phil Bodner -- woodwinds

- James Buffington -- French horn

- Warren Covington -- trombone

- Urbie Green -- trombone

- Wally Kane -- woodwinds

- Jimmy Knepper -- trombone 

- Romeo Penque -- woodwinds

- William Slapin -- woodwinds

- Tony Studd -- bass trombone 

- Brooks Tillotson -- French horn 

- Mannie Green -- violin

- Max Cahn -- violin

- Julius Held -- violin

- Joe Malin -- violin

- George Ockner -- violin

- Rocco Pesile -- violin

- Raoul Poliakin -- violin

- Aaron Rosand -- violin

- Max Pollikoff -- violin

- Tosha Samaroff -- violin

- Julius Schachter -- violin

- Hemi Aubert -- violin 

- Alfred Brown -- viola

- Harold Coletta -- viola

- Richard Dickler -- viola

- Cal Fleisig -- viola 

- George Ricci -- Cello

- Harvey Shapiro -- cello 

- Margaret Ross --  harp 

- Dick Hyman -- piano

- Moe Wechsler -- piano 

- Stuart Scharf -- classic guitar 

- Jay Berliner,  -- guitar

- Ralph Casale -- guitar

- Willard Suyker -- guitar

- Vincent Bell --  guitar 

- Richard Davis -- bass

- Russell George --  bass 

- Joe Mack -- electric bass 

- Alvin Rogers -- drums 

- David Carey -- percussion 

- James Rocco -- backing vocals

- Diane Dell -- backing vocals 





- none known





Genre: pop

Rating: 3 stars ***

Title:  Watertown

Company: Reprise

Catalog: FS 1031

Country/State: Hoboken, New Jersey

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: gatefold sleeve; no poster

Available: 1

Catalog ID: --

Price: $20.00


Frank Sinatra ...  I have to admit I never imagined I would listen to, let alone write something about a Frank Sinatra album.  It represents music of my parents' generation.  It represents a person who may have been extremely talented, but was deeply flawed (aren't we all?) and apparently not a very nice person to be around.



So here's where it gets odd.  Over the years I've occasionally bought a Frank Sinatra album with the intention of selling it.  There remains a dedicated audience for his catalog.  The album that caught my attention was 1970's "Watertown".  Mind you I'd never actually listened to it, but over the years every time I bought and listed a copy the LP it sold quickly, fetching surprisingly good money (particularly if it has the poster).  I'd guess I've sold ten copies over the years.  Must be something to the LP, right?  So when I found another copy at a flea market in Accomack Virginia, I decided the time had come to give it a spin.




By the late-'60s Sinatra had been married three times and was in the process of divorcing the much younger Mia Farrow, just lost his father, seen his reputation sullied by rumors of mob connections and his commercial appeal starting to fade.  Against that backdrop in an apparently attempt to broaden his appeal to a younger audience, he was somehow convinced to turn to outside material. Bob Gaudio (of Four Seasons fame) and Jake Holmes somehow learned Sinatra was looking for material and sent him a demo of a concept album they had been playing around with.  Much to their surprise Sinatra expressed interest in the whole work.  Produced by Gaudio, the result was 1970's "Watertown".  The album had a pretty simple plotline.  Side 1: Guy sees his family fall apart when the wife and long-time sweetheart (Elizabeth) leaves him and their two sons (Michael and Peter) for life in the big city.  Side 2: Man struggles through daily heartache and grief.  Oh, you were waiting for a happy ending?  The husband and wife get back together for the sake of the children?  The father finds a young and sexy woman as his new wife?  Well there was no happy ending.  The album title came from the fact Gaudio and Holmes chose to have their main character live in Watertown, New York.  The nameless main character apparently worked for the railroad, apparently explaining Ove Olsen's black and white album cover.


So let me be clear, "Watertown" was not Sinatra recording a rock album a-la Mae West's "Way Out West".  True, Gaudio, Holmes and arranger Charles Calello occasionally surrounded Sinatra with contemporary pop arrangements including bass, drums and guitars (check out 'I Would Be in Love (Anyway)' and 'The Train'), but you weren't going to mistake this album for any top-40 pop set.  The fact of the matter is Sinatra didn't have a pop, or rock-oriented voice.  He would have sounded silly in such a a situation.  The bulk of these ten tracks reflected heavily orchestrated ballads (credit Joe Scott); each a small vignette intended to further the story.  And to a large extent trying to pick up the clues and figure out what had happened and what was going on is what made this album a cool experience.  Curiously, for an album I thought I would slap on the turntable and quickly move on to something more to my tastes, this one surprised me.  Sinatra's voice was far more appealing than I expected and the album's dark and depressing plotline appealed to me.  Nah, I'm not going to go out and buy the entire Sinatra discography, but I may actually hold on to a copy of "Watertown".


I'm certainly no Sinatra scholar (they do exist), but Sinatra was apparently unhappy with the way the album was recorded and with some of his vocals.  Whereas Sinatra normally recorded his material with a live, in-studio orchestra, these sessions saw him record his vocals over pre-recorded tracks.The combination of the extremely dark material (where was the happy ending) and Sinatra's unwillingness to support the album, saw it quickly tank. Combined with middling reviews, plans for a television special were also shelved. With the album proving one of his all-time poorest sellers, Sinatra announced his retirement (though it was a brief three-year break).     


"Watertown" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Watertown (Bob Gaudio - Jake Holmes) - 3:36  rating: *** stars

The title track was definitely not what I was expecting.  Sinatra's voice was exactly what I expected to hear, but the song itself sounded like a sweeping ballad Jimmy Webb might have crafted.  Complete with "rock" orchestration (drums, bass and electric guitar), I'm not sure how the title track fit into the concept narrative, but in my mind it recalled a slow Saturday afternoon where you were waiting for something to happen.  Always wondered about the train sound effects. As part of a 2022 re-released of the album, Charles Pignone sat down with producer/songwriter Gaudio and they discussed each track on the album.  You can find the song-by-song discussions on YouTube: Bob Gaudio "In Conversation" Track-By-Track, Track 1: "Watertown" - YouTube  Reprise tapped it as the album's first single:





- 1970's 'Watertown' b/w 'I Would Be In Love (Anyway)' (Reprise catalog number 0895)







2.) Goodbye (She Quietly Says) (Bob Gaudio - Jake Holmes) - 3:36  rating: *** stars

Spotlighting Sinatra's voice initially with minimal accompaniment, 'Goodbye (She Quietly Says)' managed to convey the pain associated with a break-up. Perhaps the absence of drama made it even harder to cope with.  Pretty tune and for some reason the lyric about "s cheesecake and apple pie" has always stuck with me. Gaudio's comments: Bob Gaudio "In Conversation" Track-By-Track, Track 2: "Goodbye (She Quietly Says)" - YouTube

3.) For a While (Bob Gaudio - Jake Holmes) - 3:36  rating: **** stars

The breezy melody contrasted with Sinatra's painstaking delivery and Holmes' dark lyrics seemingly addressing the effort required to shake the pain and grief accompanying a  break-up.  I'm guessing pretty much everyone would be able to identify with the lyric, if not the MOR melody. Gaudio's comments: Bob Gaudio "In Conversation" Track-By-Track, Track 3: "For A While" - YouTube

4.) Michael & Peter (Bob Gaudio - Jake Holmes) - 3:36  rating: **** stars

What I liked about the ballad 'Michael & Peter' was trying to piece together the plotline and picking up tidbits about the main character's life. The wife's gone, but he still has his railway job and a couple of kids whom he apparently got custody of.  Been there.  Done that.  Have the tee-shirt.  So here's the poor man apparently writing a letter to the wife telling her what she's missing.  The letter never gets sent.   Holmes actually described the song as being inspired by the loss of a child in his first marriage.  Gaudio discussed the track here: Bob Gaudio "In Conversation" Track-By-Track, Track 4: "Michael & Peter" - YouTube

5:) I Would Be in Love (Anyway) (Bob Gaudio - Jake Holmes) - 3:36  rating: **** stars

The underlying melody was a surprisingly contemporary pop song, but Sinatra's voice just wasn't a good fit for the musical niche.  Sinatra certainly gave 'I Would Be In Live (Anyway)' his all, but the results came off as stilted and shrill.  Shame he didn't opt for a lower octane delivery rather than trying to power his way through the song.  Gaudio's comments on the song: Bob Gaudio "In Conversation" Track-By-Track, Track 5: "I Would Be In Love (Anyway)" - YouTube  Whereas the rather tuneless title track was the US single, the rest of the world opted for this, the more commercial effort:

- 1970's 'I Would Be In Love (Anyway)' b/w 'Watertown' (Reprise catalog number R-02137)


(side 2)
Elizabeth (Bob Gaudio - Jake Holmes) - 3:38  rating: *** stars

Always liked the opening jazzy electric guitar chords !!!  and wish they'd continued through the rest of the song.  Nevertheless, 'Elizabeth' was one of the album's prettiest ballads and, no the song was not inspired by Elizabeth Taylor, rather Gaudio and Holmes simply liked the name.  Sinatra reportedly did send a demo of the song to Taylor.  Gaudio's comments on the song: Bob Gaudio "In Conversation" Track-By-Track, Track 6: "Elizabeth" - YouTube

2.) What a Funny Girl (You Used to Be) (Bob Gaudio - Jake Holmes) - 3:00 rating: ** stars

Sinatra at his most lounge act ...  Gaudio's comments: Bob Gaudio "In Conversation" Track-By-Track, Track 7: "What A Funny Girl (You Used To Be)" - YouTube

3.) What's Now Is Now (Bob Gaudio - Jake Holmes) - 4:04 rating: **** stars

One of the most commercial pop songs Sinatra ever recorded, 'What's Now Is Now' suffered from one drawback; Gaudio and Holmes simply stuffed too many lyrics into the tune.  A paired down set of lyrics would have benefited all involved.  Gaudio's comments: Bob Gaudio "In Conversation" Track-By-Track, Track 8: "What’s Now Is Now" - YouTube

4.) She Says (Bob Gaudio - Jake Holmes) - 3:51  rating: *** stars

Well, good to know that Elizabeth reached out to her hubby.  So is she really comin' back?  Perhaps we hear what we want to hear.   Interesting song structure - calling it a song was kind of a stretch since it was more of an aural chapter in the story than a conventional song.  Gaudio: Bob Gaudio "In Conversation" Track-By-Track, Track 9: "She Says" - YouTube

5.) The Train (Bob Gaudio - Jake Holmes) - 3:26 rating: **** stars

The album's sweetest melody, most contemporary sound and initially the most hopeful lyrics ...Our protagonist really seems to have changed.  Things will get better ...  Just one problem, no Elizabeth on the train.  Ah sh*t, it's started to rain on top of everything else.  Gaudio's comments: Bob Gaudio "In Conversation" Track-By-Track, Track 10: "The Train" - YouTube