Every part of the day has a different feeling, a different vibe. The cool and crisp energy of an emerging sunrise, the bustle and burgeoning warmth of the rising sun, the hectic pace of a chaotic morning, the relaxing downshift of the lunch hour and early afternoon, the offsetting joy and tension of the escape from work, and the second burst of energy that comes when we prepare for that long-awaited evening out. Well… this album is about none of those.
We all know it too well. It’s late… really late. You don’t really want to sleep, and you probably couldn’t if you tried. Something isn’t right in the world… she’s not there and you wish she was. Maybe she’s just away, maybe she’s gone and not coming back, and maybe you just haven’t met her yet. Right now, it doesn’t matter why. The club is empty, your glass is even emptier, and the lights are low. Your house is quiet and the flickering TV stares back at you. As your car pierces the dark pavement ahead, you wonder why you are the only one out here, and why are you here in the first place? When you step outside…it’s just too quiet. No birds, no cars, no anything. All you know is, she isn’t there… and you are.
And there you have the brilliance of Frank Sinatra’s 1955 album, “In the Wee Small Hours”. This masterpiece, released as a full album, not only breaks new ground as a collective release, it is commonly considered to be one of the first “concept” albums ever released in modern music. I mentioned that a previous selection, “Swing Easy!” was selected to present the up-tempo, swinging side of Frank as he ruled the room. This album, created with exactly that melancholy mood intended, is a collection of songs that capture that empty feeling we all know, or have known, all too well. From the opening title track, the down-tempo soft sounds perfectly reflect this dark and empty loneliness, with your only consolation being that somewhere out there, someone else feels it too. Even Frank, who was going through a lot of isolation and sadness as he recorded this album with intent and purpose, felt it too. The album was recorded late in the evening, just as these words are being written now.
“Glad to Be Unhappy”, “I Get Along Without You Very Well”, “When Your Lover Has Gone”, “I’ll Never Be the Same”… they all prove the same thing we learned from Delta blues or honky-tonk heartbreak. When you are in love and happy, all is mostly right with the world. But whether you are or not, if she’s not there, there is no time your mind races faster than In the Wee Small Hours.